An Atlanta-based IKEA is facing backlash after it created a Juneteenth menu that both employees and customers said perpetuated racial stereotypes. In an emailed letter to employees on Friday, the store's manager sent a Juneteenth menu that included fried chicken, watermelon, macaroni and cheese, and collard greens. Although the menu was meant as a way to "honor the perseverance of Black Americans and acknowledge the progress yet to be made," according to the initial email, many felt that it was racially insensitive and ignorant.
Speaking to CBS Atlanta affiliate WGCL-TV anonymously due to fear of repercussions, one employee of the store aired their upset with the menu, telling the news outlet, "You cannot say serving watermelon on Juneteenth is a soul food menu when you don't even know the history, they used to feed slaves watermelon during the slave time." Another employee, who also chose not to be named, said the menu "caused a lot of people to be upset" and revealed that several employees "actually wanted to quit, people weren't coming back to work." According to that employee, of the "coworkers who sat down to create the menu, no one was Black."
After the menu went out, 33 people called out from work, according to WGCL-TV, and the store's manager eventually apologized "if the menu came off as subjective." The internal email added that the menu "was created with the best of intentions by a few of our coworkers who believed they were representing their culture and tradition with these foods of celebration." However, many employees said the decisions behind the menu’s creation should have included voices of color first, and despite the apology, the menu was only delayed by a day. One employee said the menu went out the following day "thinking that everyone who was upset by the Juneteenth menu stayed home on Juneteenth and wouldn’t notice, which just added insult to injury." The revised menu included collard greens, cornbread, mashed potatoes, and meatloaf. Many customers also felt the menu was racially insensitive. A customer who spoke to the outlet said they were "just frankly disappointed in the learning process, you shouldn't learn after you have insulted all of your Black employees."
Responding to the backlash, an IKEA spokesperson told CBS46 "there were Black co-workers involved in the creation of the menu," though "out of respect for their privacy, we cannot go into more detail, and we take this as an important learning and shared responsibility." In a separate statement, IKEA Atlanta said that "in addition to offering Juneteenth as one of our paid holidays nationally, our IKEA Atlanta store has recognized Juneteenth with our co-workers for the past four years." They said that this year to honor Juneteenth — which is now a federal holiday and marks the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas were notified that they were freed — "a lunch menu was created with the best of intentions, including recommendations from black co-workers." IKEA Atlanta acknowledged, "We got it wrong and we sincerely apologize. We are committed to educating ourselves and putting a process in place that will allow us to thoughtfully honor Juneteenth in the future."