A Georgia Ikea store has apologized for its effort to honor Juneteenth with a menu that included dishes associated with racist stereotypes of Black Americans, reports the Huffington Post.
The Atlanta branch of the European furniture giant reportedly emailed staff Friday about its plan to commemorate the annual holiday, which marks the long-delayed arrival of news about enslaved people’s emancipation in Texas in 1865.
The lunch menu included items fried chicken, watermelon, mac ‘n’ cheese, and collard greens, employees told Atlanta station CBS46.
Roughly 20 employees walked off the job to protest the menu, an Ikea spokesperson said in a statement.
“To honor the day, a lunch menu was created with the best of intentions, including recommendations from Black co-workers,” the statement read. “We got it wrong and we sincerely apologize.”
Several anonymous employees told CBS46 the menu was racially insensitive and ignorant.
“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 worker told the station.
“It caused a lot of people to be upset. People actually wanted to quit, people weren’t coming back to work.”
Staff members also accused Ikea of creating the menu without consulting any Black employees, though the retailer claims it did get recommendations from some Black staff.
Following the backlash, the store manager issued an apology and revised the menu. However, employees charged that the original dishes were still available the day after the holiday.
“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,” a staff member told CBS46.
The revised Juneteenth menu reportedly included collard greens, cornbread, mashed potatoes and meatloaf.
The Ikea spokesperson said the chain would work to ensure the holiday was commemorated more thoughtfully next time.
“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 spokesperson said.
“We are committed to educating ourselves and putting a process in place that will allow us to thoughtfully honor Juneteenth in the future.”