Walmart Under Fire After Launching New Juneteenth Ice Cream

Here's the newest addition to the Tone-Deaf Marketing Hall of Fame, which really should exist by now... Critics say that Walmart's Juneteenth ice cream is MOA, which means it melts as soon as it gets there.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, two months after the Confederacy had surrendered. It was about 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in Southern states. Last year, President Joe Biden signed a bill creating Juneteenth National Independence Day. Since June 19 fell on a Saturday, the government observed the holiday Friday.

As soon as the retail giant put the "Celebration Edition" on its freezer shelves, Black Twitter sounded off, calling the idea "trash" and worse. The Juneteenth ice cream features a swirled red velvet and cheesecake flavor. The carton shows an image of two Black hands (with four fingers each) with a yellow, green, red, and black background. The major retailer left consumers with a message on the container that reads, “share and celebrate African-American culture, emancipation, and enduring hope.”

Twitter users are displeased with Walmart’s audacity to even trademark the national independence day that commemorates the end of slavery for all Black people. One user called it “gentrification.” Black Twitter is calling out the store for using the new federal holiday to make money.

Kevin Fredericks, who goes by the name KevOnStage on Twitter, posted a video on Sunday, May 22, calling out Walmart's Great Value Celebration Edition Juneteenth ice cream. Walmart is a big box store based in Arkansas. How do you show the end of hundreds of years of chattel slavery and the freedom that comes with it? According to the ice cream, it tastes like cheesecake and red velvet cake.

"This is what happens when you turn federal holidays into shopping days," says KevOnStage.

Yes, they are all good, but aren't they also... exploitative for the sake of capitalism? This is the tone of the backlash against Walmart before the new federal holiday, which will be celebrated for the second time on June 19. It remembers the day the last slaves in the United States heard that President Lincoln had ended slavery.

Walmart is also putting out a similar "celebration edition" for June, which is Pride Month. This flavor has brownies, cherries, and white chocolate in it.

Depending on your point of view, that's either equal opportunity or equally offensive. "Juneteenth holiday marks a celebration of freedom and independence," the company said in a statement to FOX Television Stations. "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."

How Walmart Dropped the Ball

Let's be real. The process of getting a product like this does not happen over night. The fact of the matter is that this idea had to undergo so many stages and likely seen by multiple marketing and sales departments from ideation to manufacturing to be sold in a Walmart near you - only to be instantly rejected by consumers. Is Walmart culturally incompetent? It sure seems that way after witnessing the quick crash and burn of this ice cream product. Multicultural competence centers around having awareness and understanding of worldviews outside of our own. As pointed out on Twitter, Walmart also sells Black-owned brand Creamalicious, who has the same flavor red velvet and cheesecake flavored ice cream called “Right as Rain.” Want to buy Juneteenth party supplies for your gathering or cookout? We Celebrate Black, which is Black-woman owned, has plenty of options.

Hopefully the backlash becomes an opportunity to support Black businesses, and more importantly, to become more educated on the holiday if not already.

Now that it’s a federal holiday, we can’t control how other people consume it, but we can make our own efforts to ensure that Juneteenth becomes an opportunity for conversation — of how we can uplift entrepreneurs within the community, of the significance of what occurred on June 19, 1865 — rather than just making it another cash cow holiday for those who could really care less about it.