I am unapologetically Black, and I will never be ashamed of eating watermelon
OPINION: July is National Watermelon Month. I dedicate this to one of God's greatest creations.
First of all, let me just say I had no idea there was such thing as National Watermelon Month. I found out recently when one of my friends told me—as she was explaining to me that there are actual Black people who say they will never eat watermelon in front of white people because they are ashamed to do so.
Imagine my shock. How can you let someone make you feel shame for eating something so delicious and nutritious?
Now, I am fully aware of the stigma and the stereotype that is attached to Black people and watermelon. It was my mother who informed me that the stereotype and stigma were entirely manufactured by white people who were both threatened and envious of the success Black farmers were having with watermelon.
Yes, it’s absolutely true. As The Atlantic notes:
But the stereotype that African Americans are excessively fond of watermelon emerged for a specific historical reason and served a specific political purpose. The trope came in full force when slaves won their emancipation during the Civil War. Free black people grew, ate, and sold watermelons, and in doing so made the fruit a symbol of their freedom. Southern whites, threatened by blacks’ newfound freedom, responded by making the fruit a symbol of black people’s perceived uncleanliness, laziness, childishness, and unwanted public presence. This racist trope then exploded in American popular culture, becoming so pervasive that its historical origin became obscure. Few Americans in 1900 would’ve guessed the stereotype was less than half a century old.
That tidbit of information becomes even funnier when you learn that early modern Europeans considered watermelon to be food for Italian and Arab peasants. It just goes to show you how ugly white supremacy is. They can take a good thing and make it horrible in the eyes of everyone else. MESSAGE!
Honestly, though, even if the stereotype wasn’t manufactured, I wish I would let a white person make me feel bad about eating watermelon.
Y’all must not know about me. I will put on a watermelon costume with some watermelon shoes and a watermelon hat. I will have a bunch of Black people dancing in fried chicken costumes dancing behind me along with a band singing sped up Negro spirituals as I sit at a table on stage at the Hollywood Bowl in front of an audience of nothing but white people. My smile will be as big as Buckwheat’s. And how.
The point is, no one should feel bad about eating watermelon. Besides being delicious, watermelon has a lot of nutritional and health benefits. The Mayo Clinic refers to it as the “disease fighter” and notes that it is good for hydration as well as skin and eye health, and it strengthens the immune system and helps the body absorb iron. If you have iron-poor blood the way that I do, you know how important this is.
So please. Find the biggest, juiciest watermelon full of seeds that you can. Cut it open. Sit on your porch or stoop or even at the bus stop, and munch to your heart’s content.
And don’t let another white person make you feel bad about eating watermelon again.
God put this here for me and you. Take advantage, man. Take advantage.
Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.
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