Why Is Watermelon Considered Racist Toward Black People?

watermelon laying in hay
Leslie Taylor-Grover
April 17, 2022

The stereotype of Black people eating watermelon – especially in public – has created a sense of shame around what is an otherwise healthy and delicious fruit. How did watermelon-eating become a racist stereotype?

During enslavement many of us, already expert farmers, were able to grow watermelons for profit. After enslavement, many Black people continued to grow and sell the fruit. Our businesses thrived!

The popular fruit allowed us to purchase land, build wealth, and help create opportunities for each other. Watermelon was a symbol of freedom for Black people. 

Enter hateful white people, jealous of our success. So they waged an all-out cultural war.

White people associated watermelon with unintelligent, servile Black people. They wrote songs about lazy Black people and watermelon. They created images and toys depicting us as “pickaninnies” fighting over the fruit and eating it messily.

Watermelons became a source of shame for us in mainstream culture, and the stigma still remains. However, it’s not too late for us if we remember this one important fact.

Watermelon represents a positive part of our history that allowed us to build wealth and help others in our community survive after enslavement. We must never allow white supremacy to control our cultural narratives or to make us ashamed of our history!

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