After expressing support of the Black Lives Matter movement in a statement, Ben and Jerry’s has found itself in the midst of another politically heated controversy. While they are most famous for their GMO free ice cream, the company’s founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, are also known political advocates. Whether campaigning for Bernie Sanders by passing out “Bernie’s Yearning” ice cream, or being arrested as part of Democracy Awakening’s direct action at the Capitol steps, Cohen and Greenfield are no strangers to political action and the controversy that comes with it.
The controversy began earlier this month when the company released a seven-point breakdown of how systemic racism exists in America today, stating that, “We’ve come to understand that to be silent about the violence and threats to the lives and well-being of Black people is to be complicit in that violence and those threats.” At a time of increasing racial tensions, for Ben and Jerry’s to come forward and decidedly choose a side in this conflict was sure to draw controversy. Shortly after the company released theirstatement, people that support the Blue Lives Matter movement have declared a boycott against Vermont’s most beloved ice cream. In my opinion this isjust absurd, considering that Black Lives Matter is seeking to improve the relationship between black communities and the police.
In their most recent counter-protest, Blue Lives Matter, a reactionary group of former officers and other supporters standing against Black Lives Matter, launched an ideologically inconsistent and ill-advised campaign against Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
Much of the controversy over Ben and Jerry’s statement comes from debate on the meaning and implications of Black Lives Matter. To some Americans, the phrase is segregating and exclusive, leading to the rise of reactionary phrases like “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter.”
Blue Lives Matter opposes the group for two major reasons: the perceived exclusiveness of the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” and the perceived anti-cop rhetoric of Black Lives Matter.
The first issue Blue Lives Matter raises is one that is almost laughably ironic. Logically, if the supporters of Blue Lives Matter think the Black Lives Matter movementbelieves only the lives of Black people matter, they should realize their own statement implies that only officers lives matter. Since we know this is not the group’s intention, then one operative word comes forward: Black.
For the Blue Lives Matter crowd, the problem with Black Lives Matter was never truly that the movement classified one group as more valuable than others, as their own name operates in exactly the same way. Rather, it appears that the operative phrase “black lives” is what they take issue with. Whether this is seated in shame, racism, or other motivations, it cannot be claimed to be morally or logically consistent.
Blue Lives Matter says that the ice cream company crossed a line with their stance. “Ben & Jerry’s went beyond making a statement in support of civil rights when they actively accused law enforcement of widespread racism,” they said in an official statement. “By spreading these false and misleading statements, Ben & Jerry’s lends an appearance of legitimacy to the baseless claims that police officers are killing men based on the color of their skin.”
The phrase, “All Lives Matter,” is not by its nature contrary to Black Lives Matter. The activist group has never claimed to stand for black separation or black nationalism, and many supporters of Black Lives Matter have expressed that the movement is, in fact, a movement towards all lives truly mattering. Ben and Jerry’s, in their statement on Black Lives Matter, “All lives do matter. But all lives will not matter until Black Lives Matter.”
When America has more people per capita in prison than any other nation on earth, and when an average of 1,000 citizens have been killed by police officers per year, we cannot pretend there is no issue with law enforcement. Furthermore, an increasingly privatized prison system is thriving off the incarceration of black bodies in what Michelle Alexander has coined the New Jim Crow, and wealthy white kids such as Brock Turner are being given laughable sentences for violent crimes; however, while poor offenders may do several years for failure to pay court fees, which means we are living in a greatly unjust system.
Blue Lives Matters believes that any critique of policing is anti-police. This should be quickly dismissed as logically invalid. If you like something, you want it to get better. If you want something to get better, you have to criticize it.