Toyota branch in Kansas City serves only watermelon for Juneteenth celebration, angering employees

A Toyota distribution center in Kansas City angered employees Monday by serving only watermelon at a company Juneteenth celebration.

Two workers spoke to FOX4 News about the incident, noting the fruit’s racist stereotype.

“I turned around and asked a member that’s on the DNI team – which is the diversity and inclusion team – I said, ‘What the heck? This isn’t OK.’ And he just laughed,” said Kim McCarthy who has worked at the plant for nine years.

Watermelon has long been a racist symbol. Throughout the Jim Crow era, the fruit was weaponized in smear campaigns to destroy African American businesses. 

Jarret Bolden, a Black employee of four years, says such things make coming into this environment and having to work very difficult: “A slap in the face, very disrespectful, you know. They preach black lives matter, but kind of like they were making a joke out of us.”

“Toyota is driving towards a future with limitless possibilities for all – and diversity and inclusion are critical to reaching that destination,” the company writes in its “Diversity + Inclusion” annual report. But both McCarthy and Bolden point out that Toyota’s entire diversity and inclusion team is white.

Moreover, whatever diversity and inclusion efforts the company is touting failed to prevent this situation.

FOX4 obtained the following statement from Toyota’s corporate communications team:

“To embrace the Juneteenth holiday, a summer intern coordinated a celebration activity that included a presentation focused on the history, activities and foods of Freedom Day. This presentation was based on the individual’s personal experience celebrating the holiday with their family. In line with our core value of respect for people, Toyota supports educational activities that bring awareness and understanding of diverse cultures.” 

The company also said the plan to serve the watermelon was approved by multiple people in leadership. 

Both McCarthy and Bolden would like Toyota’s apology. 

“I would like for management to at least apologize and accept that we are upset about it. They have yet to do that even,” McCarthy said.

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