I can’t believe we keep having to have conversations like this, but as long as we have to have these conversations, we will have these conversations.
Will this post be perfect? No. Will I keep adding to it and correcting myself as I learn more? Absolutely.
I am a human with a platform and many privileges, and publicly navigating circumstances like this are not part of my day job or my regular life. Throughout this journey, I’ve tried to approach every conversation and interaction with empathy and a mind that is open to learning and understanding. I’m not a journalist by trade—nor am I an activist by trade—but I care a lot about my community.
When it comes to instances of blatant hate, I can’t sit idly by and not use the platform and privileges I have. I rarely have the answers myself which is why I rely on my network, my community, and people who do this regularly to help me navigate these choppy waters. I can’t know everything, but I do know one thing: Hate of any kind is not welcome nor is it accepted. Not in our city. Not in our state. Not in our coffee community.
CONTENT WARNING: I will share a few links as relevant throughout this post. Some are relevant news articles are resources, and some are links to more information about extremism and hate symbols. I will annotate them appropriately so you can decide for yourself which are appropriate for you, your learning, and your own health. All links are to vetted resources and not actual hate groups. I’ll use (TW) for trigger warning when hate symbols, speech, or other offensive content may be present.
What’s going on
Recently, a new roaster in Nashville, IN, popped up online with a name, logo, and messaging that is heavily antisemitic and blatantly white supremacist. The name comes from a book that praises Hitler (TW). The logo contains a swastika, an iron cross (TW), and SS bolts (TW). Their captions boast of being proudly “Non-Kosher.” Their retweets and liked tweets are full of nazi salutes and calls to “Protect the European Race” and “Protect Europa” which are known white supremacist ideals.
This all comes from a woman who has strong ties and known involvement with hate groups here in Indiana, so she’s not one for subtleties. I will post a few news links at the end.
I am not interested in giving this business any more attention, but I am interested in providing you all resources to learn about situations like these in our community. Unlike antisemitic coffee roasters, I am interested in continual growth and learning as well as understanding and welcoming different perspectives of folks in our communities.
What makes our local coffee community special is the diversity of voices on both sides of the counter.
Why I picked this fight
There are so many social injustices actively happening before our eyes every day. I typically try to be very thoughtful in what I share on the Coffee Guide about social justice issues for many reasons. This hate is far too blatant and far too specific—a coffee roaster close to home. I personally reacted strongly, so I made a community statement post even though I had no idea at the time who was behind it or what they’d done in the past. I realized that I’m not alone in my shortcomings and saw a huge opportunity to fight back in a real way with education, conversations, and donations. So we got to work.
I’ve built a brand over the years around ‘No More Bad Coffee,’ and this is exactly what I mean.
‘Bad coffee’ is anti-community coffee. ‘Bad coffee’ is antisemitic coffee.
We don’t just pour out bad coffee. We fight it.
Choosing the narrative, Not being afraid
Sometimes when you stick your neck out, your chance for risk gets higher. You stand up for something, and you become a bigger target.
One of the main rebuttals from the roaster so far has been that we’re afraid of them. I can’t tell you how wrong that is.
We’re not afraid of white supremacists spewing hate online—that’s why we call it out. We’re not afraid that they’re becoming the majority, because they aren’t. In fact, a huge part of the white supremacist platform is that they try to ‘rise up’ because they think they’re becoming the minority. That scares them because they know how they’ve treated minorities since the beginning of time. So they use hate—they hate they’ve always had—to try to beat us back down, but it doesn’t work anymore because we are not afraid.
I’ll tell you what I am afraid of, though. I’m afraid of someone in our community getting hurt by them because their hate went unchecked. I’m afraid of how a group of innocent people is going to feel if they’re attacked again because this specific group of people has attacked innocent people before.
So we took this fear, this passion, and decided to do something about it.
The Anti-Fascist Coffee Club
Connecting with the right people along the way is monumental for actually getting things done. Part of this journey, too, is even figuring our what can be done.
My new friend Rebecca Prowse, owner of Gravesco Pottery, reached out when she saw my post. She immediately had the idea of creating a mug in collaboration with the Coffee Guide to raise money for the ACLU of Indiana. I obviously loved the idea because the ACLU are the right kind of people to fight this.
