Can ice cream be racist? I'm sure that question sounds ridiculous but that's what some are suggesting in the wake of a recent viral news story involving a popular frozen treat brand from the greatest state in the union.
Anyone who's ever been to Texas knows how obsessed this state is with Blue Bell Ice Cream. It's a staple of life in the Lone Star State - generations of kids in Texas have grown up eating and loving Blue Bell.
Now a mixed race family from Louisiana is asking the company to change the name of one of their flavors.
If you purchase a gallon of "The Great Divide", you're treated to a half-and-half container of chocolate and vanilla ice cream. Classic.
But Traci Schmidley and her husband, parents of a bi-racial family, aren't fans of the ice cream's branding. They claim that after they recently bought a gallon of the flavor, one of their children compared it to the Civil War.
In a recent op-ed, Traci wrote, “The line down the middle of the carton reminded him of the Mason Dixon line, and the name reminded him of a time in history when our nation appeared to be irrevocably divided. He looked at our table and saw a mixture of both black and white people, not divided on one side or another like in the ice cream but gathered around the table together.”
Traci says her children, "didn’t think the name ‘great divide’ was the best name for something."
Now Traci and her kids are asking the ice cream maker to change the name and the sentiment is being repeated by a small outspoken minority on social media. Some are even applauding the children for making this observation and request to the ice cream makers.
But are Traci and her kids drawing a line (figuratively speaking) where it doesn't exist?
Short answer: yes.
The term "The Great Divide" actually has nothing to do with racial division, the Civil War, or the Mason Dixon line.
In fact, it's a scientific term. Geologists refer to the "The Great Divide" as the longest divide on Earth, often associated with the Continental Divide of the Americas, which is a red trace running along the spine of the mountains at the right Alaska to South America. The Great Divide can also refer to any major hydrological divide or topographical divide separating ocean draining watersheds.
Coincidentally, The Great Divide is also the name of a mountain bike trail, several movies, songs, a French comic book, a craft brewery in Colorado and a host of other things that have nothing to do with racism or the Civil War.
I guess what I'm saying is, it's just ice cream. Calm down. We as a nation have a tendency to try to make everything about race. We sometimes claim to see racial undertones and racist rhetoric in places where they simply don't exist. And sometimes, when a subtle observation from a child about delicate matters like race or gender gets picked up by the media and regurgitated into the 24-hour cable news cycle, people tend to overreact and make absurd demands or requests from companies and individuals who never intended to offend anyone with their products or services.
Even still, Blue Bell is a family friendly company and it's very likely that changing the name of the ice cream could create positive publicity for them. If they did it, I wouldn't necessarily blame them for seizing on an opportunity to sell more ice cream.
If they inevitably end up changing the name of the ice cream flavor, would that be evidence of them folding to social justice warriors or just trying to create a positive spin for their company in a world filled with overly sensitive news consumers with a 15 minute memory for their outrage? Maybe, maybe not.
Time will tell and, while we're waiting to find out the answer, I'm gonna enjoy some delicious Blue Bell Ice Cream. Chocolate and vanilla, anyone?