Walmart is apologizing for a new flavor of ice cream called “Juneteenth,” which sparked a backlash and criticism that the company was attempting to cash in on the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S.
In a statement to Fox Television Stations, Walmart said it is reviewing its product assortment “and will remove items as appropriate.” It added, “Juneteenth holiday marks a celebration of freedom and independence. However, we received feedback that a few items caused concern for some of our customers and we sincerely apologize.”
Walmart didn’t immediately return a request for comment to CBS MoneyWatch.
The Juneteenth flavor — swirled red velvet and cheesecake — caused a social media uproar, with some Twitter users pointing out that the ice cream flavor appeared tone-deaf, given it was sold by a company founded by a White family and run by a White CEO. Some people urged consumers to support a Black-owned business called Creamalicious, which has its own version of red velvet ice cream.
“It’s problematic when White-owned brands and companies treat Juneteenth as another commercialized (co-opt) opportunity void of any commitments to the [African-American] community, change or simple understanding of what Juneteenth is,” one Twitter user wrote.
The Juneteenth ice cream’s packaging urged consumers to “share and celebrate African-American culture, emancipation and enduring hope.”
Walmart’s biggest individual shareholders are members of the Walton family, descendants of founder Sam Walton, according to FactSet.
Juneteenth became thein 2021 when President Joe Biden signed a law to mark June 19th as the holiday. The holiday’s origins stem from 1865, when the last enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas were finally told that the Civil War was over and they were free.
They learned of their freedom more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which granted freedom to all slaves in the Confederate states.
Bridge, a company focused on improving diversity and inclusion in businesses, issued an open letter to Walmart executives on May 23 urging Walmart to pull the Great Value brand ice cream flavor from its shelves. Bridge noted in the letter 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 noted.
The letter also pointed out that the ice cream placed a “TM” trademark indication next to the word “Juneteenth”on the label, which Bridge flagged as problematic.
“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.