The watermelon is a vine-like flowering plant originating from Southern Africa. It is in the same family as squashes, cucumbers, pumpkins and gourds. Today, the Chinese are the largest producers of the fruit. Since the watermelon has traveled from Africa to Asia to Europe, then the Americas, it can be said that the fruit is universally eaten and enjoyed. With its high Vitamin A and C content, the watery fruit ( approx 90% ) is nutritious and delicious and helps strengthen the immune system and lower high blood pressure.
When did this summer fruit, enjoyed by all, become the stereotype of black people?
No one really knows. Some black scholars think it began in the rural south where watermelon, grown to be plentiful, were eaten to cool the parched throats of the Field Negroes. Others think it’s mostly a “southern food” like macaroni and cheese. Some believe that it didn’t matter if whites, including the Irish, who were indentured slaves and NOT considered white at the time, as well as blacks both ate them equally; anything could and was utilized in the defamation of blacks. This stereotype just stuck…and became wildly popular.
Today, the stereotype of the watermelon is everywhere:
to perhaps the most offensive:
This was taken shortly after Barack Obama won the presidency.
And to mock black athletes running for their own country:
Why is this stereotype offensive?
1. Personally, I don’t know. Being from another country, we grow all our own food. So eating melons, mangoes, yams, etc, is necessary for our survival. Even my relatives that lived in the UK and the AmeriKlan south grew food.
2. Perhaps it implies indigence?
3. Since the Chinese are indeed the biggest distributors of the controversial fruit but they do not get stereotyped for it, it tells me that this is nothing more than an attack on Blackness.
4. There are no authentic “studies” that show that blacks eat an overwhelming amount of watermelon than any other race. In fact, there is no honest “food evidence” that shows that certain races eat more “X” than any other race. Example: Rice was long believed to be Chinese. That is a fallacy based on ignorance. Rice came from Africa. The Asians grow rice farms in the same manner the Africans did.
5. My personal belief: I find any food that fights disease and cancers and acts as a diuretic, to lower high blood pressure, that is “racialized” is quite bizarre. I think racism/ white supremacy will use a sheet of paper as a weapon to hurt anyone they deem inferior. So the watermelon stereotype is just another tool to do so.
6. As a black woman in medicine, I urge all African peoples to eat more melons (watch out if you are diabetic). High in vitamins, fruit and vegetables will contribute to a longer life span and more resistance to disease. Our ancestors lived off of them for centuries so why shouldn’t we?
Any thoughts on this bizarre phenomena?