This story is a good example of the dilemma retailers find themselves in when they want to be socially woke but don’t really know how to do it. Walmart was all set to honor Juneteenth with ice cream. However, users of social media called out the giant retailer for exploiting the holiday as a marketing scheme. A black-owned company sells a Juneteenth ice cream and Walmart is being accused of selling a knock-off version of that ice cream.

Walmart is selling other products with a Juneteenth theme but its the ice cream that set social media into outrage mode. A black-owned company called Creamalicious was already selling an ice cream flavor in honor of the newly-created federal holiday. The Walmart flavor looks eerily similar. The Creamalicious flavor is described as Red Velvet Cheesecake. The Walmart store brand (Great Value) is described as Swirled Red Velvet and Cheesecake flavored ice cream. Creamalicious, a Cincinnati-based company, is sold at Walmart, Target, Meijer and other stores. You can see why it got awkward for Walmart shoppers.

You get the picture. Walmart left itself open to this criticism. When Walmart released its “Celebration Edition” it was to acknowledge and celebrate the holiday. That’s innocent enough. It can be seen as comparable to releasing special editions of ice cream to celebrate other federal holidays like the Fourth of July or maybe special flavor blends of Christmas-themed ice cream. In this case, though, Walmart stepped on a black-owned business and since it is a holiday not widely celebrated in America and usually mostly by black people, well, you see what happened. Up until Joe Biden signed off on Juneteenth as a federal holiday, many people didn’t even have knowledge of the date or its significance. (That’s the fault of our education system, by the way.)

Juneteenth is well-known in a state like Texas because the date, June 19, is the day in 1865 when slaves were informed of their freedom. The news reached slaves in Galveston later than others received it. Joe Biden made it a federal holiday, like Memorial Day or Labor Day, as a nod to the racial justice and equity demands that surfaced after the death of George Floyd.

Walmart is selling other Juneteenth-themed items. So far no one is squawking about those, at least that I know of.

What’s the deal with the red velvet flavor, you might ask? (I did.) The color red is an essential symbolic part of the celebration.

Red food, red velvet cake and drink, like strawberry soda, is traditional when celebrating Juneteenth. Red, white and blue are on the Juneteenth flag, and the color red symbolizes that “from the middle passage to George Floyd, our blood has been spilled across America,” Steve Williams, president of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, previously told USA TODAY.

Walmart did what it did and now by pulling the product, it looks like an unforced error. Why pull it this year when it is already out? It likely costs less than the Creamilicious brand because it’s the Walmart store brand. It undercuts a black female-owned business, yes, but that’s the free market, right? Walmart does the same for numerous items. Of course it was a marketing decision – that’s what retailers do. Why not just carry forth and then not sell it next year? Whatever damage that this causes has already been done.

Walmart looks weak with this cave. The label read, “Share and celebrate African-American culture, emancipation and enduring hope.” Instead of standing up and saying, hey, we can acknowledge and celebrate the holiday with many products, including ice cream, it is now “sincerely apologizing.”

“Juneteenth holiday marks a celebration of freedom and independence,” the company said in a statement to FOX Television Stations. “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.”

Sounds like if you go to Walmart looking for a Juneteenth Koozie, you may be out of luck with that, too.

The Creamilicious flavor is advertised on its website as a regular flavor and there is no specific wording about celebrating Juneteenth on the packaging. See it here. Since Walmart specifically names it as a celebration edition to celebrate Juneteenth, critics call it exploitive. Welcome to 2022.

I don’t think I’ve heard so many ice cream stories before Joe Biden came into the White House. The ice cream gobbling president has brought a focus on the treat not seen since Donald Trump received two scoops of ice cream during a state dinner and the press lost its mind over how greedy he looked. Joe Biden, however, eat ice cream with the troops in South Korea and went back for a second serving. Where the troops allowed second servings? I don’t know the answer to this burning question. I do know that the press was perfectly cool with it, though. Funny how that happens.

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