COMMENTARY | Ben & Jerry’s wanted to pay tribute to Jeremy Lin, the breakout New York Knicks basketball player who is Asian American.
The company created a flavor dubbed “Lin-Sanity” featuring vanilla frozen yogurt with a honey swirl and pieces of fortune cookie. Little did they realize a public outcry would occur finding the inclusion of fortune cookies, feeling the company was “poking fun” at Lin’s heritage rather than honoring it.
“We offer a heartfelt apology if anyone was offended by our handmade Lin-Sanity flavor,” Ben & Jerry’s said in a statement.
“Our intention was to create a flavor to honor Jeremy Lin’s accomplishments and his meteoric rise in the NBA, and recognize that he was a local Harvard graduate. … If we failed in this instance we offer our sincere apologies,” the apology said.
The fortune cookies have since been replaced with pieces of waffle cone.
I find it hard to believe the company did not see beforehand how some might deem the flavor offensive. While the flavor combination may in fact be delicious, public companies such as Ben & Jerry’s need to be sensitive to the image they are portraying. While it may not have been their intent to offend, choosing to perpetuate a racial stereotype is not good business practice.
There was no other reason besides the fact Lin is Asian American to draw a connection to fortune cookies.
“Is there a compelling reason to draw a connection between Lin and fortune cookies, takeout boxes or similar imagery? In the majority of news coverage, the answer will be no.” Stated the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA).
It is also important to differentiate between race and nationality. If Canadian native Steve Nash had an ice cream flavor that contained maple syrup that would be acceptable because maple syrup is widely known to be a Canadian product. The same would hold true for German chocolate honoring Dirk Nowitzki.
In regards to Lin, the fortune cookie honors his heritage as much as an ice cream flavor containing McDonalds French Fries honors mine.