Man's mother eats lots of watermelon while pregnant, man is born with watermelon-shaped birthmark, man grows up to hate the fruit. This is Theodore Johnson's story, and although he's aware of the historical significance of the red and green fruit, he writes on the Huffington Post that he's tired of the weight blacks allow the snack to carry.
With such deep and persistent iconography, it's no wonder that disparaging imagery of blacks' obsession with watermelon can still be found in our society long after slavery and the minstrel period. And much like then, it is used to belittle African-American people and their achievements. When Jackie Robinson broke the race barrier in Major League Baseball, opposing fans often taunted him by throwing watermelon rinds. After Barack Obama became the first black man to be elected president of the United States, manipulated pictures of the White House, showing rows of watermelon crop in the place of its pristine lawns, popped up around the Internet. And when a Google doodle looked suspiciously like a black athlete running along a watermelon, social networks lit up with equal parts outrage and curiosity about the cause of the clamor.
Though statistics aren't needed to convey the ridiculousness and inaccuracy of the watermelon stereotype, data points out African-Americans actually eat less watermelon than others. The Department of Agriculture reports that whites eat the most, and the largest consumers of watermelon per capita are Asians and Hispanics, the fastest growing segments of the United States population. Ironically, with blacks being disproportionate sufferers of heart disease and hypertension — largely as a result of poor diet — consuming more fresh fruits and vegetables, including watermelon, would be a step in the right direction.
Read Theodore Johnson's entire piece at the Huffington Post.
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Theodore R. Johnson III is a former White House fellow. His writing focuses on race, society and politics. Follow him on Twitter.