Over the past week Distiller as a brand hasn’t made a public statement or posted on social media in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, or in remembrance of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others. This is not because we don’t agree with the protests. It’s not because we want to keep our heads down. It’s not because what happened to these people didn’t make us feel angry, sick and devastated.
It’s because I’ve been struggling to find the right words. But there are no right words. As a white man in America I will never understand what generations of people of color in this country have experienced and continue to experience on a daily basis. It is systemic, and whether I like it or not, that system benefits and protects me. I don’t even have to think about it, because it’s everywhere. I don’t have to see it, because it’s set up for me.
So even though I don’t have the right words, I will endeavor to use my voice, my privilege, my mind and my heart to be an ally. I will get it wrong constantly, I’m sure. I don’t have the right words, but I do believe in these.
Black Lives Matter.
Distiller stands with the Black community and all people of color in this country. If we want it to be, this can be a transformative moment in our history as a nation. We should use this time to not only listen, learn and stand with our Black friends, neighbors and fellow citizens, but also to elevate the Black voices across the country that are speaking out.
I want to applaud Whisky Advocate for putting together a list of Black-Owned Whisky Distilleries & Companies. It’s a wonderful list and I suggest you all look at it. I’ve also linked to these businesses below. But notice how incredibly short this list is. That in and of itself is a problem. The spirits industry is one dominated by white faces. This must change, both within large companies that can do better to bring Black professionals into their ranks, but also in communities where Black entrepreneurs are trying to start new distilleries.
I think it’s important that people of privilege like myself do more than simply share feelings of solidarity and support online. So, I’m committing to the following steps, and I hope you’ll consider these and put together an action plan for yourself.
1. I’m donating money. There are so many amazing Black-lead organizations out there that need resources. I have done this already and will continue to do this.
2. In conversations about the protests I’m going to constantly try to change the emphasis from destruction of property to destruction of lives. Destruction of property is bad. Destruction of lives is unforgivable.
3. I’m going to engage with harder topics of race that are difficult for me. I’m going to do that by reading, by listening, and by watching and having conversations.
4. As the leader of a small technology company I’m going to make sure that Distiller’s job postings are as visible and easily accessible as possible for the BIPOC community.
5. When people of color are saying something that I agree with, or doing something that I believe in, I will share it and elevate it.
In the past when we’ve shared public support for social or political causes, we’ve received some messages that say something along the lines of “keep your politics away from my whiskey.” If you are thinking that right now, please take a moment to realize that the mere fact that you have an escape, a hobby, an option of “turning it off” is in and of itself a huge privilege.
So many people of color in this country do not have that.
Earlier today I saw the perfect sign from a young Black girl, so I’ll close with her message.
We Said: Black Lives Matter
Never Said: Only Black Lives Matter
We Know: All Lives Matter
We Just Need Your Help
For Black Lives Are In Danger!
Co-Founder & CEO of Distiller
Whisky Advocate’s List of Black-Owned Whisky Distilleries & Companies
Cylk Blended Tennessee Whiskey
If there are distilleries that this list is missing, please let me know. I would love to include them.