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Founders. A name associated with good beer to many, triggers thoughts and feelings of disdain for the poor state of race relations, flat out racism, and the resulting lack of outrage and action both in the craft beer community and the nation at large. When one new beer drinker was asked about the brewery, her response was, “Founders? Like the Founding Fathers?” Yes, exactly like the Founding Fathers – white men celebrated by the masses for moving into an area with people of color to provide something desirable for the majority while oppressing black folks.
The craft beer community swears it isn’t racist, but the disparity in the amount of visibility, public concern, and outrage given to issues offending white craft beer drinkers versus those concerning black folks tells a different story. Two recent issues relevant in this context are those of Trillium, regarding employee wages and the use of tequila in beer, and that of Great Lakes Brewing News’ poorly written, misogynistic article published under a title indicating it was about cask ale.
In the case of Trillium, an employee took to Reddit to voice his frustrations about folks being required to reapply for retail jobs at a new location for less base pay due to the addition of tips and the addition of actual liquor to a beer that was advertised as having been aged in tequila barrels. The discussion moved to Twitter where a mob of angry craft beer enthusiasts dragged Trillium through an endless abyss of angry tweets as timely articles and threats of boycotting ensued. Trillium changed its tune within days due to the backlash and agreed to provide employees with better wages.
The more recent Great Lakes Brewing News debacle resulted from an abysmally written article both authored and edited by Bill Metzger – a piece that is nothing more than an endless narrative of a male’s struggles with his “primal self” and how his instincts to “bed every woman” he sees are now limited by the #metoo movement which is referred to as a “dilemma” in the article. Shortly after screenshots of the article made their way to Twitter, an onslaught of rage fell upon both the author and the publication. Petitions circulated. Advertisers pulled out. Articles picking apart the piece and explaining why misogyny is an issue found their way to timelines. There were even breweries speaking out and distancing themselves from the publication. Then came the spineless response claiming it was written for the sake of satire. The Twitter storm raged until the author, who was also a co-owner, resigned from his position. Let’s keep in mind, both this issue and the one with Trillium each transpired over the course of just a few days.
The issues above illustrate how the craft beer community responds to issues when those violated or offended are part of the majority (read white). Us black folks are not afforded this type of support. Let’s take a look at Founders. Mr. Evans, a former employee at the brewery, filed a lawsuit claiming that he was called a “n----r” on multiple occasions, that printers were named “black guy printer” and “white guy printer,” that he was denied a promotion based on race, and that he was subjected to disciplinary action for offenses that his white coworkers also committed without being disciplined.
In Founders’s response to the claim (which can be found here), they admitted that the two “n----r” incidents occurred and were reported to HR. The discussion surrounding this issue doesn’t even begin to rise to the level of outrage associated with Trillium and Great Lakes Brewing News. There is still a large constituency that claims to be unaware of what is going on with Founders, though the issue has meandered along for months. There are plenty of white folks, some of the same ones flaming with rage over the other two incidents, “waiting for all the facts,” “not commenting on an open case,” or [insert other weak and ridiculous excuse to continue drinking CBS here], all after the brewery admitted that a black person was called a n----r during his employment there.
There was no petition for retailers to stop selling Founders products or for publications to stop allowing them to advertise. Conversely, there was an immense amount of white feminism to be seen because of Bill Metzger’s foolishness. Prominent white female voices in both writing and beer stepped up to galvanize the masses in dragging both him and the publication. Timelines were flooded with tweets hour after hour to make sure that the issue was visible. A petition was sent out asking advertisers to pull out, many of which did just that. I, a black woman, was even asked to sign, but where is that support for issues of racial discrimination against black folks? Heads roll when white feminism rages. Offenders of this nation’s darling damsels in distress are promptly led to the stake to be burned, especially when said offender is a black person. This goes back to this country’s ugly beginning. We have examples ranging from Emmett Till to the young men accused by Nikki Yovino and everything in between.
When asked how the situation with Mr. Evans would be rectified, Founders mentioned that a Diversity and Inclusion Director was hired and that “sensitivity” training was being held for employees. Of course, plenty of folks find this to be a “step in the right direction,” but it’s not even close. Hiring a woman of color and instituting training that implies that folks need to be sensitive, as opposed to being respectful is a slap in the face, especially when Founders hasn’t taken any steps to make things right with the PERSON who was wronged in this situation. The approach can’t just be about optics. There is an oppressed human being at the center of it all. Mr. Evans should never have had to file a claim to be recompensed for what he endured, and even worse, Founders has filed to have the claim dismissed. There is little evidence that Founders is interested in doing the right thing here.
Black folks are constantly told that people have to be given room to grow and learn from their mistakes regarding racism. I hate to break it to you folks, but “mistakes” come with consequences, especially for those of us who are black. We have close to zero margin for error in social interactions. Cops and vigilantes alike are judge and jury when they encounter us. To avoid being brutalized or killed, we are told to “obey” and “be respectful” of police officers who profile, harass, and wrongfully accuse us. We are told to change the way we dress and speak to gain employment. We are told to watch our tone to avoid appearing aggressive so that our messages are not lost.
You can miss us with the notion that racist white folks should be afforded the opportunity to “grow” and “learn” consequence-free at our expense. What if Mr. Evans had harassed a white woman at Founders? Would y’all be advocates of him having the opportunity to grow without being dragged, fired, or even arrested? Were white women insisting that Bill Metzger be allowed to learn from his mistakes without losing sponsorship or advertising partners or resigning from the publication? Don’t even get me started about the “room to grow” that Kareem Hunt was denied. White women made it clear that they didn’t think he deserved another chance.
This level of outrage isn’t applied when the issue is racism or the person offended is black. The idea that we should all sit around singing “Kumbaya” because someone hired a black face and instituted “sensitivity” training WITHOUT an apology or restitution is a dub. People are looking for any reason to go back to publicly drinking their Founders products.
These issues go way beyond Founders or anything happening today. [Article continues]