In Wine
on 16 Nov 2016

There are times when it’s hard to think about wine.

I often think about the fact that this industry that I love, that I’ve chosen for myself, is keeping me from doing more social justice work and the kind of activism I always thought I’d be doing. Instead of saving the world in my own small way at a law center or nonprofit, I’m helping folks pick out the best wine to go with their date night or teaching someone how to swirl. And most of the time, I’m alright with that. The world needs people who are happy, and wine makes me happy and can make others happy.

But it’s hard to focus on wine when I’m reminded, more starkly than ever, what country I live in. I’ve feared this election outcome ever since Trump began his awful rhetoric; I watched in horror as the media ate it up and millions of Americans came out of the shadows (or joined in broad daylight) to pledge allegiance to an ethnocentrism flag. But the white supremacy has been here all along: it’s Manifest Destiny, it’s slavery, it’s Jim Crow, it’s the prison industrial complex. Now we have a White Power president to prove it. Folks who say Trump might not be so bad because he doesn’t sound like a Republican are laughably deluded: he doesn’t sound like a Republican because he isn’t one. He’s our first white nationalist President and he chose the Republican party as a means to an end because he knew they’d have him.

I’m lucky to share the industry with many like-minded people; I’m not going to face backlash for denouncing Trump and his supporters among colleagues. Not everyone has that. I’m lucky in many ways that are very stark right now. The only thing to do is keep fighting against the normalization of this ideology, keep trying harder to talk to those around me and educate myself and stay uncomfortable in my privilege and, yes, keep trying to make people’s lives a little better and a little easier with a really nice wine to serve with dinner.

I do what I do because I love to learn and watch others learn, and wine is a never-ending library. If I can learn a little more and share a little more and fight a little more with all the extra energy and positivity I have in my life because I chose a profession I love, maybe something good can come of it. I don’t know. All I know is, here’s what I’m keeping with me, some wisdom from South Africa, as overt hate and bigotry and racism start to seep into social acceptability:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. - Desmond Tutu

Julia Burke is a wine educator and writer.