Employees at an Atlanta branch of IKEA have called out the store’s management for being racially insensitive and ignorant after watermelon, fried chicken, and other dishes regarded as racist tropes were reportedly offered on a menu to commemorate Juneteenth.
Some disgruntled employees who spoke to CBS46 said the controversial menu was sent to them via email on the eve Juneteenth, adding that management explained the food was being offered to workers as well as customers to “honor and persevere Black Americans” as the country marked the federal holiday. However, the employees said the menu was in bad taste and called on management to make efforts to educate themselves on Black culture.
“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,” an employee who spoke to the news outlet on condition of anonymity said.
Besides the fried chicken and watermelon, other dishes on the menu included mac and cheese and collard greens. An employee said the menu “upset” a lot of workers and some even contemplated quitting as a result.
“People weren’t coming back to work,” the employee said. Over 30 employees did not report for work as a result and it forced the store manager to send an internal email on Saturday apologizing for the menu.
Although the menu was later revised, employees said no Black workers were consulted when the initial menu that drew backlash was being created. “None of the coworkers who sat down to create the menu, no one was Black.”
The employees also claimed that management did not get rid of the controversial meals even after the menu was changed to include collard greens, corn bread, mashed potatoes and meatloaf, CBS46 reported. “They just delayed the menu by a 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,” an employee said. Among the meals that were served the day after Juneteeth included “fried chicken, mac and cheese, collard greens,” an employee claimed.
Responding to the allegations of management not including Black workers while planning the menu, a spokeswoman for the company told the Independent that was not the case as quite a number of Black employees were part of the process.
“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,” the spokeswoman said.
“We are committed to educating ourselves and putting a process in place that will allow us to thoughtfully honour Juneteenth in the future.”