Ice cream company Ben & Jerry's has sparked outrage after the company shared a Fourth of July message calling for the United States to return "stolen indigenous land" starting with giving Mount Rushmore back to the Lakota Sioux tribe. The message has since left fans divided over the Independence Day post.
The company, which was founded by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, known for their association with Bernie Sanders, has since been acquired by the British multinational corporation Unilever. The company shared the tweet with its approximately 494,000 followers. However, it hasn't gone down well as many feel that the company should have instead shared a patriotic message.
Outraging Americans on Independence Day
"The United States was founded on stolen indigenous land. This Fourth of July, let's commit to returning it," Ben & Jerry's tweeted. In a similar message on its website, the company argued that July 4 festivities and celebrations can "distract from an essential truth about this nation's birth."
Ben & Jerry's then suggested the idea of "starting with Mount Rushmore" and then asked "What is the meaning of Independence Day for those whose land this country stole, those who were murdered and forced with brutal violence onto reservations, those who were pushed from their holy places and denied their freedom."
"The faces on Mount Rushmore are the faces of men who actively worked to destroy Indigenous cultures and ways of life, to deny Indigenous people their basic rights," the statement concluded.
The tweet from Ben & Jerry's faced immediate backlash on social media, with numerous outraged customers expressing their displeasure and using the hashtag #boycottbenandjerrys.
They criticized the message as being anti-American and inappropriate for a day dedicated to celebrating the United States.
One commenter even drew a parallel to Bud Light's partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, which reportedly led to significant financial losses for the beer company, surpassing $20 million in sales.
Taking to Twitter Tuesday, Rich wrote, "Make @benndjerrys Bud Light again."
"Long overdue for the Bud Light treatment. You hate the country, fine. We won't buy your product. All good."
Another person wrote, "#boycottbenandjerrys for being hateful and divisive to Americans on the 4th of July."
In the Line of Fire
Joseph Massey accused Ben & Jerry's of hypocrisy, pointing out the potential suffering of cows used in the production of the company's ice cream.
"First you need to apologize to the millions of cows you milked without consent," he wrote. "Your product is colonialist misogyny in the form of an overpriced desert. Stop feeding the people cow trauma."
Kevin Dalton highlighted the alleged hypocrisy of Ben & Jerry's by pointing out that their own factories are situated on land that is claimed to be stolen or appropriated from indigenous peoples.
"I look forward to the virtue signaling Ben & Jerry's returning their factory's land to the Abenaki and Mohican Native Americans that have lived in Vermont for 10,000 years."
Throughout its history, Ben & Jerry's has projected itself as a supporter of left-leaning causes and has formed partnerships with various social justice movements. The company has actively engaged in advocating for progressive values and using its platform to promote initiatives aligned with those beliefs.
The tweet from Ben & Jerry's included a link to a post on their website, wherein they elaborated on the rationale behind their suggestion to "start with Mount Rushmore." The post expressed the company's desire to contribute to a movement aimed at dismantling white supremacy and systems of oppression, outlining their perspective on why America should critically examine the historical and ongoing impact of such structures.
"Ah, the Fourth of July. Who doesn't love a good parade, some tasty barbecue, and a stirring fireworks display? The only problem with all that, though, is that it can distract from an essential truth about this nation's birth: The US was founded on stolen Indigenous land," they wrote.
Ben & Jerry's highlighted in their post that the Lakota Sioux tribe reverently refers to Mount Rushmore as Tunkasila Sakpe and considers the land sacred.
They also referred to historical treaties from the 1920s that were intended to allow the tribes to retain Mount Rushmore. Additionally, they mentioned a Supreme Court decision that recognized the land as having been taken from the Lakota tribe following a sit-in protest in 1970.
According to the court ruling, the Lakota Sioux were entitled to $105 million as compensation, but the tribes refused the payment, instead demanding the return of their land.
Furthermore, Ben & Jerry's expressed their support for the Land Back Movement, which they say is "about restoring the rights and freedoms of Indigenous people."
"It's about dismantling white supremacy and systems of oppression and ensuring that Indigenous people can again govern the land their communities called home for thousands of years."
Ben & Jerry's also stirred controversy in 2021 after it announced that it would halt ice cream sales in what they referred to as "the Occupied Palestinian Territory." This move generated strong reactions, particularly from Israelis, including former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who expressed intense anger and disagreement with the company's decision.
Co-founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield later filed a lawsuit against their parent company, Unilever, after the Israeli branch of Ben & Jerry's was sold to a local licensee. This legal action stemmed from disagreements related to the decision to halt ice cream sales in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Ben & Jerry's has been known for its public support of social causes, including the Black Lives Matter movement, and advocating for LGBTQ+ rights. The brand has used its platform to express solidarity with these movements and promote inclusivity and social justice.