Moving Forward on the Question of Race and the Wine Industry

Stacy Brisco never disappoints. The most recent reminder of this writer’s well-honed chops is an article she wrote for the Wine Industry’s Beverage Industry Enthusiast entitled, “The Wine Industry Pledged Improve Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity. Has anything changed?” One thing that Stacy demonstrated in this review of the wine industry’s DEI efforts is how talking and writing about the issue has changed.

As I read through the article I noticed that there was no mention of the wine industry being “systemically racist” or “inherently racist”, two claims that were commonplace not too long ago and located in numerous articles about the wine industry’s response to the events of 2020.

In fact, Brisco’s article described the numerous ways by which minorities have been supported, have developed networks within, and found success within the wine industry over the past 18 months. It’s an uplifting article that focuses the reader on how success happens.

Both in her writing and in the comments from the subjects of her interview for the article, the terms “systemic racism” and “inherent racism” are absent. This is important not because it suggests that examples of racism have been excised from the industry, but rather that the unsupported indictments of the wine industry may no longer be muddying the waters when questions of representation in the industry are concerned.

The Causes of Underrepresentation
The problem with previous charges of systemic racism in the wine industry is that they were leveled with little to no evidence. Moreover, when accusers were pressed, the primary evidence that the American wine industry is systemically racist amounted to observations that many minority groups were underrepresented at various levels and parts of the industry. Underrepresentation is of course no evidence of racism at all.

The proper response to the observation of underrepresentation of one group or another is to ask why. Were blacks regularly denied job offers due to racist hiring practices? Did Hispanics apply for wine industry jobs in numbers far less than their percentage of the population? Do wineries generally receive applications from people located in the region where the winery is located and does the population in these regions include an over or under-representation of minorities compared to the population at large? Do some underrepresented minority groups tend to have less interaction with wine leading to them choosing other, more familiar industries into which to apply for work? The point is that until an investigation is undertaken to explain why one group or another is underrepresented in one or more parts of the wine industry it is simply impossible to assign systemic racism as the reason for that underrepresentation. More importantly, such investigations would provide insight into how to more effectively recruit underrepresented groups into the industry. It is notable that no such investigations have been undertaken as far as anyone knows.

Despite my not agreeing with all the claims and assertions in Brisco’s current article, there is no denying that the efforts being made to assure the wine industry is welcoming to underrepresented minorities are both working and inspiring. It is a great example of how collaboration moves an issue forward.

Posted In: Culture and Wine


2 Responses

  1. acv - January 16, 2022

    I read Stacey Briscoe piece and the obvious jumped out at me and it’s a point I rarely emphasize though I should, these initiatives always help the small elite group of individuals – the cottage industry that springs forth of DEI officers and non-profit organizations to help you guide in your Baskin Robbins 31 flavor hiring.

    The 6-figure Angela Morris Lovelace is receiving from SVB to be the company’s new Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer….is money well spent from the Bank’s perspective as it pushes a PR line to the netizens of cancel culture.

    I’ve traveled extensively in South Africa, and this reminds me of the BEE initiatives the SA government has pushed out over the last decade or so.

    BBBEE, like other affirmative action measures, has helped the well-connected a relatively small “elite” within the ANC circle of political allies while leaving the larger Black population of SA as poor as ever.

    BBBEE – “strikes a fatal blow against black entrepreneurship by creating a small class of unproductive but wealthy black crony capitalists made up of ANC politicians”

    What often happens is to get a BEE certificate (or more BBBEE pts) often a Black man is given a place on a corporate board the tokenism and bigotry of low expectations. For the wine sector, a place where many of these wineries are family-owned, the drive for BBBEE points is the only way the winery can have access to an export certificate and thus be able to sell their wines abroad.

    If BBBEE was creating Black entrepreneurs and was a general skills transfer to the Black community of SA, the case for the codes would be indisputable…. but it’s just a system to enrich the Black elite of the ANC. BEE rewards people based on color, while punishing people of merit, that’s wrong no matter who’s in power.

    The same thing happened with Gender Corporate Board initiatives in Norway years ago and then later adopted by a broader EU.

    They were called the “golden skirts” in Norway, and they were in high demand serving on multiple corporate boards to achieve the 40% female representation.

    As the left-leaning “Economist” pointed out in 2018 – 10 years into the initiative in Norway and much of the larger EU for female representation on corporate boards
    “had no discernible beneficial effect on women at lower levels of the corporate hierarchy.” Proponents of such a policy have long promised that more women in leadership positions would translate to more career opportunities and promotions for women in the lower levels, which in turn will lead to better-paying jobs and a shrinking pay gap. But that promise turned out to be wishful thinking… Thus, more women leading companies has done little to benefit 99 percent of women in the workforce.”

    How about improvement in Corp profitability?

    “Did the higher female representation on corporate boards improve profitability and governance, as proponents promised? The data is inconclusive. Some companies saw improvement in both areas, but some didn’t. Did it improve boards’ decision-making, as supporters claimed it would? Data shows that although decision-making processes might have changed, their substance and quality didn’t improve by simply having more women on boards.”

    The low resolution thought that you need to hire a black or someone who is LGBT to help you understand how to communicate with other Blacks and LGBT people…? Is well…a racist attitude.

    Yet that’s what they are saying….. all white people are alike…. all black people are alike…so, you know we mix, and match and we have a magic marketing and sales team.

    The idea that somehow demographic and cultural diversity will have some sort of bottom-line effect on a winery’s performance is patently racist. It’s racial essentialism

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