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An Open Letter To Aaron Blanco, Proprietor of Brow...

An Open Letter To Aaron Blanco, Proprietor of Brown Coffee Company

This just in from Brown Coffee Company’s blog:

Recently, a Twitter post that was made via our company’s Twitter account has exploded into something it was never meant to be and we want to correct the record. In the post, it mentioned the differences between Natural Law and Human Law and mentioned that they were different and unequal. This was a post about CLASSICAL PHILOSOPHY and LAWS (a la Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, etc.), not PEOPLE; but somehow people began to twist what was written and added their own lies to the post to mean that somehow we at The Brown Coffee Company are hateful, homophobic, intolerant people. Those are not the facts and we regret that this has descended into something very ugly based on other people’s incorrect reading of the Twitter post. People have begun to attack our friends and business associates based on these incorrect lies and not based on the facts themselves. Other Twitter posts from others began to crop up ascribing words, thoughts and intentions to us and what we said that were NEVER said.

Dear Mr. Aaron Blanco,

Why did a representative of your company tweet “No human law can ever legitimize what natural law precludes #SorryFolks #NotEqual #WhyBother #ChasingAfterTheWind #SelfEvident” 5 minutes before midnight on June 24th, not one hour after the historical announcement that the New York senate passed a “human law” that “legitimized” marriage for same sex couples, thereby giving them the same equal rights as straight married couples?

Do you understand that the language in Brown Coffee Company’s tweet and the timing of this late-night “philosophy lesson” was one of those wrong-time, wrong-place moments?

Why did you immediately delete the tweet, and then lock your Twitter and Facebook accounts?

Instead of going into victim-mode, we think it’s wise to state, for the record, that your tweet was in poor taste, and to apologize to those you’ve offended. As it stands, this “for the record” blog post only makes matters worse.

 


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  1. Tony Cantu

    16 January

    There appear to be folks knowledgeable of coffee production here. Can someone help me determine the veracity of Mr. Blanco’s claims in this story. Sounds….suspect.

    http://www.mysanantonio.com/food/restaurants/article/Check-out-a-12-cup-of-coffee-6020508.php

  2. dT32pz

    3 November

    321257 933108

  3. Sharon

    30 June

    Brown Coffee Company’s apology was a lie rooted in the fear that their true sentiments might hurt business. Based on their latest blog entry, they are emboldened by the fact that there are other bigots in the world. So… they have taken their apology down and re-assessed. Now the message is, “Intolerance sells coffee! No apology necessary.” The fact that people will come and buy merchandise in support of their rhetoric doesn’t make that rhetoric right. Theirs is a myopic worldview based in fear and dread – not Classical Wisdom. Invoking Plato, the HOMOSEXUAL’S HOMOSEXUAL in defense of anti-gay rhetoric is the most laughable and ludicrous thing of all. I hope that BCC and all like-minded people can finally just get over it. We’re here, we’re queer and we’re getting MARRIED! Get used to it. What is “natural law” for one isn’t “natural law” for everyone. People responding to intolerant rhetoric is not equal “give and take.” Expressing hateful views is not a different but equally valid position. It’s just hate. And fear. And those who give voice to the idea that this talk is wrong and should stop are not the aggressors here. They are responding to an attack. Plato said, “Any man may easily do harm, but not every man can do good to another. “

  4. scooter

    29 June

    Apologist,
    I did not bring up natural law, Aaron did. I mentioned being drunk when he posted as that is as much of a benefit of a doubt I have to offer. The content of the tweet was very clear. I don’t accept the apology, would rather he owned the tweet. I don’t believe that the tweet was sent to encourage dialogue; what other meaning can one take from it?
    Once again, as a homo in the coffee biz, I do not support any form of government recognition of marriage. I do not support the tax breaks that he receives at my expense. I suppose back in the days that we required large amounts of cannon fodder, it made sense. It no longer does.
    I have little respect for cowards, hiding their statements in the words of great philosophers. In my life I have had to defend myself both physically and intellectually from such bullies. You call it an act of bad judgement. I can only read it as hate. So don’t be surprised by some of the more emotional responses such a tweet may reap.

