The following blog post is an internal message Cooperative Coffees sent out to our membership on June 4th. Since that time we convened our roasters to discuss what responsibility we have in making a public statement about systemic racism. These conversations have been meaningful, thought-provoking, and necessary for us to learn and grow. Some of our members felt a public statement is hollow without defining action. Other members believed a statement of solidarity should be immediate, humble, and honest about not having all the answers. In the end, as a predominantly white owned business, we found our struggle in making this decision insignificant compared to the daily violence racialized minorities face in our communities. With that said, we offer the below post as a statement of where we are today with further steps to be defined by our Leadership Team on addressing systemic racism when we see it; and when we don’t.
June 4th, 2020
Dear Cooperative Coffees Membership,
Cooperative Coffees is no stranger to the story of inequality. Coffee producers are part of the most marginalized populations in the world. The coffee commodity market doesn’t pay producers low prices, buyers do. And they use constructs like the commodity market to justify paying human beings prices that keep them in abject poverty. At Cooperative Coffees we understand the systemic racism inherent in the coffee trade and built our business around assuring our producer partners are treated with respect and equality. Like others in equitable trade, we are proud of our approach and consider it the right thing to do.
However, the events in the United States over the past week have left many of us speechless. Are we complicite to systemic racism in our own backyards? What can we do to help? How do our convictions about coffee trade translate into defending the most vulnerable citizens in our own communities?
For me, the answer does not lie in disagreement or denial that there is systemic racism in our communities. I am not silenced because of my white fragility or lack of anger at the repeated examples of brutality against minorities. What has stopped my engagement is considering this issue someone else’s priority. And that view is extremely short-sighted.
We are more than an importing cooperative. We champion for the most vulnerable participants in our supply chain and develop regenerative and sustainable relationships. How successful can we be in promoting global equity when we do not prioritize engaging with the systemic racism that threatens to tear apart our communities at home?
Peacefully and often, we need to remind our communities that Black Lives Matter. This is not a fringe group, but an international movement that aligns with Cooperative Coffees’ values and gives voice to the most vulnerable among us. Until racialized minorities no longer fear the very institutions in our communities created to protect them, this needs to be our priority.
These conversations are not easy. All of us are on our own journey to understand and engage with the problem of systemic racism. Please join us as we listen, learn, and define actions we need to take in our own business and communities. I offer up the below links to learn more and implore you to take the Black Lives Matter movement to heart. It is the right thing to do.