The same day, I was introduced to the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, and I knew they needed to be involved as well.
So Rebecca and her team whipped up these Anti-Fascist Coffee Club mugs, and we got to work spreading the word.
The Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council
At the beginning of this, I was introduced to the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council (the Indy JCRC, for short). I quickly realized that my knowledge of the Jewish community in Indy was substantially lacking, so we’ve been having ongoing conversations on how we can understand and support the local Jewish community and the JCRC.
Founded in 1942, the JCRC’s mission is to seek justice & safety for our Jewish neighbors. They do this in many different ways: online resources, regular meetings with various organizations, community engagement, media relations, and so much more.
In addition to online education, they offer many valuable in-person programs, workshops, and speakers that can be tailored to any organization or event. For any organization to be able to offer the community direct, interactive resources like this is massively valuable, and we are so lucky to have an organization like as part of and serving our community.
I encourage you to check out their website—specifically the JCRC about page—to learn more about all of the great work they do.
Why we chose to work with the JCRC
Several people asked why we chose to work with JCRC and offered some feedback on why they might not be the ‘perfect’ organization to work with. I very much appreciate the conversation and education.
Like all religious communities, the Jewish communities in Indianapolis and around the world are full of historic and complex intricacies, and I am far from truly understanding the inner workings of those complexities, especially in regards to worldly conflicts. I am neither a historian or a religious studies expert, so I can’t have an educated opinion on those circumstances, current or historic.
What I can tell you is this: the Indy JCRC does real, impactful work here in our community. The senior JCRC staff has been nothing but supportive, understanding, and educational for me as I’ve navigated this ordeal. Their focus on our community was the main deciding factor, and I am proud to be working alongside them.
The ACLU of Indiana
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana is another impactful organization we’re working with for this project. The ACLU is “nonprofit, nonpartisan, and dedicated to defending and protecting the individual rights and personal freedoms of all.”
Since the 1950s, our state’s chapter of the ACLU has done monumentally impactful work to protect the rights and freedoms on all people.
Their work is complex and covers many, many areas: the freedom of speech, reproductive freedoms, equality for all under the law, minority work, and so much more.
Why we chose to work with the ACLU of Indiana
We received some pushback for supporting the ACLU of Indiana with this project—both publicly and privately—especially in regards to their involvement with the public panel for the 2019 case of the Bloomington Farmer’s Market.
While we understand these concerns, we also seek to understand the complexity of these issues and the ACLU’s actual involvement with this case and others like it. When it all boils down, the Farmer’s Market case was about free speech, and unfortunately, we all have the same freedom of speech—even Nazis. Regardless of what you and I think and believe, you cannot give freedom of speech to one group and take it away from another.
The ACLU is very clear that they vehemently oppose hate groups and hate speech in all circumstances, and they are always actively working to strengthen anti-discrimination legislation at all levels of government.
I am not a lawyer, and neither were any of the folks who gave us pushback. I have spoken with several lawyers in the last few weeks, and they all reinforced this sentiment that the law is not always fun and it doesn’t always work out in favor of what we think is right and wrong, even in situations like this. And no one I have spoken to had a clear answer on how the ACLU could have done any differently in that case, which again, was just a panel of lawyers having a conversation about free speech.
We chose the ACLU of Indiana because of all the work they do in our state to fight the nasty, discriminatory legislation our government keeps trying to pass. They are always actively pushing to reduce and eliminate discriminatory laws in our state.
I regularly work with the ACLU of Indiana in a different capacity, and to suggest that they aren’t anti-fascist is pretty preposterous.
You can read more about their work and specific legislative issues on the ACLU of Indiana’s website.
Secure Community Network
Another new-to-me group is the Secure Community Network (SCN) whose work is to provide safety and security to the Jewish community in North America. The fact that an organization like this has to exist at such a scale is heart breaking because, despite being such a small part of the population, the Jewish community is still much more likely to be the target of hate crimes.
The SCN is highly involved with law enforcement at all levels of government, and they provide many valuable resources to the Jewish community and their allies including safety training, cyber security information, incident management, and even nonprofit security grants. Read more about the SCN on their website and all of the great work they do.