  5. TinaRistretto

    29 June

    Really? The “he is a good person” and “this is his livelihood” arguments are inane. How on earth can you be a good person and oppose equality for your neighbor, customer, etc.? “Yeah, he’s ok. Doesn’t think black folks or latino folks should have the same rights he does, but he’s super nice and his family is very cute.” Seriously? These are not the comments of a good person. They are the comments of someone steeped in their own unearned privilege willing to speak out and make public declarations that they deserve more rights than my sister, my brother, my friends, and their customers and vendors. He need to do the work, not make a donation as some said. Keep your damn religious intolerance off the law books, off my body, and out of my bedroom. And those that know this guy and still think he is a good person . . .do us all a favor and stop writing his sick views off as just another opinion. The man is a supremacist and it’s heartbreaking.

  6. Jeremy

    29 June

    And for the record, I think LGBT should have the same rights to legal union as I (a straight man) does.

  7. Jeremy

    29 June

    Do I think that it would be the best move for Aaron to donate to a LGBT group…Yes I do…Someone demanding such or they won’t move on…that’s a different story.

    At the end of the day…everyone is entitled to an opinion…and generally, everyone has the right to voice that opinion…unless that expression leads is hate speech which is defined as “In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group.”
    I really don’t think that the Mr Blanco’s tweet falls into that category.

  8. Hugh

    29 June

    I don’t believe that asking Brown to make amends for his “misunderstood” tweet is “extortion.” However, I believe the donation should be to the Trevor Project, a national suicide hotline for LGBT youth. After all, apology or no, his original tweet will live on the internet forever. LGBT teens commit suicide at a much higher rate than their straight peers, and they do so in the face of bigotry and hatred. Blanco’s tweet could very easily be the tipping point for another gay teen suicide, for which he must be held accountable.

  9. morgan

    29 June

    To be fair, can’t we also say that the original, offensive tweet lacked nuance? And the silence around the matter and the complete shutdown of communication assisted in fueling the twitstorm. For better or worse, 140 characters doesn’t leave space for nuance on either side, and the lack of clarification for several days, coupled with a complete retreat on Brown’s part left the door wide open for conjecture. That doesn’t excuse some of the extreme and vitriolic responses, but to meet vitriol with vitriol is hardly unexpected. It’s difficult to open a door for dialogue with someone who deletes an offensive tweet, goes into hiding and then takes a victim stance in their initial reply.

    All that being said, I do think this is complicated. Many lovely and friendly people still believe that marriage equality shouldn’t happen or that same gender loving folks aren’t born that way, etc. People I trust and admire assure me that the Blanco family are great people. I can believe that and also believe that this was handled poorly (on both sides) and still distrust the final apology in light of everything that came before. In the end, I hope this sparks some serious introspection and genuine dialogue for all parties involved.

  10. Kurt Hudson

    29 June

    Gents–thanks for thoughtful replies; you both make good points about rational dialog. Here is why we react so strongly to this: the climate of endless negativity begins with words but often leads to job discrimination and even violence — kids go to school where bullies use ‘gay’ as an epithet, just last night a gay man was brutally attacked in Mass by 9 people, gays were beaten near to death in pride marches in Moscow and Belgrade earlier this month. Its so endemic in our culture to casually ridicule us that you as presumably straight guys probably dont see it. Its why blacks completely shut down the n-word. Words have consequences. Responsible people will join us in an effort to not be treated as sub human, and I am now quoting Mr. Blanco: “sorry folks, not equal, why bother”. The analogy about drunk driving is over the top, but my point is good people dont just have a brain fart and write something like this– and once its out there it has consequences for Blanco. We are dead serious about shutting this crap down–you would fight tooth and nail not to be institutionalized as second class. Eric, if you want to be “useful here” talk to your buddy about it. And Jeremy, get used to gay people standing up for themselves. I come from TX and would rather have stayed but left 30 years ago because of the homophobia, and moved to NY where it would be possible for me to have a career and have a loving relationship. I ended up building a business that employs hundreds of people–and its not that hard to treat em all with respect. It makes people thrive–not die a little.

