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Walmart pulls its Juneteenth ice cream after major backlash

May 24, 2022, 9:57 PM UTC

Facing a firestorm of criticism, Walmart pulled its Juneteenth-themed ice cream from shelves on Tuesday and issued an apology.

The company had introduced a “Celebration Edition: Juneteenth Ice Cream” recently to commemorate next month’s celebration marking the end of slavery in the U.S. The ice cream came with a label that said, “Share and celebrate African-American culture, emancipation and enduring hope.”

But after a whirlwind of criticism including Twitter users calling the item “tone deaf,” Walmart removed the product. User complaints ranged from calling the company out for “appropriating” Black culture to failing to highlight historically Black-owned ice cream brands and not carrying these labels in its stores.

“LEAVE US ALONE!,” one user tweeted. “If you can’t just promote black owned businesses for this holiday, don’t even worry about!”

The ice cream flavor is not the only Juneteenth-themed item in Walmart stores. One Twitter user found that the company has also sold Juneteenth-inspired party supplies, wine bottles, water bottles, glasses, banners, and T-shirts.

Juneteenth was approved as a federal holiday last year for June 19, the same date in 1865 when Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Tex., the last holdout for slavery in the U.S. The general announced to the town that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier.

Before Juneteenth became recognized as a federal holiday, several companies began observing it in 2020 in response to that year’s national discussions on racial injustice, and the role businesses had to play in countering it.

Responding to the online backlash against its ice cream, Walmart released a statement to FOX television stations apologizing for the gaffe. 

“Juneteenth holiday marks a celebration of freedom and independence,” the statement read. “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.”

Walmart did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment.

It isn’t the first time Walmart has found itself in hot water over how its products are marketed to minorities. For years, the company was subject to a discrimination lawsuit over locking African American beauty products behind sealed cases, sometimes directly across the aisle from accessible generic products. 

In 2020, the company reversed the policy after coming under renewed scrutiny for the practice.

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