Did you know the watermelon is from Africa? Or that it’s actually a berry? And that they’re delicious AF? Yet given its history via racist white America, the watermelon can be triggering for black folks.
“I refuse to eat fried chicken or watermelon in front of white people,” my friend told me during one of our beach days when I pulled out both items.
“What? Why?” I asked, instantly hungry from the classic combination.
She looked at me, sighed and simply said, “Racism.”
The watermelon, indigenous to northeastern Africa, started as citrullus lanatus var. colocynthoides 5,000 years ago. Then, it was a treat that many enjoyed and it even found its way into the hieroglyphics in King Tut’s tomb.
Watermelon’s troubling history started way after it made its way from Egypt to China, through Europe and finally to America. As with much, America bastardized the berry, turning it into a major part of racism’s diet.
Many slaves made meals of their owners’ leftovers, thus passing down the whole “something outta nothing” mentality that many of us identify with and live by.
But the trope of black people and watermelon came about when slaves won their freedom. Many free black people used watermelons to make money. But their old massas didn’t like their newfound freedom. So what did they do? They took the watermelon and made it a symbol for lazy, dirty black people.
How? Well, lazy, because it’s easy to grow watermelons and it’s a cumbersome thing to eat, so you can’t work while eating it. You have to sit down. And dirty? Well, watermelons make huge messes and leave rinds that were often scattered all over the ground.
The watermelon was made a disgrace by those hatin’ ass racists and that label stuck. And while many of us enjoy watermelon, when you’re black, it can indeed be triggering.
Check out the video above to learn all about watermelon’s history and how America tried to ruin it for black people.