Indigenous activists are roasting a local brewery

You may be asking, “Who is this person in the room? That can’t be Fa’aumu. Fa’aumu is cooler than this guy.” Don’t worry, folks. It’s me, Fa’aumu. And I use they/them pronouns.

This week, Indigenous student activists—led by Owen Lloyd Oliver and Katie Mostoller—took a big dump at a local business called Obec Brewing for content that is offensive to Native people. Their activism quickly gained social media attention and prompted a response by the company. The company’s response wasn’t enough to quell the roasting that ensued upon Owen’s discovery.

Dear Friends of Obec,
Some terrible images and content embedded in an element of our website were brought to our attention a few days ago. We were unaware of its existence, and we removed it as soon as we found out about it. The racist images and content turned out to be placeholder content built into the template and plugin that we purchased for our website, and were included in an e-commerce plugin that we don’t use on the site. The images and content do not, and never would, appear on an Obec Brewing product. The content and plugin have all been removed, and we have notified the authors of the template of the inappropriateness of their placeholder content. We take all matters of racism seriously, and we acted on this one as soon as we were made aware of it. We were offended by the content that was brought to our attention, and we’re sorry that any part of our site ever displayed such damaging content.
Obec Brewing ‘s Instagram apology on 24 July 2020

Now that you have some background and a paper trail to keep track of the roasting, let’s evaluate the missing pieces of the puzzle that Obec Brewing intentionally left out to avoid accountability. Specifically, can Obec claim that they’re unaware they had offended the Native American community? And, who is the person or company behind the template and e-commerce plugin? I put on my pišpiš Investigations hat to find out.

pišpiš Investigations conducted a detailed forensic analysis of the Obec Brewing website to uncover the unnamed perpetrator behind the offensive product. Using developer mode to analyze the underlying HTML, I was able to determine what kinds of “plugins” the company was using.1 Of the plugins, I investigated Craft Beer Nation, a WordPress e-commerce template that sells for $62 USD on themeforest.net.2

I viewed the profile of XenoTheme, the author of the template3 who maintains a Dribbble: “a self-promotion and social networking platform for digital designers and creatives” (Wikipedia n.d.). The profile belongs to Lee Grant, a U.K. web developer with extensive coding experience.4 Grant also maintains a LinkedIn profile,5 and is a director for Klever Media in Essex, U.K.6

The Craft Beer Nation template demo is nearly identical to the Obec Brewing website.7 Upon further inspection, I found the same offending content on the demo, which is only visible if the e-commerce plugin is enabled.8

pišpiš Investigations makes the following conclusions:

  • That offending content was indeed part of the Obec Brewing website template,
  • That Obec Brewing continues to utilize the theme that contained the offending content
  • That a live demo of the template was made publicly available by the developer free of charge
  • That Obec Brewing did not do its due diligence in its evaluation of the demo
  • That Lee Grant, an individual who resides in Essex, U.K., authored the template and its content, and maintains a professional presence on social media.

Evidence Gallery

The reason I conducted this investigation was to gather evidence that supports an evaluation of the claims Obec made in its apology. This investigation found entry points for pressuring the company and its associates to be accountable for its actions. Specifically, we now know who designed the template and that there is little reason for Obec not to be aware of the existence of content that is offensive to Native Americans. Honestly, this investigation is also an eye-opener into the pervasiveness of Native American stereotypes not only in North America, but internationally as well. The fact one resides outside the U.S. never erases the violence that comes with perpetuating Native American stereotypes. It’s really s***ty how Obec shifts responsibility for anti-racism work and decolonisation offshore when it really should be accountable to the Native American communities it harms. That’s it. See you.

Uruwhetū Tāne – Kei hea rā koe?

Citations

  1. https://www.obecbrewing.com/our-beer/
  2. https://themeforest.net/item/craft-beer-nation-woocommerce-theme/19403000
  3. https://themeforest.net/user/xenothemes
  4. https://dribbble.com/lee-grant
  5. https://www.linkedin.com/in/leegrant87/?originalSubdomain=uk
  6. https://klevermedia.uk/web-design-in-essex/
  7. http://themes.xenothemes.co.uk/our-beer/
  8. http://themes.xenothemes.co.uk/product/the-drunk-indian/

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