Last week, we published an honest and relevant article, Being Black in Specialty Coffee, that we stand by. The writer, Sierra Burgess-Yeo, a woman of colour, interviewed several black baristas and business owners about their personal experiences in the specialty coffee industry. These stories are valuable first-hand accounts that are important to a full understanding of the specialty coffee scene. We remain proud of Sierra for her work and grateful to her interviewees for sharing their stories.
The relevance of this article was quickly reinforced when a significant amount of racist hate speech appeared on our Instagram account in response. Over the weekend, more than 450 comments were posted.
We Do Not Accept Racist Comments
This reaction is abhorrent. We will not accept comments like this on our social media accounts and wholeheartedly condemn those who hold and post such opinions. Hate speech not only incites ill will and violence against already marginalised groups but also intimidates and silences those who may otherwise be brave enough to speak up about their experiences. It takes bravery to be a voice for equality in the face of responses like this.
We also owe our community an apology. We were unprepared and overwhelmed by the volume and extremity of the comments posted. As such, we did not respond quickly or effectively enough to condemn the comments.
We could give justification for this, including that we expected any negative responses to happen on the day of publication (Thursday), rather than over the weekend when we have a skeleton staff, and so we were unable to provide the 24-hour moderation that was required. We could also highlight how Instagram’s report function proved woefully inadequate, meaning that comments we reported reappeared just hours later after being approved by Instagram’s moderators.
But we know that these excuses aren’t good enough. We owe it to you – our writers, our interviewees, and our readers – to do better. We should have more effectively moderated the racist abuse and more clearly expressed our zero-tolerance stance on hate speech. We understand that not doing so both created a hostile environment for social media users and gave the impression that we were indifferent to the vitriol.
Let us state clearly that we absolutely will not condone hate speech, including racism, sexism, or other forms of discrimination, on our publication or its social media accounts.
To the writer and interviewees who bravely and honestly shared their stories, to those who patiently responded to vile comments with their own experiences in an attempt to find common ground, to the allies who rightly stated that such vitriol has no place in this industry, and to those of you who called on us to do better – thank you.
Help Us to Do Better
The response to this article has underscored the need for us to better support our readers of colour and other marginalised communities within the coffee industry. We commit to increasing the visibility of both coffee professionals and coffee-lovers of colour by:
- Including more images of people of colour in the coffee industry.
- Including more interviewees of colour.
- Actively working to attract more writers of colour.
If you are a person of colour and would like to apply for a writing position with us, be added to our list of people we contact for interviews, or contribute images to be featured in appropriate articles, please email [email protected].
We have also created a plan to better moderate social media comments in real time. Allowing hate speech to remain visible creates a hostile environment that we do not want our readers – or anyone – to experience.
Lastly, although it is not the responsibility of minorities to teach tolerance or transform dominant cultures, we humbly ask you to continue telling us when we do not get it right. We don’t have all the answers. Like you, we are human, fallible, and shaped by our own experiences. Please get in touch with us at [email protected] if you have suggestions about how we can do better. We promise to listen and be open to implementing changes.