Update, March 11, 2019: Founders had largely declined to comment on pending litigation until today, when the brewery issued a detailed statement responding to allegations of racial discrimination in the workplace. In part, the statement refutes certain details of the suit. Read it here.
Original post, February 19, 2019: Yesterday, one story dominated my social-media feeds, as it did for anyone else whose Twitter list is mostly comprised of breweries and beer writers. This essay from Beer Kulture, a must-read site “that merges urban culture with beer,” (read: shares black perspectives on beer) confronted the mostly-white beer world head-on, pulling no punches in its indictments. Titled “Selective Outrage: Does Inclusion Include Us?,” the essay takes beer drinkers to task for vocally and publicly taking a stand on issues from misogyny to wage theft in beer, while turning a blind eye to racism within its ranks.
“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,” the essay reads. It cites plenty of public outrage at recent scandals involving Great Lakes Brewing News (who publisher resigned after publishing what was widely derided as a misogynist “parody” article) and Boston brewery Trillium, which faced public backlash after it cut employee wages.
Where, the essay asks, is the outrage at Grand Rapids, Michigan brewery Founders? Founders is facing a lawsuit from a former employee who says he was denied a promotion based on race, was forced to work in a hostile work environment, and was called racial slurs by other employees. Founders denies aspects of the suit but admits employees used racial slurs.
“We hear the majority screaming loudly for issues that affect them, but few are willing to step up and stand on the front lines when it comes to black folks looking to be treated with respect and given equal opportunity, especially if it might come at a cost,” the essay continues.
Whether or not you personally stopped drinking Founders beer after these allegations became public, the essay is a much broader wake-up call to the beer world. As beer drinkers stand against misogyny and homophobia, are we also standing as tall as we could with the black members of the beer community? Are we listening to their perspectives, their narratives? Or are we sticking to the issues that are “ours” to keep ourselves feeling safe and comfortable? If the Beer Kulture essay made you uncomfortable, then you’re exactly who should be reading it.