To commemorate Juneteenth on Friday, Vermont-based ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s posted an article on its website declaring its support for defunding the police, becoming the first major American business to do so. Like many other businesses, Ben & Jerry’s has been vocal about its support for the Black Lives Matter movement. However, it is currently one of the only major U.S. businesses advocating for actual policy changes that will benefit African Americans.
The article posted to its website started out with an explanation of Juneteenth, the American holiday celebrated on June 19 every year to commemorate the end of slavery. It went on to state that though slavery ended on this day more than 150 years ago, black people still don’t experience the freedom that other Americans do.
Ben & Jerry’s stated that in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, the United States should “completely transform our model of policing and create stronger, safer communities where Black Americans and people of color can finally experience and celebrate true freedom.”
The piece continued by offering an in-depth explanation of what defunding the police actually means.
The company laid out the main goals of defunding the police — moving tax dollars from policing systems that don’t work for everyone and reinvesting the money in programs that benefit all Americans. The Ben & Jerry’s article stated that it supports such a move because it doesn’t believe that law enforcement is the appropriate resource for dealing with social service issues like addiction, mental health crises, homelessness, and school safety. It was also explained why money should be taken from policing and given to social programs that address these issues.
Defund the police, defend Black communities! This #Juneteenth, it’s more important than ever that we dismantle the racist and ineffective model of American policing. Learn more about how defunding the police works and why we so desperately need it: https://t.co/JLY6f0u5y3 pic.twitter.com/3UnML38dDx
— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) June 19, 2020
The ice cream maker also laid out the racist history of law enforcement in the United States, revealing that the original policing forces were assembled to track down escaped slaves. Ben & Jerry’s argued that these racist origins taint the modern police force to this day, which is why a different form of public safety enforcement needs to be implemented in the country. The piece went on to cite several studies that have shown bias within the system.
Ben & Jerry’s statement ended with an unwavering declaration.
“This Juneteenth, on what should be our nation’s true Independence Day, it’s time to liberate ourselves from a dangerous, racist model of law enforcement and work toward a new vision of building thriving communities where all people have what they need to be healthy and safe. Let’s dismantle the old system and build a new one that guarantees freedom and justice for all.”
Ben & Jerry’s has a long history of speaking out about social justice, according to People. The business has created special flavors to advocate for these causes, such as Justice Remix’d, which advocated for criminal justice reform, and Pecan Resist, which raised awareness around opposition to the Trump administration’s policies.
According to the outlet, the company’s activism goes beyond its ice cream flavors and business policies as well. Both of the co-founders — Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield — have both been arrested at peaceful protests. Ben & Jerry’s often issues statements after major events that touch on social justice concerns as well.
Ben & Jerry’s website has an entire page dedicated to the causes it actively supports.