In honor of Juneteenth, popular furniture store perpetuates racist stereotypes, say employees
"Insensitive" is what Black employees at an IKEA store in Atlanta called efforts to honor Juneteenth. The popular Swedish furniture retailer emailed a menu to all staff at the store this past Friday.
So upset were 33 African-American employees that they reported sick from work the following day, sparking an internal email response from the store's manager on Saturday. Many of the angry employees considered quitting as a result of the incident. The cause of their outrage was prompted by suggested Juneteenth menu that included fried chicken and watermelon, items that have been stereotypically connected to Black people. According to the same email, the menu was created to"honor the perseverance of Black Americans and acknowledge the progress yet to be made."
Email sent to IKEA staff
Speaking to CBS46, employees called the inclusion of these items "racially insensitive and ignorant." They also said no Black employees were involved in creating the menu, however, IKEA says that's not true. IKEA released a statement to CBS46 Tuesday saying, "the meal was intended to be served to co-workers as an internal celebration, not customers." Employees maintain that there were no Black IKEA staff included when the menu was created.
IKEA management disputes this.
"There were Black co-workers involved in the creation of the menu," a spokesperson said. "Out of respect for their privacy, we cannot go into more detail, and we take this as an important learning and shared responsibility."
VIDEO: Juneteenth menu at Atlanta IKEA upsets Black employees
The store manager at the Atlanta location told employees that the menu was amended after being advised of the issue and the staff's reactions.
However, an employee pointed out that making this amendment did little to soothe the hurt feelings of the staff.
"They just delayed the menu by a day, thinking that everybody who was upset stayed home on Juneteenth and wouldn't notice on Sunday, which just added insult to injury."
Customers at IKEA were similarly unimpressed.
"I'm just frankly disappointed in the learning process -- you shouldn't learn after you have insulted all of your black employees," said one.
Following the uproar over the menu items, IKEA Atlanta released an official statement, which can be read, in full, below:
"In addition to offering Juneteenth as one of our paid holidays nationally, our IKEA Atlanta store has recognized Juneteenth with our co-workers for the past four years. To honor the day, a lunch menu was created with the best of intentions, including recommendations from black co-workers. 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. We are committed to educating ourselves and putting a process in place that will allow us to thoughtfully honor Juneteenth in the future." - IKEA spokesperson.
Juneteenth, which is officially known as Juneteenth National Independence Day and historically known as Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day and Freedom Day, became a federal holiday in 2021. The date of June 19th for the holiday commemorates the anniversary date of the June 19, 1865, when the announcement of General Order No. 3 by Union Army general Gordon Granger, proclaimed and enforced freedom of enslaved people in Texas. The Lone Star state was the last state of the confederacy that maintained institutional slavery.
Source Details: Commercial lithographer Henry S. Graham printed this choropleth map showing the distribution of the slave population in September 1861. The map shows in graphic terms the density of the slave population in the Southern states, based on figures from the 1860 census. Although the development of this map was a collaborative government effort, cartographers working for Edwin Hergesheimer, U.S. Coast Survey Drafting Division, created it.
STATISTICS: America's Familiarity With Juneteenth Still Limited
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