  11. Jeremy

    29 June

    Frank,
    This is one of the most juvenile responses I have yet seen to this chaos. Mr Blanco made a mistake, one that has been apologized for.
    You sir, are now making another mistake. You are extorting Mr Blanco for some sense of pride you’ve lost by his tweet.
    Isn’t that what the Gay Pride movement is supposed to fight against. Aren’t you supposed to be proud whether or not some family business doesn’t think marriage is for same sex couples?
    Have you never said something stupid? Have you never been extended grace even when you may not have deserved it? Is your pride, the pride you’re fighting for, worth the destruction of a family business? Or, to put it another way, is destroying this family business going to restore your pride? If it is, I don’t think that pride is worth fighting for, because it’s not pride – its bloated self-absorption that is the most intolerant of all.

  12. jeremy

    28 June

    Hi Kurt,

    Please don’t think I’m patronizing you when I say that I understand where you’re coming from. While I don’t pretend to know your (and others’) situations, it’s not hard for me to see how the original tweet message could be received as extremely hurtful. Even in your appeal to extremes with the drunk driver analogy, do you think it’s never possible to sympathesize, to any extent, with a driver who expresses true remorse after making a single mistake? I do. That’s not because of my “nice safe life”, it’s because of my humanity. The world is a complex place; things are rarely, if ever, black and white.

    Tolerance goes both ways. I think it’s great the current movement for same sex rights has gained such momentum. It would be excellent to see it keep going, even pick up steam. I look forward to the day my LGBT family members are afforded the same rights with their partners that I am. My guess, though, is that better societal progress is made by engaging people with opposing views rather than spouting things such as “way to be homophobic jerkoffs” (a nice tweet about 3 hours ago to Brown Coffee Co). I can point to dozens of studies demonstrating, especially with religiously-rooted beliefs, an antagonistic approach ceases information-gathering, productive processes and reverts people of opposing views to heuristic, rapid judgments (e.g., Carone & Barone 2001).

    You don’t have to patron BCC. In our capitalist system, we vote with our wallets. But, in a sort of utilitarianistic view, I think the good BCC brings to this world/the specialty coffee realm/the local community/etc. outweighs the pain caused by those no doubt hurtful comments. And, if you did happen to patron BCC, I think you’d see that, too.

  13. Eric Z

    28 June

    Kurt, as stated several times in comments above, I support gay marriage and am sympathetic to hurt feelings. But moral equivocations between a drunk killer and a 50 character tweet are not useful here. For christ’s sake, even our president is stubbornly opposed to gay marriage (or he’s “grappling” with it or some bull shit). Why don’t you go boycott the White House? He makes policies. Brown makes coffee (and he makes it quite well).

  14. Kurt Hudson

    28 June

    Jeremy,

    You seem like a good-hearted person. But you have to realize how nasty this was to a group of people who suffer violence, where there is an epidemic of teen suicide, and who fought for this for forty years. Its just nasty. People have to take responsibility for their actions–and theirs were ugly. A guy who is “a good guy’ and gets drunk driving home and kills a child also made a mistake. I am writing this from New York. They have the right to tweet whatever they want–and just like the Bostonians, we have rights to. We will dump their coffee in the harbor and never buy it again, or patronize any restaurants that do.

    Its great you have a safe nice life where things are resolved with polite conversation. Our lives are very hard.

    Kurt

  15. Jay C.

    28 June

    Micklak-
    Perhaps you’re not from the United States. No mistake has been made on my part. As an American, Mr. Brown has every right to state his preferences on issues or beliefs. What the First Amendment (as has been ruled by the courts) does not protect are: defamation, fighting words, incitement to crime, sedition and obscenity.

    While you may attempt to make some weak argument that I’m “implying” that Mr. Brown’s First Amendment rights have been infringed, the evidence in this thread is that others are calling on extortion tactics for what he posted – as Frank attempts with his calling on The Brown Coffee Company to participate in a Pride event and make a monetary donation to Gay Pride San Antonio, as though these “penances” will somehow balance out the position.

