The craft beer movement’s problems with diversity (or lack thereof) spilled into the public realm this week. After blogger & podcaster Chalonda White of Afro.Beer.Chick went public about an unsolicited racist attack, the craft community rallied against prejudice on social media. Thousands of tweets, tagged #IamCraftBeer, poured in solidarity. White took some time to talk with Neat Pour about the recent events and her thoughts on the future of diversity in craft beer.
A Racist Attack
On September 9, White received an unsolicited email from a stranger identified as Brad Jankousky. The text was filled with racist vitriol.
“You are just a stupid n— that do not know shit about drinking beer. N—s do not belong in this industry because you are a bunch of whiny assholes. Go away, you stupid n— bitch,” slurred Jankousky.
White told Neat Pour that the message was unusual “It came as a complete shock. 99.9% of my interactions with emails [to the site], IG, Twitter, FB page have been giving love.”
The blogger admitted that she was angry after reading the email, but, ultimately, she opted for a measured response. White posted the hate mail to Twitter commenting, “Wow the email I got is so hateful…it appears my existence is bothering someone. Brad Jankousky you seem so bothered….”
As tweets of support began rolling in, White followed up posting, “Instead of spreading hate… Spread love. . I challenge you guys to buy at least one stranger a beer this week… and if you can share a pic” and “Thank you guys… I’m not even upset…I just wanted to blast the stupidity… I’m not going to stress over a person’s ignorance, I’d rather use that energy to drink good beer.”
Then, Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, Diversity Ambassador for the powerhouse craft trade group, the Brewers Association, jumped into the dialogue.
Jackson-Beckham tweeted, “Okay #BeerTwitter, I am asking for your help. I am enraged (see previous retweet for context). I want to channel this feeling into something positive. I want to demonstrate what an inclusive #craftbeer community looks like.”
Then, the ambassador requested that beer-lovers post a short description of themselves, a photo, and the hashtag #IamCraftBeer.
Thousands of tweets followed in response. Craft drinkers of all races, sexes, genders, orientations, nationalities, and ethnicities posted support for diversity. White received numerous invitations to share some suds with fellow beer-lovers.
“At that point, a movement was created,” declared White. “And, it amplified the fact that, ‘Guess what? Craft beer is diverse.’ When we talk about diversity we’re talking about everybody.”
Indeed, the craft beer movement has struggled with diversity. Numerous studies have shown a disproportionately white, male customer base. And, images of bearded, white males wearing a trucker hats are so ubiquitous in marketing materials that they are literally a punchline. However, the #IamCraftBeer movement served notice that because some groups are represented does not mean that they are absent.
White posited that in #IamCraftBeer something beautiful was born of something awful. She was optimistic in her assessment of craft beer’s future.
“We’re creating this table and we’re creating it for everybody. The only color that should matter is the color of the beer itself,”
“I want to accept all the love and the positivity that I can. Hopefully, I can open up other people,” White said. “I have a love of craft beer that I want to share. I didn’t create ABC for attention or fame. I did this because I genuinely love beer and I love taking to people about beer.”
The writer observed that there are systemic diversity issues in the craft beer industry. However, she stressed her belief that the breweries may appear an easy scapegoat, but the problem is deeper.
“None of this should ever happen. I do not blame breweries. I blame individual people,” she explained. “It has to start with ‘everyone is welcome.’”
The beer buff noted that another easy step would be a shift in marketing strategy. “White males are the face of craft beer. We need more women represented. we need more black people represented.”
White was bullish about the future of inclusiveness in the industry. She recalled seeing sharp increases in breweries owned by people of color in the short two years that’s she’s been publishing Afro.Beer.Chick.
“We’re creating this table and we’re creating it for everybody. The only color that should matter is the color of the beer itself,” she mused. “I can [work on change], but I can’t do it alone and I don’t want to. Honestly, this conversation has been coming for a long time.”