In the two years since Chalonda White launched Afro Beer Chick, a blog centered around her experiences enjoying craft beer as a Black woman, she says she’s never had any real heated exchanges with anyone on social media. But on September 9, she received an unprovoked email from a stranger.
“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.”
White turned to Twitter to discuss the incident with her few thousand followers at @afrobeerchick. “it appears my existence is bothering someone,” she quipped lightheartedly. Within minutes, an outpouring of support flooded her feed from hundreds of people disgusted with the blatantly racist message, which seemed to come from nowhere. (White tells MUNCHIES she has no idea who he is or what sparked the seemingly random attack. MUNCHIES has reached out to the email address used to send the original message for comment.)
White seemed unfazed, following her initial tweet with: “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.”
Dr. J. Jackson-Beckham—diversity ambassador at Brewers Association, founder of Craft Beer For All, and assistant professor of communication studies and beer scholar at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia—watched White’s feed fill up with sentiments of horror and solidarity. Within a few hours, she decided to channel the anger she was feeling into something tangible. “Silence cannot combat racism. Only anti-racism can do that… I want to demonstrate what an inclusive #craftbeer community looks like,” she Tweeted.
“Let's create huge [sic] enduring reminder of the incredible diversity in our community,” Jackson-Beckham implored.
The call was quickly answered, with an avalanche of replies pouring in from beer communities across the world.
“Beer is powerful stuff,” says Emma Inch in an email to MUNCHIES. “It has real potential to make a difference.” The U.K.-based beer journalist and current British Beer Writer of the Year says that as a lesbian woman, she’s also felt unsafe at points, especially online. When she saw Jackson-Beckham’s call to action against prejudice, she felt it was important to add her voice.
“I decided to participate in #IAmCraftBeer to let my voice be heard that [me] and everyone else who wants to sit at the bottle share table is 100% rightfully deserving to do so,” says Shana Lee in an email to MUNCHIES. She’s a self-described craft beer enthusiast and writer from Atlanta, Georgia and hopes this incident will bring the beer community closer together.
This incident is an acute reminder of the racism and discrimination still deeply embedded in the craft beer industry. The Brewers Association, the United States’ leading non-profit group dedicated to promoting craft beer, recently released the study “Brewery Diversity Benchmarking: A Foundation for Change,” which outlines racial and gender demographics of those employed in the beer industry.
The numbers confirm what most already know: Craft beer is overwhelmingly white and male. Based on their data, 88.4 percent of brewery owners are white, with only 1 percent of brewery owners identifying as Black. The role with the highest percentage of Black employees are non-managerial production staff, which is still less than 5 percent.
Even the Brewers Association admits, “We as a craft beer community can do better.”
Ren Navarro is the owner and operator of Beer. Diversity., a Canadian initiative geared at promoting diversity in the craft beer industry. “We live in a crazy racist time,” comments Navarro in an email. “I'm a queer black woman in beer, who has been trolled in the past for trying to open up craft beer to various groups of people... I participated because I believe there's absolute strength in numbers… enough people have been affected by bigotry and racism.”
#IAmCraftBeer now has thousands of entries on Twitter and more are being added by the hour, according to social media analytics platform Talkwalker. “The responses have been completely overwhelming both in content and sheer volume,” says Jackson-Beckham. “It’s been emotional.”
White is ecstatic about the outcome. “It is showing that love can outweigh hate. It pushes the Diversity in Beer discussion more and gives it a platform for it to not only be discussed but also taken seriously,” she told MUNCHIES. In a follow-up live Twitter video, she outlined her hope that the discussions started on #IAmCraftBeer will extend from behind the computer to real life. She even extended an invitation to whoever sent the original email to “have a beer and discussion” face-to-face.
“Just spread the love,” urges White. “We want to spread more love, not hate.”