The Anti-Defamation League
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) exists in a similar capacity to the SCN in that they stand up to fight for and protect the Jewish community. Their website hosts many, many resources on challenges that the Jewish community faces as well as actions we can all take to insure the safety of everyone in our community, like reporting incidents of hate and how to advocate.
The ADL has a long history of protecting the Jewish community. I’ve always known the name ”Anti-Defamation League,” but I never full understood the depths of what they do until now. Some of the resources they offer are reports and trackers of hate/extremist incidents (TW) as well as glossaries of known hate symbols (TW) and extremist language (TW).
These antisemitic and white supremacist voices may seem loud—and sometimes they are—but they don’t have what we have. They will have always have a few followers, but they will never have a true community like we do.
It’s not just the Jewish community
The hate we’ve seen from this coffee roaster and their followers is very antisemitic, but white supremacy is a lot deeper than that.
Many of the posts shared and liked by this roaster are messages of ‘Protecting the European race,’ general white supremacy slogans, and so many racist tropes of marginalized communities. So it’s not just the Jewish community these people hate. It’s people of color. It’s the LGBTQ+ community. It’s every religion that isn’t their skewed version of Christianity (which is far from true Christianity). It’s hate toward anyone who doesn’t look like them.
An attack on anyone in our community is an attack on us all.
Coffee is not white.
I may not say this eloquently, but let me also be clear about something: Coffee is not a white commodity. Coffee’s origins are anything but white. It is literally impossible for coffee to be removed from people of color—so regardless of what you do in coffee, you are supporting many, many POC and an industry built and run by POC.
Yes, there is a LONG history of inequality and racism throughout the entire coffee supply chain that can’t and shouldn’t be ignored because it is all part of this story. I am forever learning about the depths of this and how these issues persist today because the Black/POC members of the coffee community—especially in Indy/Indiana—deal with this daily in cafés and online. As a cis white man, I can only know and understand so much firsthand because my experiences will never be the same.
More content is on its way as these conversations continue. This is all to say, coffee is not white.
What can we do?
- My goals are always education and conversation. I encourage you to read more about all of these organizations and to have meaningful conversations with yourself and your community. Rarely are these conversations comfortable, but we grow when we challenge our discomforts.
- If you have the capacity to donate your money or time, local organizations will always need the help. I believe to the best of my knowledge that these organizations are doing the right thing to directly fight hate in our community.
- As I said recently, coffee is political. So supporting and voting for people in local elections who share our values are massively important (and relatively easy) actions we can take.
- Keep learning. Keep me learning. I will continue to post more resources here as I find them and as you all graciously share them with me.
Like I said: education and conversation—for me and for us all. It’s wild to me that education can feel like and be seen as a grand gesture, but often its because learning and growth are the exact opposite goals of those we’re fighting against.
These last few weeks have been really hard for so many reasons, and I could not have made it through without some incredible people along the way.
Rebecca Prowse of Gravesco for pushing me in so many ways, being my sounding board, and just being a total badass. And the entire team at Gravesco, obviously.
Ryan Hunley for his support, encouragement, and for being the best hype man.
The team at Indy JCRC for their grace, understanding, and education.
My family and all of my friends who have let me scream and cry while helping me nurse my wounds.
The literal hundred of you who have reached out in support and/or mutual disgust, and the handful of you who offered your resources and challenged me to go further with my own understanding.
Mitch Legan and the team at WTIU/WFIU, the PBS/NPR station in Bloomington. Thank you for telling our story, listening to me process out loud, and for dealing with your own backlash.
And a giant THANK YOU to everyone who ordered an Anti-Fascist Coffee Club mug. Because of you, we are giving back to two incredible local organizations who fight hate on a daily basis.
I appreciate you, and I love you. All I ever want is for everyone to feel comfortable, safe, and loved.
In the news
Report: Volkmom, Identity Evropa/American Identity Movement, and the Safety of Our Community (so much valuable info here)
Indiana Public Media (WTIU/WFIU/NPR/PBS): Indy Coffee Guide starts ‘Anti-Fascist Coffee Club’ after Schooner Creek announcement
Indiana Daily Student: Above Time Coffee Roasters faces backlash over alleged neo-Nazi logo, slogan, language