Walmart Pulls Juneteenth Ice Cream: Explaining the Controversy

Walmart apologized and removed an ice cream flavor commemorating Juneteenth after sparking backlash on social media. The flavor, called "Celebration Edition: Juneteenth Ice Cream," was marketed under its Great Value label. Many found the flavor name to be in poor taste from a White-owned company, with some urging consumers to buy the new ice cream flavor from Black-owned business Creamlicious.

"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 said in a statement to CBS Money Watch. Walmart said it will review its product assortment "and will remove items as appropriate."

The Juneteenth flavor was red velvet and cheesecake ice cream. After Twitter users began spotting it in stores, many found it tone-deaf for a White-owned company run by a White CEO to be selling the ice cream. Some pointed out that consumers could support the Black-owned business Creamilicious, which has its own red velvet cheesecake flavor sold at Target stores. "If you're at Walmart and you're thinking about buying the one on the left. Take a few seconds to look for and buy the one on the right. They are the same flavor except Creamalicious Ice Creams is black-owned," one social media user wrote in a now-viral tweet.

Bridge, a group of marketing and diversity, equity, and inclusion executives, also published an open letter to Walmart, demanding the ice cream be withdrawn. "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," Bridge CEO Sheryl Daija wrote. "So why Juneteenth? Clearly, from the slogan on the packaging, you intended to share in the emancipation celebration of Black Americans. But launching an ice cream by its name creates more pain than support. So what went wrong here?"

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Although President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, it could only be enforced when Union troops reached states in the Confederacy. Union troops did not reach Galveston, Texas until June 19, 1865, to inform residents that slavery was abolished and the Civil War ended. The next year, Juneteenth celebrations were first held in Texas and soon other states began marking the end of slavery on June 19. It was not until last year that Juneteenth finally became a federal holiday after President Joe Biden signed it into law. It was the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. Since Juneteenth falls on a Sunday this year, federal employees will get Monday, June 20 off.