I started drafting the foreword for this important book on a Saturday in late March 2020— the end of a trying week, both societally and personally. The grave reality of the COVID-19 virus had finally (and inevitably) reached Southwest Virginia and the small college town that I call home. All around Blacksburg, stores were closing and restaurants were scrambling to convert to takeout-only service. In the coming weeks, the governor would issue a stay-at-home order as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the US soared to the highest in the world. Amid all this, at a more personal level, an organization I led was in crisis. Over a 24- hour period, I had received roughly two dozen emails or phone calls in response to a lengthy memo (having nothing to with COVID-19) that I had sent out to the organization's governing committee. Under any circumstances, this would have been a difficult situation— that much more in the midst of a global pandemic.
Since receiving the gracious invitation from Nate Chapman and Dave Brunsma to introduce Beer and Racism, I had been eager to get started. However, with all that was happening, in order to write, I needed to disengage: shut down my phone and internet, turn off the television, put on Fleetwood Mac's greatest hits, crack a beer, and enter my happy place of writing. For many Americans— and I would venture to add Europeans and Australians (white people the world over)— the notion of ‘cracking a beer’ (opening a beer) calls to mind a state of disengaged happiness that is simultaneously a product of enduring privilege (having the luxury to disengage) and a response to circumstantial stressors. Even the rich, famous, and powerful regularly call on ‘beer’ for a sense of release during a difficult moment (as in, ‘I need one’) or as a social elixir to help cooperatively negotiate an uncomfortable situation (as in, ‘let's get one’). President Obama's 2009 ‘beer summit,’ in response to racially saturated tensions surrounding the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr (while entering his own home), is just one prominent example.