After last week’s chaos in the U.S. Capitol, Ben & Jerry’s issued a statement, that called the violence a “riot to uphold white supremacy.”
“We must dismantle white supremacy and we have to understand that this is a white problem,” Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream co-founder Ben Cohen told Yahoo Finance. “This is not a Black problem. This is a problem of us.”
Cohen and co-founder Jerry Greenfield said white people need to “take responsibility” to change the country that treats Black and white people differently.
“The white mob that made its way to the dais of the US House of Representatives and the Senate… is the ultimate embodiment of white privilege,” the company noted. The statement explained that there were “two Americas” visible on Jan. 6, one where Black voters showed “democracy at its best,” and another where a “white mob” attempted to “overturn a free and fair election.”
“Both of these Americas are us,” the company wrote. “Black and Brown people have long understood this. They’ve been exposed to the white tyranny that was on full display at the January 6th riot since the founding of our nation. It’s the double standard that undergirds white supremacy in our nation.”
To move forward and for change to take place, according to Cohen and Greenfield, criminal justice reform is “absolutely essential.”
“I think we need to start with accountability for police,” Greenfield said. “You know, there are essential functions that police perform and that is a wonderful thing. But, there's often times when police are not operating at their best, let's say it that way. And quite simply, there is no accountability for police.”
“We're not going to have trust between communities and police until police start having some accountability,” he added. “Yet, for police, there is a legal doctrine called, qualified immunity, which essentially shields them from accountability.”
Qualified immunity, according to the Cornell Legal Information Institute, “protects a government official from lawsuits alleging that the official violated a plaintiff's rights, only allowing suits where officials violated a ‘clearly established’ statutory or constitutional right.”
Greenfield said “ending qualified immunity needs to be part of” any type of police reform.
“The police represent us. They are paid for by you and me... it's with our money and it's in our name that we allow the police to use lethal force in our name,” said Cohen. “And if we cannot hold them accountable,” he added, “we're shirking our responsibility.”
Greenfield echoed that sentiment, adding that Americans cannot let the momentum for progress stall. “It's just too easy for people to go back to their way of living and think everything is fine. But the fact is, we can't return to the status quo and we need to maintain this momentum.”
In the corporate world, “nobody would exist” without accountability, he added. And in the corporate world, both Cohen and Greenfield agree, being vocal about social justice issues doesn’t hurt a company’s bottom line.
In the third quarter of 2020, Unilever (Ben & Jerry’s parent company) reported a boost of 16% in ice cream sales, aided by Ben & Jerry’s and Magnum ice creams.
“It certainly hasn't been bad for our business,” Cohen said.
Kristin Myers is a reporter and anchor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.