The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has removed a pre-packaged watermelon salad from a menu for its Juneteenth event following criticism.
The museum issued an apology and said it would no longer use the salad as part of the menu for its Juneteenth Jamboree event, which includes live performances and community artists, after a photo of the salad was shared on social media.
“As a museum, we apologize and acknowledge the negative impact that stereotypes have on Black communities,” the museum said.
“The salad has been removed from the menu. We are currently reviewing how we may best convey these stories and traditions during this year’s Juneteenth celebration as well as making changes around how future food selections are made by our food service provider.”
Juneteenth is a holiday that recognizes the day the last parts of the confederacy were freed from slavery in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865.
President Joe Biden signed a law in June of 2021 formally making Juneteenth a federal holiday.
During the Jim Crow era, ads and other printed memorabilia depicted Black people “stealing, fighting over or sitting in streets eating watermelon,” according to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
According to the Smithsonian, many African Americans in the South started growing and selling watermelons after emancipation. While the watermelon business became a symbol of freedom, Southern Whites turned the fruit “into a symbol of poverty” — which led to the racist stereotype spreading during Jim Crow.
In its statement, the Indianapolis museum said that its food service provider “uses the food and beverage menu to commemorate and raise awareness” for Juneteenth and other holidays.
“The team that made this selection included their staff members who based this choice of food on their own family traditions,” it said.
In a Facebook comment, the museum said that watermelon and other red foods are a staple of Juneteenth celebrations, including in its food court manager’s family’s celebrations.
“There should have been a label explaining the history and meaning behind this menu item and it should not have been on the shelf before that label was ready,” it wrote. “We understand how this appears with no context and we apologize. We are pulling it from our food court immediately until the sign is ready to accompany it.”
Museum patron Medoume Ndiaye, 27, told the IndyStar that the decision seemed “like a money grab.”
“They slap the word on items and feel they have done their part. It just seems like if a single person of color had been in the room when this was decided, it wouldn’t have gone forward,” Ndiaye said. “Maybe they learn from it, take it on the chin and don’t do it again.”
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