    Where we differ is that you merely “tolerate” that which you disagree. As for myself, citizenship means that we must champion the rights of those to speak freely even when that speech advocates that which we may have spent a lifetime fighting.

    Perhaps if we can separate ourselves from this cultural “since I’m right, they must be wrong” mentality then we can move forward towards understanding and acceptance.

    To be clear, I support same sex marriages and equal rights for the GLBT community. It wasn’t too long ago that my own people (I’m not white) were prohibited by law from marrying whites because of the very similar reasons same sex marriages are outlawed today.

    And while I do not share Mr. Blanco’s position on the issue, I find open communication to be the opportunity to build greater understanding that may one day lead to a change on the perspectives of those who do not share our same ideals and beliefs.

  16. jeremy

    28 June

    I’m going to have to agree with this Eric Z guy. Regardless of one’s personal views, this has really turned into a witch hunt. Aaron and others at Brown Coffee Co. are good people. The kind of people who welcome anyone. A personal viewpoint was tweeted under a company account. Unfortunate. Then there followed a few PR missteps. But a sincere apology has now been posted.

    Aaron is the kind of guy who likes to debate. One hundred and forty characters isn’t the best forum for something like that. Lesson learned. What’s really sad in all of this is to see people defaming something someone has worked hard, for several years, to build. Brown Coffee Co. is a small family business. It’s an interesting devil, this evolving social media monster. Just because it takes next to nothing for you to hit your retweet button or add a snarky comment to the twitstorm doesn’t mean your actions won’t have a lasting, harmful impact on a real person, on a real family. I sincerely hope Brown Coffee Co. pulls through this. The specialty coffee community is great about supporting its members in tough times. I hope they do for Aaron and his family.

    Bottomline: Brown Coffee Co. is a great coffee company made up of great people. The company made a blunder. They apologized. Let’s close this chapter and move onto something interesting, like, where have all the awesome Kenyan coffees gone?

  17. DNA

    28 June

    I think he was just drunk on his own inflated sense of self worth.

  18. Eric Z

    28 June

    “disliking” a comment without posting a response is a passive and lame attempt to participate in discourse

  19. Eric Z

    28 June

    @Scooter: I don’t think it’s fair to accuse Aaron of being drunk during this tweet (unless you know something we don’t know). He is a family man, with several kids, and work early the next morning. You’ll note that in my previous commentary above, if you’ve ever been to his cafe, there is a great deal of philosophical discourse initiated by his CUSTOMERS, actually, that Aaron engages in daily. His educational background, I believe, is in philosophy and theology, so his doing so doesn’t seem inappropriate.

    But back to your (and many others’) comments. I would respond by asking if we really want to get bogged down into a debate about “natural vs. human law” with someone who most of us seem to disagree with on this specific point anyway? This guy’s not running for Senator. So who gives a shit about his opinions on gay marriage? Or would we rather figure out a way for Brown to be forgiven and accepted back into the coffee community (since in the end they do roast and brew excellent coffees).

    I, of course, disagree with what he wrote…and can easily see how people are rightfully offended (I addressed that in depth in my previous comment). But, much of the Twitter feed backlash and commentary elsewhere has lacked nuance, been quite superficial, and often resembles a hateful witch hunt. Even when you disagree with them, the Brown Coffee family 99% of the time has been respectful, open-minded, amazing hosts, and gracious of all views in their cafe. At least that’s what I experienced, personally while visiting on several occasions (and I have disagreed). I’ve sat down in his cafe at a table with wonderful openly and obviously gay customers, and I witnessed Aaron engaging and interacting with them in the most genuinely, friendly way imaginable. This twitter incident was that other, rare 1%. It was a mistake, whether he realizes it now or not. And still, I agree a REAL apology is in order. If someone doesn’t want to support him anymore, then don’t. But for the sake and livelihood of his wonderful wife and kids and specialty coffee in the South, I’m more interested in forgiveness (ha, and I’m not even religious :), and I’m more interested in this company learning from its mistakes, and getting back to the days when Brown once again contributes so meaningfully to the discourse and practice of specialty coffee (because they do).

