Cider is Pale

Cider has a color problem. But it’s not the one in your glass.

If you stand around a cider festival long enough, someone is bound to ask, “why is cider so white?” Usually people get a puzzled look on their face while they stare absentmindedly into their cider glass, happy to be part of such a progressive group but hoping the subject will change. On really rare occasions someone will ask where are the cidermakers of color? That usually goes shamelessly unanswered.

To judge by makers, marketers, and drinkers cider looks pretty white. Surprising in a sector that talks a lot about demographics. Maybe not surprising, since those studies usual focus on age, gender, and sweetness preferences. Reaching people of color hasn’t really been part of those discussions. For all its talk about expanding audiences and reaching out to people, it’s painfully obvious that cider needs to take a long hard look at itself and its overwhelming whiteness.

A good place to begin is to look at how we talk about cider. Or rather, who cider likes to talk about. Cidermakers and marketers love to lift up America’s Founders as cider producers and drinkers. It’s almost impossible to read about cider without seeing a reference to John Adams, George Washington, or Thomas Jefferson.

Results of a Google search, “Founders Cider.”

Is this focus on Founders because it makes cider seem more “American”? Is it because if the Founders did it, it must be good? For whatever reason, we keep linking them to cider.

However, for many, America’s Founders, and the events they represent, are at best problematic and at worst the problem. This isn’t a new perspective. Frederick Douglass in his “Oration, Delivered in Corinthian Hall” on July 5, 1852, asked, “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” He answered it, saying,

a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

As Douglass said then and Black Lives Matter has reiteratated today, the Founders aren’t the shining examples white America hopes they are. After all many famous Founders supported, participated in, and benefited from slavery. That is why statues of some of the Founding generation have come under renewed scrutiny and a few have been targeted by protesters.1

While I am not suggesting that African Americans have entirely rejected the Founders, they have not embraced them as white America has. It’s possible cider’s focus on the Founders has contributed to keeping African Americans and other people of color away. As we’re seeing in other places in American life, the Founders are not the welcoming ambassadors some wish them to be.

It’s time that cidermakers and marketers end their fascination with the Founders. By no means am I suggesting we ignore history or our pursuit of a deeper understanding of our past. Perhaps if we drop the selective history then maybe cider culture and find new ways to broaden how we talk about cider we can begin to feel welcoming to every American.

Also, I’m not suggesting that if we don’t mention Washington anymore that’ll make it all better. It won’t. This is one small start to answering the question of why is cider so white.

While we’re changing things, perhaps we should replace asking, “why is cider so white?” with “what can I do to change that?”

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1. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Washington Square Park in Philadelphia was tagged by protestors. Monuments to Casimir Pulaski, Baron Von Steuben, and Commodore John Barry have all been targeted. And local governments are removing their statues to Caesar Rodney and Philip Schuyler. These events have led people to wonder will people turn on Washington and Jefferson?

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