Dish on Museum's Juneteenth Menu Sparks Backlash

Locals say menu item at Children's Museum of Indianapolis perpetuates racist trope
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 6, 2022 6:55 AM CDT
Children's Museum Takes Heat for Juneteenth Menu Item
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis.   (Google Maps)

A kids museum in Indiana is at the center of controversy after a menu item for Juneteenth didn't go over so well. The Indianapolis Star reports that included among the food options at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis was a prepackaged watermelon salad (TMZ has a pic), whose presence ahead of the celebration of the end of slavery in America is prompting backlash. The Smithsonian notes that even though watermelon didn't always have a negative connotation when associated with the Black community, it became a racist stereotype during the Jim Crow era—a fact that isn't escaping locals.

Some say the menu item plays into the racist trope and is indicative of businesses that try to celebrate Juneteenth without fully understanding what the holiday means to Black Americans. "I don't know what the thought process was," one man tells the Star. Another interviewee says it feels like the museum's Juneteenth celebration is a "money grab," adding: "It just seems like if a single person of color had been in the room when this was decided, it wouldn't have gone forward." In a statement, the museum attributed the choice to its food service provider, which "uses the food and beverage menu to commemorate and raise awareness of holidays like Juneteenth. The team that made this selection included their staff members who based this choice of food on their own family traditions."

The museum also apologized and "[acknowledged] the negative impact that stereotypes have on Black communities." It said the salad has been taken off the menu and that it's "reviewing how we may best convey these stories and traditions during this year's Juneteenth celebration," in addition to "making changes around how future food selections are made by our food service provider." (More Juneteenth stories.)

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