  20. Micklak

    28 June

    @ Jay C. Are your from the U.S.? Free speech isn’t a luxury, it’s a right. But this isn’t an issue of free speech. You make the common mistake of implying someone’s right to free speech has been infringed if they are criticized for something they’ve said.

    Aaron Blanco isn’t in jail right now, he hasn’t been beaten or murdered. People have just told him they don’t like what he tweeted. Not liking something isn’t the same as being intolerant of it. I can dislike what he said but still tolerate it.

  21. Scooter

    28 June

    “natural law”…amusing. As a faggot in the coffee business (and against any form of government recognition of any kind of marriage), I am not offended. However, I do appreciate Aaron showing his true colors (what part of no tweeting, facebooking, etc. after you have had a few do you not get?).
    Would suspect that like many idealogues, Aaron’s examination of natural law only applies to those he choses to look down on. What part of any of our lives follow the definition of ‘natural law’?
    Would think that the owner of the post wished he wouldn’t have done so. To respond and blame Plato is quite ironic.
    Own it weirdo or apolgise for real.

  22. morgan

    28 June

    I don’t understand how they can defend the tweet by saying it’s about classical philosophy when the very next tweet in their account (after the offensive one in question) read: “Speaking of love, Amaro Gayo hits the espresso hopper today for a limited engagement. A marriage of juicy acidity & sweet fruits.” (As of the time of writing that tweet is still on their now-locked account.) So, we’re to believe it’s coincidental that the very next tweet started with “speaking of love” and includes the words “marriage” and “engagement”?

  23. Frank

    28 June

    I left the following comment on their blog:

    Dispite your bloated non-apology, your tweet still sounds like old-fashioned prejudice masquerading as morality, or as you call it, CLASSICAL PHILOSOPHY. There is a gay pride event taking place not 3 miles from your location this Saturday, July 2, at Crockett Park. If your company is indeed as tolerant as you claim, you have an opportunity to show your true colors. Make a donation to http://www.gaypridesa.org. I live by the philosophy that actions speak louder than words, or in your case, Tweets.

    The post most likely won’t ever see the light of day, so just in case, I also sent a link to this story to a couple of local television stations.

  24. Jay C.

    28 June

    I happen to like Aaron Blanco and like his philosophies on coffee for our little industry. And yet even I took a double-take at the tweet, reminding me that business is really no place for politics and/or religion.

    One thing to note is that Aaron never seemed to say that same sex marriages should be illegal or that the NY law overturned. If anything, he stated a position not in favor of such.

    Have we reached a point in this community/society/nation where we are intolerant of differing opinions and positions? We seem to desire the luxury of Free Speech – so long as it only applies to ourselves and those who think alike.

    This is dangerous thinking and one that seemingly permeates this 3W community where “we” “must” do things “one”, “right” way.

    While there have been morons out there who attempt to create “camps” and factions in our community for their own personal hatreds, I’m not one of those people. I welcome those with differing opinions to sit at the same table and discuss openly that which we disagree.

    If we continue on this path of “only those who agree” then we are unable to create outreach, understanding and, perhaps even, conversion.

  25. Cheryl W.

    28 June

    Blanco needs to apologize, rather than making it worse with his childish squirming and denying. We know EXACTLY what that tweet meant. I don’t care how nice a guy he is or how great a cup of coffee he brews. Broadcasting the ignorant view that gay relationships are somehow “unnatural” and “against God” is the same old hate speak that’s been inflicted on us for years. And I don’t want to support that type of business. Period. I have the right to give him feedback with my pocketbook. That’s how it works.

    It’s one thing to forgive. But that requires that he own up to the tweet. Thinking he can fool us into believing it was philosophical is silly. I mean, if you want to have stupid, hateful, ignorant opinions that’s one thing. But then to lie about having them is even more ugly.

  26. Will

    28 June

    (1) The folks are Brown are super nice. I’ve had some great experiences there. They tolerated my (at the time) coffee ignorance.

    (2) That tweet wasn’t cool. The attempt to defend it is even worse: trying to intellectually sex up a distinction between “natural” and “human” law is cringe-worthy. Trying to pretend that Foucault never existed just as the apology is trying to pretend that the whole New York thing hadn’t just happened.

