Walmart Apologizes for Juneteenth Ice Cream After Criticism

The company is considering removing the product completely after images were shared and discussed on social media.

A Walmart store
Photo: Wolterk / Getty Images

After several days of criticism on social media, Walmart has apologized for selling a "Juneteenth"-themed ice cream flavor, and has suggested that it may remove the Great Value-brand dessert from its stores entirely.

"Juneteenth holiday marks a celebration of freedom and independence," the company said in a statement. "However, we received feedback that a few items caused concern for some of our customers and we sincerely apologize. We are reviewing our assortment and will remove items as appropriate."

The label on the red velvet cake-flavored ice cream red "Share and celebrate African-American culture, emancipation, and enduring hope," and featured two cartoon hands high-fiving each other. Photos of the ice cream began circulating on Twitter over the weekend, and many users accused Walmart of either attempting to profit from the holiday, of making an empty performative gesture, or both.

"It's problematic when white owned brands and companies treat Juneteenth as another commercialized (co-opt) opportunity void of any commitments to the [African-American] community, change or simple understanding of what Juneteenth is," author and activist Eunique Jones Gibson tweeted. "I understand wanting to show support as a brand or being concerned about how your stakeholders might feel if you are quiet on June 19th [...]. But if you lack commitment/investment etc, being quiet is best."

Bridge, a trade organization focused on diversity and inclusion, published an open letter to Walmart on its website, asking the company to stop selling the ice cream. "[Juneteenth] is a day of commemoration. A serious day. It is neither fun nor frivolous but rather a memory of a very dark and devastating period in American history," the organization wrote. "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."

Another issue with Walmart's Juneteenth ice cream was the fact that a trademark symbol appeared beside the holiday's name on the package.

"You can have a trademark registration for a holiday if it pertains to t-shirts, or pillow cases, or what have you. It has to be connected to a particular good or service," trademark attorney Deborah Mortimer told WRAL. "Do they plan to give back to any causes, any African American causes?"

Juneteenth, which is also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, is a commemoration of the day in 1865 in which enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas were informed that the Civil War had ended, and they were freed. Their freedom came more than two years after then-President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Last June, President Joe Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday.

"This is a day of profound weight and profound power, a day in which we remember the moral stain, the terrible toll that slavery took on the country and continues to take," Biden said at the time, according to the Associated Press.

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