Amazon Accused of Racism over Juneteenth Celebration
The company was accused of serving fried chicken, a food with a long history of racist overtones
For the first time ever, Juneteenth was celebrated as a national holiday. Some companies closed to celebrate the holiday, while others put on events at their workplaces. At Amazon, warehouse and delivery workers were still expected to show up to work, although warehouses announced events to celebrate the holiday. However. the company is coming under attack for its seemingly racist decision to serve fried chicken and waffles.
The controversy started when a Chicago area warehouse announced that workers would receive a special Juneteenth meal of fried chickens and waffles to celebrate the holiday. According to a post on Facebook from workers, the warehouse which is referred to as DCH1, is mostly black. They said that announcement appeared on a TV in the warehouse.
“On Juneteenth, a day to celebrate some level of Liberation and Freedom won by Black people, Amazon is ‘standing in solidarity’ and ‘honoring the Black community' by giving us, majority Black workforce at DCH1, Chicken and Waffles,” an employee group posted on Facebook. “As people throughout the world are rising up against cops, corporations and this anti-Black capitalist system we live under, Amazon mocks us with this racist form of ‘celebration.’ So much for supporting your Black/African-American employees. Where’s the Solidarity in that? We demand a paid holiday, not some damn chicken.”
Another Amazon worker posted a video on TikTok showing her Amazon location gave workers Junteenth shirts as well as fried chicken and cornbread. She noted that the shirt from Amazon wasn’t even branded for her warehouse.
In a second video, she showed a whiteboard in her work location that included Prime Day Incentives, Retention Bonuses, and the announcement of the Juneteenth Chicken meal.
The use of fried chicken to celebrate Juneteenth was especially hurtful as the meal was a mainstay of many racist portrayals in minstrel shows in the early 1900s. It was also used in noted racist films like the 1915 silent film “Birth of a Nation,” which depicts the formation of the Ku Klux Klan. Click here to watch a short video explaining the racism that has been linked to food.
Reaction to the decision to serve the meal was swift online.
“Are you f**kin serious right now with this?” read one of the numerous comments on the post. “Are they going to throw in grape soda and watermelon? Is Bezos gonna come out in blackface and do a minstrel act? Please tell me these people are not that stupid.”
Reacting to the criticism, Amazon told CNBC that they were trying to support black-owned businesses with the meal. However, that might have been better received if Amazon spent some of their billions of dollars on different options from black-owned restaurants in the area. They could have highlighted the different food options offered by these restaurants, but instead, they went for the probably cheapest option. Remember, this is not a struggling company trying to do right by their employees, but rather a company that made a $21.33 billion profit, a 180% increase over 2021.
This is just the latest accusation of racism at the company. In May, workers in Connecticut reported finding nooses hung at an Amazon warehouse that was being built outside of Hartford Connecticut. Workers in Staten Island also accused the company of using racist rhetoric when they referred to Chris Smalls, a former worker and current organizer for Amazon Labor Union, and other people organizing the warehouse as “a bunch of thugs.”