One Love?

Racism in the craft beer community is real. Like in the rest of the world it should be confronted whenever it is seen and called out for what it is. We do not tolerate racism in any form and want to play our part in confronting it and making the beer a place where everyone is welcome. It’s time to listen, learn and change. One Love.

Nice sentiment in these troubled times isn’t? This is a statement from Oedipus released on their Facebook page on June 8th. It is great that people in general and breweries specifically take a stand, something that should happen more in Holland. And racism in the craft beer community is real, just look at the brewers who still stand behind the outdated tradition of Zwarte Piet.

However that this statement is coming from Oedipus is surprising to say the least. Last year Oedipus announced that they were partnering with Heineken. Heineken’s track record on racial matters, especially in Africa, is one of contempt for human rights for decades.

Some examples, taken from Olivier van Beemen’s excellent Heineken in Africa:

During the genocide in Rwanda Heineken did not stop brewing. In fact its business went quite well. Many of the participating in the ethnic slaughter were drinking beer from Heineken

When the white South African installed apartheid in the early 60’s some international companies left but Shell and Heineken stayed. There was backlash against both throughout the decades. Shell had to deal boycotts and slashed hoses at gasstations. But Shell and Heineken could make more there then it lost so it stayed. In fact it was urged to senior people within the company “not to act in opposition to the letter/spirit of Apartheid”. 

In the decade when many African countries gained their independence Heineken used the chaos and lack of government oversight to funnel their profit to banks in Switzerland, thereby paying hardly any tax. They also wrote the alcohol tax code in some instances.

In Cambodia girls were used to promote the beer, something that turned into indirect prostitution. They were harassed, forced into having sex with customers just to sell beer. This has also happened in Africa. Time and time again Heineken vowed to do something about it and some steps were made but the problem existed. Research was done, by an intern no less. Parliament tried to force Heineken to stop doing this, Dutch bank ASN pulled it from their investment funds and Bill Gates stopped working with Heineken in Africa.

In 2018 it was still going on. Can you imagine this happening in Europe and with white beer promotion girls?

I am ok with a company making a business decision to join forces with a multination like Oedipus has done with Heineken. But in doing so you are also saying you are fine with their business practices. If you were not you should find another, better suited partner to do business with. Much of Heineken’s dealings in Africa stem from a deeprooted racism since the time they started there.  Or as someone in Heineken said “the negro stands, no matter how you think about it, on a much lower step on the cultural ladder than the Javanese”. Attitudes have changed somewhat since this was said in the 1950s but Heineken has kept doing its business in more than dirty ways, as their dealings in Rwanda and South-Africa have shown. And Oedipus, you didn’t really help the world become a better place when you combined with Heineken. Did you confront Heineken or was the bag of Euros mightier?

If you want to read more about Heineken in Africa read Olivier van Beemen’s excellent book, or start with his equally excellent piece in The Guardian.

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