Ben & Jerry’s knows a thing or two about ice cream — and systemic racism.
Inspired by the footage of police killings of African Americans, most recently in Charlotte, North Carolina, the company released a statement Thursday declaring that black lives matter and that systemic racism is an issue, and requested that customers "join us in not being complicit."
Black Lives Matter. Choosing to be silent in the face of such injustice is not an option. https://t.co/6Vy0KHJeKU #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/pK96teLRhd— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) October 6, 2016
"It’s been hard to watch the list of unarmed Black Americans killed by law enforcement officers grow longer and longer," the company wrote in the statement. "We understand that numerous Black Americans and white Americans have profoundly different experiences and outcomes with law enforcement and the criminal justice system. That’s why it’s become clear to use at Ben & Jerry’s that we have a moral obligation to take a stand now for justice and for Black lives."
The company even provided a seven-point list on how systemic racism is real, from housing segregation and the racial wealth gap to the criminal justice system — a stark contrast to Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence, who has said there’s "far too much talk about racism" and showed he had no understanding of implicit bias during Tuesday’s debate with Tim Kaine.
"There is good news: the first step in overcoming systemic racism and injustice is to simply understand and admit that there is a problem," the company wrote. "It’s trying to understand the perspective of others whose experiences are different from our own. To not just listen, but to truly understand those whose struggle for justice is real, and not yet complete."
The men behind the ice cream are no strangers to political statements. Co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were arrested in April at "Democracy Awakening" protests at the US Capitol to call attention to issues like environmentalism, health care, voting rights, and racial justice, which they have publicly called attention to in the past, as well. CNN reported that police arrested protesters at the event for "unlawful demonstration activities." The ice cream makers had a different interpretation: "Sometimes, when something really matters, you have to put your body on the line. You have to take a stand."
Ben & Jerry’s also released pun-filled pints of "Empower-mint" ice cream in May to remind customers, "Democracy is in your hands!"
In many ways, the company’s stance fits into its work of increasingly mixing sweets with social justice. But like 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protests, Ben & Jerry’s statement is just the latest reminder of America’s police brutality problem.
At least 2,195 people have been killed by police since Mike Brown was killed by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson two years ago. A disproportionately high percentage of those killed were black.
Despite the high frequency with which officer-involved killings take place, police are rarely indicted for killing civilians, even as more video evidence of those killings becomes available. And a week after Keith Lamont Scott was killed in Charlotte, a North Carolina law went into effect to block public access to body camera and dashboard recordings.
Ben & Jerry’s explicitly states that this isn’t about "plac[ing] the blame for [systemic racism] on individual officers." Rather, the company notes, "our nation and our very way of life is dependent on the principle of all people being served equal justice under the law."
"All lives do matter," Ben & Jerry’s wrote. "But all lives will not matter until Black lives matter."