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An Ikea furniture store in one of the blackest cities in the country is under fire for adding fried chicken and watermelon to its in-house cafe’s menu to celebrate Juneteenth.
An Ikea in Atlanta, a city where blacks comprise the majority of residents, sent an email to employees last Friday announcing its menu for Saturday, which marked the first Juneteenth, according to Atlanta station WGCL.
“To honor the perseverance of Black Americans and acknowledge the progress yet to be made, we observe Juneteenth on Saturday, June 19, 2021,” the email read.
“Look out for a special menu on Saturday, which will include: Fried Chicken, Watermelon, Mac n Cheese, Potatoe Salad, Collard Greens, Candied Yams,” it continued.
Despite its noble intentions, the email reportedly triggered widespread rage among employees who accused Ikea of not having a thorough enough understanding of black history to have the right to serve “soul food.”
“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,” an anonymous employee told station WGCL.
“It caused a lot of people to be upset. People actually wanted to quit. People weren’t coming back to work,” the employee added.
At least 33 people reportedly called out from work, prompting the store’s manager to send another email apologizing for the offense.
“It has come to our attention that the menu published for Juneteenth was not taken in the best light. I truly apologize if the menu came off as subjective. It was created with the best intentions by a few of our coworkers who believed they were representing their culture and tradition with these foods of celebration,” this email read.
“We value your voices and feedback and have changed the menu so all can enjoy the day and celebrate this incredibly important day in history,” it continued.
As is always the case, the apology wasn’t good enough.
“[E]mployees said the decisions behind the creation of the menu should have included voices of color first,” according to WGCL.
“None of the co-coworkers who sat down to create the menu, nobody was black,” the anonymous employee told the station.
This claim contradicted what the store manager had written. In addition, an Ikea spokesperson confirmed in a statement to TMZ that black employees had been involved with the creation of the menu.
“We value our co-workers’ voices and changed the menu after receiving feedback that the foods that were selected are not reflective of the deeply meaningful traditional foods historically served as part of Juneteenth celebrations. We got it wrong and we sincerely apologize,” the spokesperson reportedly added.
Another employee claimed that the store simply delayed its Juneteenth menu by a day.
“So they just delayed the Juneteenth menu by a day, thinking that everybody who was upset and stayed home on Juneteenth wouldn’t notice on Sunday,” the employee said.
According to WGCL, the revised Juneteenth menu included meatloaf, mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, collard greens, and cornbread, and the menu for the day after included fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and collard greens.
Apparently, it’s now a race crime to serve traditional southern food …
This story triggered a lot of pushback against the employees, with a large contingent of social media users calling the employees “fragile” for rushing to be offended over a menu written to give them tribute:
I never understood the #BlackFragility around fried chicken and watermelon. They’re delicious.
— Ribb Rotgut ☘️ (@RotgutRibb) June 22, 2021
So should I be offended @ Taco Tuesday? Or cinco the mayo? No more chips queso or beans? OMG NO MORE MARGARITAS!!!
— Estella (@Hdz3stella) June 22, 2021
You cannot plan a menu without strangely offending some group of people trying really hard to somehow feel offended so they can call out of work.
— lost storm photo (@FreeTreeBark100) June 22, 2021
Nothing wrong with this type of really good food, absolutely nothing. No business needs to be checking in with anyone when it comes to their business.
— Cobra Commander 💎🙌 (@Ven0m0usC0bra) June 23, 2021
Who doesn’t like fried chicken and watermelon in the summer time? It’s all an American summer cuisine.
— Neanderthal Girl (@NeanderthalYT) June 22, 2021
They consume large amounts of chicken and watermelon then get upset when having their favorite foods on the menu? What won’t they be outraged by?
— Nathan Bedford Forrest (@saddlewiz) June 21, 2021
But if you read countless articles from black writers about menu ideas for this new national holiday—they almost all recommended strawberry watermelon combos—red foods—collard greens—black eyed pea dish. A simple google search proves this. You’re mad about good faith offerings??
— Ricky (@Ricky58008) June 22, 2021
What’s a matter with the menu?? I mean if it was ST. Patrick’s day corn beef and hash If it was an Italian day pizza and pasta or if it was being white day ham. Nothing racist about that it’s just the truth
— Love&Peace (@AnthonyNasta3) June 22, 2021
Notice how the latter Twitter user described the menu as “the truth.” He was correct.
Britannica defines “soul food” as “foods and techniques associated with the African American cuisine of the United States” and notes that this category of food includes “fried chicken,” “macaroni and cheese,” “potato salad,” “sweet potatoes,” “melons,” and “[g]reens, particularly collards.”
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