Walmart issues apology for selling Juneteenth ice cream

Walmart removes its Juneteenth ice cream from shelves after receiving backlash online

Walmart's Juneteenth ice cream

Walmart has stopped selling a store brand ice cream introduced to commemorate Juneteenth after it sparked criticism that the retailer is trying to cash in on the holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the U.S.

Walmart’s Juneteenth ice cream

Released under Walmart’s Great Value brand, the ice cream in question is called Celebration Edition: Juneteenth Ice Cream. The red velvet-flavored ice cream comes with a label that read, “Share and celebrate African-American culture, emancipation and enduring hope.”

While Juneteenth has been celebrated annually on June 19th in various parts of the country since 1865, Walmart selling an ice cream exclusively made for the holiday is problematic, as the retailer was founded by a White family and being run by a White CEO.

Walmart’s biggest individual shareholders are descendants of founder Sam Walton, while businessman Doug McMillion serves as the current president and CEO of the company.

“It’s problematic when white-owned brands and companies treat Juneteenth as another commercialized (co-opt) opportunity void of any commitments to the AA [African American] community, change or simple understanding of what Juneteenth is,” one Twitter user wrote.

Another critic tweeted that the backlash on Walmart’s Juneteenth ice cream shows why “it’s important to have diverse voices at the table when making strategic business decisions. When you don’t, you end up making costly, foolish mistakes.”

Additionally, in an open letter to Walmart executives on May 23rd, Bridge ― a company focused on improving diversity and inclusion in businesses ― urged the retailer to pull the ice cream from its shelves, noting that Juneteenth marks a “very dark and devastating period in American history.”

“Would you launch an ice cream called January 27? The day the world remembers the Holocaust. Or April 7, the day that memorializes the genocide in Rwanda. Of course not,” the letter argued.

Bridge also took an issue with the “TM” trademark indication next to the word Juneteenth on the label. “Placing a TM and claiming ownership of the word ‘Juneteenth’ further exacerbates the lack of understanding of laying claim to something that represents so much to an entire population. Juneteenth simply cannot be owned,” the group said.

Meanwhile, some people on social media called Walmart’s Juneteenth ice cream a cheap copycat of the Rain Red Velvet Cheesecake flavor of the Black-owned, Cincinnati-based ice cream company Creamalicious, which is available in major retailers around the country, including Walmart, Target, Meijer, and more.

In addition to ice cream, Walmart has also been selling other Juneteenth-themed items like party plates, as seen in the tweet below:

Walmart’s apology

On Tuesday, Walmart apologized for the sale of the Juneteenth ice cream and said that it will pull the product from its stores.

“Juneteenth holiday marks a celebration of freedom and independence,” Walmart said in a statement. “However, we received feedback that a few items caused concern for some of our customers and we sincerely apologize. We are reviewing our assortment and will remove items as appropriate.”

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is a federal holiday in the U.S. commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans. It has been celebrated annually on June 19th in various parts of the country since 1865, marking the day in that year when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and informed residents that the Civil War was over and that slavery was abolished.

The day was recognized as a federal holiday in June 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law. Much like the Fourth of July, African-Americans and others have long marked the anniversary with parties, picnics, and gatherings of family and friends.

Sources: CNN, CBS News, USA Today
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