Ben & Jerry’s Doesn’t Have Time for Platitudes

The ice cream maker from Vermont schooled every brand in how to address racial injustice

Rob Walker
Marker
Published in
5 min readJun 3, 2020

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Image: Ben & Jerry’s

Traditionally, only overtly ideological brands have taken a bold stand on social justice issues. But the killing of George Floyd and the shockwaves that have followed have proved an exception. The public groundswell — protests in more than 100 cities across the nation — has forced companies across categories to respond. In fact, not responding has become an almost untenable move: Knicks owner Jerry Dolan has been slammed for an internal email explaining that his organization won’t be speaking up on matters of police brutality and systemic racial injustice because “we are not any more qualified than anyone else to offer our opinion on social matters.”

Still, most of the resulting statements, while presumably well-meaning, strike carefully calibrated tones that make them seem almost interchangeable. As one online critic put it, you could replace many of them with the boilerplate: “We at [Brand] are committed to fighting injustice by posting images to Twitter that express our commitment to fighting injustice.”

“We Must Dismantle White Supremacy,” the premium ice-cream brand began, launching into a lengthy statement that reads like a full-throated manifesto from an activist group.

And many have been dinged on social media. Uber professed to “stand in solidarity with the Black community,” and was promptly criticized for denying its disproportionately minority driver force the benefits of full-time employees. Fitness chain Pure Barre’s note to its “New York family” of customers was among many criticized for lacking a call to action to back relevant groups with financial support — or mention having taken any such tangible actions themselves. And by now, that’s crucial, Ericka Claudio, a social impact strategist, told Business of Fashion: “Saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ is literally the bare minimum.”

But the company that made every other one seem like little more than woke-washing came from Ben & Jerry’s.

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