Canadian company's Black Lives Matter themed gelato sparks swift backlash
Righteous Gelato has pulled its newly-launched Black Lives Matter dessert product for reasons that, if not already obvious, should soon become quite clear.
The 11-year-old Calgary-based dessert company unveiled a new mint-chocolate flavoured gelato on Friday, which would possibly have been well-received among fans of the brand had it not been called "Black Lives Matter."
That's right: Black Lives Matter chocolate mint chip small batch gelato, retailing for $12 per 562-ml jar.
When announcing the product on Facebook and Twitter, Righteous wrote that $5 from every Black Lives Matter jar sold would be used to "support efforts to combat systemic racism and advocate for racialized and marginalized communities."
A similar statement about supporting racialized communities appears on the product's label, which appears to show three young Black protesters wearing face masks with "I can't breathe" written across them and carrying cardboard signs that together read "Black Lives Matter."
Viewers were appalled.
It was only a matter of time before this egregious type of commodification of the struggle happened. I got to say though, if you’re going to be tone deaf and build a brand through controversy, go all the way. #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/vXNNzRscVI— Eric Peters (@EricPetersAB) June 13, 2020
Criticism mounted against the company on Saturday as images of the offensively-branded gelato spread, prompting more and more people to weigh in and condemn Righteous for trying to make a profit from Black pain and oppression.
"Hey, white-owned businesses - maybe you shouldn't CAPITALIZE off of a community's oppression AND hire white creatives for that branding project," tweeted one person in response to a photo of the product.
"I just can't wrap my head around these choices. What in the entire fuck, guys?"
"Absolutely tone deaf - terrible. Those were someone's literal last words before DYING!?" wrote someone else of the illustration on the gelato's label. "Don't capitalize on that shit. Disgusting."
What kind of foolishness is this @righteousgelato ? Has #BlackLivesMatter and black death simply become a trend to ride out, with a buying audience to serve? This can't be real - and the owner of this company has actually won awards. Wow #BLM pic.twitter.com/A7KK2UqyFt— Dalton Higgins (@daltonhiggins5) June 14, 2020
Many criticized not only the idea of the product, but Righteous Gelato's decision to hire a white artist for the product's package design.
Visual artist Mandy Stobo apologized Saturday afternoon for her involvement in the project and issued a statement regarding the work, writing that those who had called her out were "absolutely right."
"I recognize that I should have declined their ask and instead encouraged them to provide a paid opportunity to a BIPOC artist," reads the statement as published to Twitter. "Thank you for educating me, even though it's not your job."
"I hear you and will do better. I hope you accept my heartfelt expression as a sign of my intention to help and do good."
Thank you for being patient. Late last night after listening and learning we decided to take down our post and our gelato. We failed and we are committed to making it right. Please read our full statement and let us know how you feel and help us grow. pic.twitter.com/hVLlFTY3Hu— Righteous Gelato (@righteousgelato) June 13, 2020
Righteous similarly issued an apology on Saturday after pulling the product from its website and deleting social media posts promoting the Black Lives Matter gelato.
"There is no place in this world for racism, bigotry, or hate, and we will stand against it," reads a letter of apology from the company's CEO, James Boettcher, on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
"Yesterday, Righteous launched a Black Lives Matter gelato with the intention of standing in solidarity and donating more than 100 per cent of our profits in the process to organizations that support inclusion and diversity," Boettcher said.
"While our intentions were from a place of love, we truly failed, and we are wholeheartedly sorry.... In our intention of doing the right thing, we did the wrong thing. And that's not ok."
The company went on to say that it would be working with leaders representing organizations within the Black community to figure out how it can better show support.
Righteous, which has a long history of charitable giving and community involvement, reaffirmed its commitment to amplifying the voices of Black community members in its post and stated that it will be donating 100 per cent of all profits from its online store in June to be "invested in organizations that you choose that focus on Black Lives."
"You are right, we need to include more organizations doing specific work with the Black Community, and we will," reads the letter.
"You are right, we need to be leaders in education and are committees to working diligently with the BIPOC community so that we can make a bigger and more accurate impact in our city," it continues.
"You are right, Chocolate as a flavour choice was ignorant."
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