As protests erupt from coast to coast in response to continued police brutality against people of color in the United States, the Currahee Brewing Company, made its own headlines by releasing a new beer using language and imagery of alt-right white supremacy group the Boogaloo Bois. If you aren’t familiar with them, this is a group in the U.S. of white men who want a violent civil war in this country. (In fact, this is the group that traveled to “blue states” to protest stay-at-home orders and are allegedly infiltrating this weekend’s peaceful protests to create the violence they so crave.)
Now, the co-owner of the Georgia-based beer company issued a statement insisting he didn’t know what “Boogaloo” meant when they named their beer after it and dressed George Washington in the Boogaloo’s preferred attire of Hawaiian shirts on the bottle.
“It’s unfortunate. I can understand why some people are upset about it. I’m disappointed with myself not knowing, [not] taking more steps when we named the beer to figure out kind of more of the meaning, not just going off a couple of things you see on the internet … We are very Constitutionally-oriented. Out First and Second Amendments, all amendments, we try to support and defend … We were seeing some memes on the internet, quite a few about George Washington and kind of the joke was him wearing a Hawaiian shirt, you know a modern day General obviously is not going to be wearing a Hawaiian shirt. So we kind of played with that and we kind of rolled with it … We did not by any means know that is was being used by any type of racist white nationalist group at all, or we would never have used it or we should have dropped it.”Brandon Hintz, co-owner of Currahee Brewing Company
The beer can itself, produced by Currahee, bears an adaptation of a famous portrait of George Washington painted by American artist Charles Wilson Peale while Washington was still alive. One thing that makes Hintz’s claim of ignorance a bit hard to believe is that included on the beer can’s image under George Washington’s right elbow is a small black man in a hat, crouched down on all fours as though picking crops. This is not something that was a part of Peale’s original painting. So, someone had to add that to the already racist imagery.
That said, I will take Mr. Hintz at his word that he didn’t intentionally adopt the name and imagery of a group that advocates death to people of color, liberals, minorities and immigrants in this country.
What Mr. Hintz and his marketing team did wrong, however, was to adopt this imagery and language without taking the two seconds required to Google what the name Boogaloo and their Hawaiian shirts mean. In fact, I’d be interested to see what memes inspired him to adopt the images of a known hate group because their memes, which I will not post here, clearly state their desire for a “violent revolution.”
Nonetheless, let’s assume the Currahee Brewing Company really didn’t know the meaning of the memes that inspired the production of new designs on their beer cans. Can we all please remember before you adopt any imagery, trending hashtag or meme message, it’s a good idea to take two seconds to research the meaning behind the message you will forever tie to your brand.