Fox and Friends prompts outrage for dressing black child up as a watermelon

'Overt racism, foolish racism, or tone-deaf racism? Take your pick, it's still racism,' says critic 

Maya Oppenheim
Wednesday 25 October 2017 16:55
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Fox News dresses up black child as a watermelon

Fox News has sparked outrage for dressing a young black boy in a watermelon costume and has been accused of racism.

The racially charged watermelon stereotype is based on the notion African Americans have an abnormally large appetite for watermelons. The long-standing trope first came into being when slaves gained their emancipation in the Civil War.

The young boy appeared on Fox & Friends, a daily morning news programme, in a watermelon slice Halloween costume. He was accompanied by a dog dressed as a unicorn emoji, a blonde girl as a rainbow, and some other children.

'"Now we’re going to have some organic fruit," one presenter proclaimed before the young boy walked onto the screen. “Lucas is our watermelon!"

Viewers quickly honed in the decision to dress the child as the large tropical fruit and argued it was both racist and tone deaf.

“Overt racism, foolish racism, or tone-deaf racism? Take your pick, it's still racism,” said Twitter user, Jeff Dannenberg.

“No, they don't get the benefit of the doubt: Fox & Friends dresses up black child as watermelon for Halloween,” added another.

“People of colour are neither surprised nor amused by Faux News racism with a wink reporting,” said one more.

However, others argued it was harmless fun and did not constitute racism.

The racialised stereotype of watermelons has remained prevalent into the 21st century. After slaves were emancipated during the Civil War, many black people grew, ate, and sold watermelons, and the fruit rapidly became an emblem 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,” explains a piece in The Atlantic titled “How watermelons became a racist trope”.

“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,” it continues.

Controversies surrounding the trope have become increasingly common. In 2014, the Boston Herald sparked criticism for publishing a cartoon of the White House fence-jumper, having made his way into Barack Obama’s bathroom, endorsing watermelon-flavoured toothpaste to the former president.

In the same year, Daniel Handler, the children’s author who writes as Lemony Snicket, was forced to apologise for an “ill-conceived” joke he made about the black American writer Jacqueline Woodson while hosting the National Book Awards.

When Woodson collected her prize for young people’s literature, Handler joked about her being allergic to watermelon.

What’s more, in the same year, activists protesting the killing of Michael Brown were met with a display of fried chicken, a melon and a 40-ounce beer bottle which had been placed in the street. A Confederate flag flew and counter-protestors yelled racial epithets.

Fox News did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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