Walmart apologizes and pulls ‘Juneteenth ice cream’ after online backlash

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Walmart pulled “Juneteenth ice cream” from its freezers and apologized on Tuesday after a backlash on social media and accusations of marketing a holiday meant to commemorate the end of American slavery.

The retail giant was set to sell ‘swirl red velvet and cheesecake’ ice cream in a container adorned with pan-African colors and an image of two black hands holding each other high. “Share and celebrate African American culture, empowerment and enduring hope,” the label reads.

But the product drew swift online condemnation from users who accused the retailer of treating a solemn day as a way to make money.

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In a statement to Fox TV, which first reported on the products, the company said it would “remove items where appropriate” when reviewing its Juneteenth products.

“The June 16 holiday marks a celebration of freedom and independence,” Walmart’s statement read. “However, we have received feedback that a few things have caused some of our customers concern and we sincerely apologize for this.”

The company did not respond to a Washington Post request for comment.

Walmart’s website on Tuesday offered a wide range of Juneteenth merchandise, including a t-shirt with a social justice word cloud and African-shaped black empowerment-themed phrases and decorations from Juneteenth party.

Another product listing features a white model wearing a black tank top with the words “Because my ancestors were not free in 1976”, a seemingly misguided reference to American independence in 1776.

“That’s what happens when you market federal holidays,” comedian Kevin Fredericks said in a viral TikTok. “It has become a federal holiday. Now you can celebrate with this ice cream.

Juneteenth marks the anniversary of the freedom of slaves in Texas after the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 freed slaves in states that seceded during the war, but it was largely unenforceable, and many slaveholders fled to Texas to continue the practice.

On June 19, 1865, the Union army took control of Texas and banned slavery.

“The people of Texas are informed that, pursuant to a proclamation of the Executive Branch of the United States, all slaves are free,” Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger wrote in General Order No. 3. “This involves a absolute equality of personal rights and property rights between former masters and slaves, and the bond which hitherto existed between them becomes that between employer and wage labour.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which permanently banned the practice, was ratified six months later, and on June 19, 1866, many former slaves began to celebrate this date as the anniversary of their freedom.

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Congress passed legislation in 2021 to make Juneteenth a national holiday as the country continued to recover from the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer and violence toward civil rights protesters.

This year, the holiday will come about a month after 10 black shoppers and supermarket workers were killed at a Buffalo grocery store in an attack that prosecutors say was fueled by racial hatred.

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A Washington Post-Ipsos poll taken after the shooting found nearly three-quarters of black Americans say they fear they or someone they love will be attacked because of their race, 65% said said it’s a “bad time” to be a black person in America and 53% expect race relations to deteriorate in their lifetime.

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