A scoop of Rocky Road by any other name would taste as sweet.
Photo via Flickr user Michael Kappel
Stating that "systemic and institutionalised racism are the defining civil rights and social justice issues of our time," Ben & Jerry's has officially thrown its support behind the Black Lives Matters movement. But this being the frothing shit show known as the year 2016, some Americans have taken to the Internet to tell the ice cream company that it is the frozen dairy equivalent of "terrorists" and "cop killers."
Let the ice cream games begin. A scoop of Rocky Road by any other name would taste as sweet.
Ben & Jerry's supports LGBT rights, has criticised Citizens United, and named an ice cream in honour of fellow Vermonter, Bernie Sanders (Bernie's Yearning, anyone?). But this latest move—which included a Tweet that, as of publication time, has been liked over 85,000 times and re-tweeted almost just as many, and a statement on their website that explains the declaration, along with a previous explanation of the "Seven Ways We Know Systemic Racism is Real"—has pissed off some Americans, big time. Then again, it's made a lot of other people pretty happy.
Rumours and misstatements are, no surprise, running rampant. A photograph showing Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the founders of Ben & Jerry's, holding a "We Hate Cops" sign has been whipping around the internet—as Snopes points out, it is a completely doctored image, photoshopped within an inch of its life.
We reached out to Chuck Caterbury, the National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, an organisation that calls itself "The Voice of Our Nation's Law Enforcement Officers." By email, he told MUNCHIES: "We are familiar with the Ben and Jerry's issue and they have the right to support any cause they wish and of course we will let the public decide if they wish to purchase their products. The FOP has a long standing boycott of their products because of their support for cop killer [sic]."
The accusation seems to harken back to a 1998 claim rekindled in 2009 that Ben Cohen signed his name as an individual to a petition supporting the release of Wesley Clark (a.k.a. Mumia Abu Jamal) who was convicted in the killing of police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981; that led to rumours—false—that the company was planning to name a flavour after Mumia. Or it could be based on rumours that the ice cream company was selling "Hands Up Don't Shoot" T-shirts last year—also not true, although Ben Cohen said he had "encouraged franchise owners to get involved with the Hands Up United organisation" and sell the shirts if they want.
On the other hand, Malik Aziz, the Executive Director of the National Black Police Association, told us, "We applaud Ben and Jerry's for being bold and brave in confronting the social issues of our day in a meaningful and well balanced perspective. We believe more companies should emulate Ben and Jerry's so that we can move police-community relations and race relations forward in our great country."
When we asked for Ben & Jerry's take on the craziness that has unfolded, they told us: "We're incredibly gratefully for the overwhelming outpouring of support for our statement on the Black Lives Matter movement. We're proud to stand together with those advocating for Black lives and to call out the deep systemic and institutionalised racism that exists in the United States. We can't begin to fight racism until we acknowledge it and our implicit biases."
But what about the substantial outpouring of vitriolic Twitter responses? The company is taking the high road: "We understood that by speaking out on a highly charged and controversial issue, we would hear from those who don't share our point of view, and we were prepared for that. We've never shied away from controversy, and we don't intend to start now. We understand that doing the right thing is often not the easiest thing."
Indeed it is not. After all, some might say that life is like a bodega ice cream freezer. You never know what flavour you're gonna get underneath all that freezer burn and ice crystals.