Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield have never been the kind of guys who shy away from demanding social justice. When they aren’t making delightfully tasty ice cream flavors, the creators of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream are out to to ensure that the world is a better place for everyone.
This week, they made it clear that “a better place for everyone” also includes people of color:
In a statement that encapsulates some of the best of humanity, the Ben & Jerry’s team broke down why black lives matter.
They explained the systemic inequality plaguing communities of color and the simple, yet somehow still misunderstood, concept that asking for equal rights in the eyes of the law doesn’t mean that other lives do not matter.
“Black lives matter,” the statement reads. “They matter because they are children, brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers. They matter because the injustices they face steal from all of us — white people and people of color alike. They steal our very humanity.”
The statement also explained the importance of standing together in “overcoming systemic racial injustice” by admitting there is, in fact, a problem:
“Whether Black, brown, white, or blue — our nation and our very way of life is dependent on the principle of all people being served equal justice under the law. And it’s clear, the effects of the criminal justice system are not color blind.”
Ben and Jerry’s outspoken support of Black Lives Matter is especially crucial right now.
When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem to protest systemic injustice — an act he has the constitutional right to do — he received death threats, was berated by “fans,” and was questioned about his dedication to his country.
According to the Guardian, the number of people killed by police in the U.S. this year had already surpassed 800, more than half of which have been people of color. Black women are continuously being harassed on social media by racists for merely existing as a black woman. And black actors and actresses continue to be paid less than their white counterparts.
As Ben and Jerry aptly point out: We have a very big problem.
But their commitment to social justice and political responsibility isn’t new.
The ice cream tycoons have long worked toward addressing systemic injustice with social consciousness.
In April 2016, the co-founders were arrested outside the U.S. capitol while taking part in a “Democracy Awakening” protest, a movement to “protect voting rights, get big money out of politics, and demand a fair hearing and an up or down vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.”
Black Lives Matter protesters. Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images.
They’ve also made strides in ensuring that the farmers who help produce the ingredients in delightful flavors, like Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey, are treated fairly. And in January 2015, they committed to using fair-trade certified ingredients, such as sugar, coffee, and bananas.
Ben & Jerry’s has also been — and continues to be — a vocal proponent of LGBTQ rights. (In 1989, the ice cream company was the first major company in Vermont to offer health insurance to same-sex couples and employees’ domestic partners.)
In short, Ben and Jerry been awesome for a long time, and they show no signs of slowing down.
Their support of the Black Lives Matter movement is an example for companies like Air Academy Federal Credit Union, who dropped Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall for peacefully protesting police brutality and injustice.
Instead of cowering to those who are uncomfortable with reality, Ben & Jerry’s is using its platform to amplify the voices of the unheard and ask that the status quo be changed.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
This matters because when major companies, celebrities, politicians, and other recognizable faces go against the grain and stand up against inequality, they become upstanders that can ultimately affect real, positive change in the communities that need it most.