An Atlanta branch of IKEA offered a special menu to commemorate Juneteenth, but it didn’t go over so well.
In addition to the ever-present Swedish meatballs, the menu included “fried chicken, watermelon, mac ‘n’ cheese, potato salad, collard greens, candied yams . . . to honor the perseverance of Black Americans.” The June 19 holiday, declared official this month by President Joe Biden, marks the emancipation of the last enslaved Americans.
“We got it wrong and we sincerely apologize,” IKEA representatives told The New York Post.
But James Woodall, president of the NAACP’s Georgia state chapter, is not happy, calling the apology “an empty, performative gesture.” Richard Rose, Atlanta’s NAACP branch president, also said the Juneteenth menu “obviously insensitive.”
An IKEA spokesman told the Post the “lunch menu was created with the best of intentions.”
“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,” the spokesman said.
“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.”
The spokesman also said that “there were black co-workers involved in the creation of the menu. Out of respect for their privacy, we cannot go into more detail, and we take this as an important learning and shared responsibility.”
After the menu was announced, some employees at the Atlanta store were upset, saying it was racially insensitive.
“Employees who spoke to Atlanta affiliate WGCL-TV but didn’t want to be filmed, said that the store’s management sent out an email last week, featuring the menu for customers and employees which was supposed to ‘honor and persevere Black Americans,’” Complex reported. “The initial menu also featured mac and cheese and collard greens. Employees said the move ’caused a lot of people to be upset,’ and added that ‘people actually wanted to quit, people weren’t coming back to work.’
“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,” one employee said.
Employees outraged said 33 people called out from work, which sparked an internal email response from the store manager on Saturday. “She said I truly apologize the menu came off subjective.”
Said a local CBS affiliate:
The store manager told employees and CBS46 that the menu changed after the issue but employees said, “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.”
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