    I’m not sure an apology can fix this. Faulty memories probably will though.

  27. Eric Z

    28 June

    First off, for the record, I’m from New Orleans, which geographically falls in the South, but ideologically falls somewhere far away from southern politics and convictions. Therefore, I love gay people, fully support their right to marry and completely understand how this tweet was offensive to many. Most of us can agree that it was a dumb mistake that should never have been made from a company account. We could end it there, and move on.

    However, as baristas and coffee geeks, my girlfriend and I have made the trip to San Antonio to personally experience Brown’s impressive café (the livelihood for Aaron, his wife, and kids, with another on the way). I went in four times that week and one of the first things I noticed is that when I walked in I would usually have to wait a few moments for the philosophical discussion of the moment to die down to a point where Aaron would take my order. In fact, from what I hear, Brown’s café is known for a heavy dose of political and philosophical discussions. It is a tiny space, tables and chairs are very close, and no conversation can remain private there.

    As a person oriented very liberally, I even meandered my way into one of these debates and walked away still feeling dignified and having no problem giving Brown my business. As I sipped my delicious Single Origin Espresso, I thought to myself, “This is the south. Conservative/religious leanings are a given, and I guess I’m just glad someone in this part of the Deep South is using thermocouples, scales, and refractometers when brewing and roasting my coffee.” I didn’t give a shit what his politics were. I was there to talk coffee. Conversely, however, many of his customers ARE there to talk politics, to engage in philosophical discussions while enjoying great coffee. And though I was more interested the TDS and extraction percentage of Aaron’s unique V60 technique (the island method), his customers kept getting in my way, talking about other things.

    The above context provides a great deal of insight into why Aaron may have made the mistake of the offending tweet. In his cafe, that may have not been a mistake, given the daily discourse there.

    However, on Twitter, one is no longer in the controlled environment of the café, where tone and a healthy back and forth can be moderated. His appeal to philosophy is notable, however we know that Socrates would have raised the issue in the form of a question. Instead, the tweet occurred in the form of some Christian/pseudo-scientific dogmatic statement, with hashtags that made it even worse.

    In the end, as liberal and gay loving as I am, the tweet did not offend me (I’m used to backwards politics, being from the south). But I do see how it could offend MANY people, and rightly so. For me, the move towards equality is bigger than one coffee shop’s religious/philosophical objections.

    The problem with Brown’s first response to the backlash is that like most hard-line dogmatic/philosophical positions, there is no regard for the human/societal implications. For example, strict Libertarians like Ron Paul and Rand Paul HATE government (even though they work in it), so along with a million other things, they’ve said they would abolish the 1965 Civil Rights Act, abolish the EPA, abolish the FDA, the TSA, and abolish the Dept of Education, leaving all of them in the hands of private, profit-driven corporations. A philosophy of government off our back sounds great until you begin to consider the human implications: who will protect minorities, who will protect the environment, who will inspect our meat and food, protect our airways, and educate our youth, all without a selfish (profit-driven) interest?

    Brown’s stated defense of themselves in his adherence to philosophy and ideology may be commendable to some. But just like strict libertarianism, it doesn’t factor in the human consequences: There are lots of gay people and gay loving people in this world (and especially in coffee). And many have been offended.

    Just apologize, for REAL this time. And from now on, we can debate this cordially in your café, while sipping on your truly amazingly crafted coffees (if I’m ever back in San Antonio)….but let’s not have such debates over Twitter. Finally, businesses beware: as with civil rights, women’s rights, and worker’s rights, the pendulum of history swings in the direction of progress and liberty. Get on board…or at least be careful with words that affect so many.

    –Eric Z

  28. Ted

    28 June

    The apology insults our intelligence. Appending #notequal to a sentence about the supposed conflict between natural and human law makes the tweet *clearly* about same-sex marriage. And if that somehow wasn’t the intent (yeah, right), an actual apology and explanation for the misunderstanding is what is needed — not an I’m-a-victim counter-attack. (Also: Natural law was invented by humans. So there.)

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