The World’s Most Racist Fruit

Watermelon Track

by Gwynn Guilford

Responding to Wednesday's Google home page that included the above image, Rabbi Yair Hoffman speaks out:

Either a young Google programmer decided to see if he could get away with showing an African American athlete chase after a watermelon themed track, or a terribly unlikely random coincidence occurred.

For those unfamiliar, Hoffman explains watermelon-based racism's long tradition. A commenter on the site takes Hoffman to task:

Are you serious?

1. He looks Indian to me, not African American.
2. He’s sporting a pompadour. (see #1)
3. Many tracks are red.
4. Most grass is green.
5. Many tracks are lined…using white paint.
6. One of the programers is Asian American, and judging my the traditional last name of the other, I am assuming Jewish. Put them together and you dont quite get the White Man’s Conspiracy you are searching for.
7. This is 1 in a series of Google Doodles. Are the others racist because they are varying shades of brown, tan, yellow?

Yes, but that Mondo track does look mouthwatering. Google's alleged subliminal bigotry campaign aside, the watermelon's racist past is fascinatingly vast, as documented in this roundup of racist images. Years ago, Keith Woods reflected on this history – and how it has affected him personally:

Like all racial and ethnic stereotypes, this one’s destructive properties have, through the decades, stretched far beyond mere insult. It has helped poison self-esteem, pushing some people to avoid doing anything that seemed too “black,” lest they be lumped into the company of Uncle Remus, Aunt Jemima, or some other relative of racism. [For instance,] just a few days earlier…, I’d found myself in a familiar internal debate over whether to take a slice of watermelon from a luncheon fruit tray. In the pause before my fork stabbed a couple of slices, I worried anew that white people looking on would follow the crooked path of bigoted logic that says if one stereotype is validated, all the others must be true.

There's evidence that Woods isn't alone in feeling apprehensive about his watermelon consumption. David Pilgrim, who curates the Jim Crow Museum, notes that African-Americans eat disproportionately fewer watermelons than other races.