A sheriff’s deputy in Oakland County, Michigan has been fired after posting a picture depicting Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris as a jack-o-lantern carved in a watermelon.
Deputy Sherry A. Prose posted the photo to Facebook on Halloween, along with a picture of President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and President-Elect Biden as carved pumpkins.
You can see local news coverage here:
Prose was a semi-retired, part-time employee who had worked at the Sheriff’s Department in suburban Oakland County, just north of Detroit, for more than 30 years.
In a statement texted to local ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV, Prose defended herself and denied any wrongdoing.
“I worked hard in my law enforcement career and I am proud of the reputation I earned in my 30 plus years of service. I’m not a racist and never will be.”
But watermelons have a long history of being used as a racist symbol and stereotype against Black people, as far back as the Civil War.
Watermelons were a major cash crop grown by freed Black slaves after the War, for whom they became a symbol of freedom. In retaliation, Whites seized upon the watermelon as a way to mock Black people in everything from newspaper cartoons to minstrel-show songs (one of those songs, “N-word Love a Watermelon Ha! Ha! Ha!” survives to this day as the instantly recognizable jingle often played by ice cream trucks).
President of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, Reverend Wendell Anthony, told WXYZ that the aim of Prose’s post was clear.
“I believe that the intent was purposely structured to diminish and to dilute the significance of the first African American… vice president of these United States. To some people ignorance is bliss.”
Other local law enforcement officials also condemned the photo.
William Riley, Police Chief in another Detroit suburb, Inkster, told WXYZ that posts like Prose’s deepen the country’s debilitating divides and make first responders’ jobs all the more difficult.
“It does not help. That’s why we condemn it and condemn it loudly.”