Chalonda White is a Chicago-based podcaster, writer, and beer drinker who goes by Afro.Beer.Chick on her website and social media. If you spend any time on Twitter talking about beer, you know her name. On Monday, she tweeted a screenshot of an email she’d received full of racial slurs and “you don’t belong here” messaging. I can’t imagine what it would be like to read that, let alone to respond with the level-headedness White did. (See the previous linked tweet for her response.) Out of that racism and ugliness, though, something positive grew.
J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, the diversity ambassador for craft beer trade group the Brewers Association, responded with a call for beer lovers to tweet a selfie, caption it with “something about your wonderful, complex, individual self,” and tag it #IAmCraftBeer. Since Monday, my Twitter feed has been flooded with people sharing their selfies. And encouragingly, they don’t all look or sound the same. There are people of all ages, races, experience levels, disability status, etc., sharing their passion for beer. I am a fairly jaded person and I have to admit, seeing these faces has felt encouraging. Tweets aren’t going to solve racism any more than “Coexist” bumper stickers cured religious divides, but the visual presence of diversity in beer is just plain nice to see.
The lack of racial and gender diversity within the brewing industry itself is documented by data and lived everyday by minorities in beer. But I have hope that this is not the full story, that there are lots of people involved in beer in various ways—not least of all as beer drinkers—who don’t fit the cliché. It reminds me of the community I found when I was first becoming interesting in craft beer so many years ago. Back then, I felt like beer brought together all types of people—women, men, young and old, across socioeconomic and cultural groups. We were united by a couple things: We all liked beer, and we were all pretty weird. I’ve since lost some of that idealism. As the email White received so viciously states, some people still don’t believe beer is for all. The #IAmCraftBeer hashtag provided a necessary counterweight to that, and one that’s much more powerful.