We all scream
Racially insensitive ice cream social invitations spark controversy at City Hall
By André Coleman 08/22/2013
How could an otherwise happy occasion like an ice cream social go so wrong?
Last week, invitations were emailed for City Manager Michael Beck’s Fifth Annual Ice Cream Social, to be held today.
However, what Beck did not know was the invitations contained what many City Hall workers considered to be a racially insensitive depiction of Oscar Grant, the 22-year-old African-American man who was shot to death on Jan. 1, 2009, by a Bay Area Transit guard while being detained on the landing at Fruitvale Station.
Grant’s killing sparked protests around the country. Johannes Mehserle, the BART guard who shot Grant, was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served 11 months in prison.
The invitation to Beck’s party contained illustrations for each stanza of the child’s verse, “You Scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream.”
The image of Michael B. Jordon, the actor who played Grant in the critically acclaimed film “Fruitvale Station,” about Grant and the incident that claimed his life, appeared under the portion marked “I scream,” with the image of Jordan in character squarely occupying the center of the online document.
The “You scream” portion of the invitation was depicted by a scene from the movie “Pacific Rim,” and the “We all scream” portion was represented by a scene from “Star Trek: Into Darkness.” In the invitation, a red and white ice cream bar is photo-shopped into Jordan’s hand.
However, shortly after the invitations were sent out, complaints came pouring in. After that, the Human Resources Department, which sent out the invitations, issued an apology letter to city employees.
Beck said he did not approve the invitation before it was emailed to employees and ordered that it be redone and that an apology be issued.
The poster was later replaced with images from “Monsters University,” “Turbo” and “Despicable Me 2.”
“The flier had not been approved by the City Manager,” states the apology letter sent out by the Human Resources Department. “In fact, once he [Beck] saw it he had it immediately changed.”
“The original poster was not intended to offend anybody,” Beck told the Weekly. “It was for an opportunity for people to gather and interact together and the poster did not represent that or the value of the organization and as soon as it went out it was replaced with a substitute one until a suitable one could be done.”