The Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas has pledged to drop the requirement for master sommeliers to be addressed as ‘master’ amid criticisms over the organisation’s lack of inclusion.
The organization has released a statement saying that the organisation “universally condemns racism, prejudice, and racially motivated violence in all its forms.”
“We stand in solidarity with the Black community against racial injustice and support calls for reform,” it said.
This comes after two wine professionals spoke out against the Court’s lack of sensitivity towards people of colour.
Tariirah Habibi, an Atlanta wine professional, opened up about her experiences in an Instagram video post on 16 June. Habibi recalled how the exam administrators asked her and the other candidates to address them as “master”, a term that is associated with American slavery.
“I just kind of sank”, the Atlanta based wine professional told the San Francisco Chronicle. Habibi passed the introductory exam but decided not to pursue further courses with the court.
"I just couldn’t imagine having to pour a glass of wine for someone while calling them ‘master,’” added Habibi who is the founder of the Hue Society, a group that supports Black wine professionals.
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If you are in positions of power, check yourself on how you use that power and who you hurt with it. • • It is time for the wine industry to STOP taking “safe” stances in order to keep your primarily white audience comfortable. Include Black and Brown people in the foundational decisions and planning, instead of using them retroactively as tokens. Enough. • • -If you are the president of a distributor, the CEO of a winery, if you own a wine shop, ask yourself— are you teaching or hiring black people? • • -Make sure you are using your positions in the industry to create front line marketing and placements of Black brands. • • -Make sure your mentees don’t all look like you. White people have the task to other white people to end racism. • • If Master sommeliers are the aspirational peak of our industry, then they will have to challenge each other to make this institution accessible for everyone to aspire to. • • Your intentions may be good but your actions are what you will be held accountable for. • • @richelieudennis @fiyawata #huesociety #assimilationnotrequired #wineandculture #blacklivesmatter
Richard Betts, a prominent master sommelier resigned the day after Habibi shared her Instagram post. This is the first time a master sommelier has ever resigned from the organisation.
In a Medium post, Betts wrote, “Today I resigned from the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas (CMSA) because I view it as an organization whose values are at great odds with my own.”
He wrote, “the recent global amplification of the long-ignored outcry for racial equality and social justice has elicited a complete lack of empathy from the CMSA,” stressing that “this was the last straw.”
“America is having this reckoning now, and this organisation does nothing. It’s not to say the court has to be NAACP. But stand for something. Say what matters.”
This move by the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas is one of many taken by companies who have reviewed their policies considered discriminatory.
Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, the maker of Eskimo Pie ice cream bars are currently considering renaming their product due to its derogatory connotations.
Eskimo is a term used for the Inuit people, indigenous to northern Canada, Alaska and Greenland, which they themselves consider pejorative.
Other products under review also include Aunt Jemima pancake mix, Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup, and Uncle Ben’s rice due to the racially-charged associations with their brand names.