Pizzeria Apologizes For ‘Not-Racist’ Watermelon And Fried Chicken ‘Pic-A-Nika’ Pizza (SCREENSHOTS)

A New York City pizzeria has apologized after its “Pic-a-nika” pizza, a curious blend of watermelon, baby arugula, fried chicken, ricotta, and bleu cheese — all slapped on a sunflower seed crust — caused outrage when someone noticed a sign advertising the concoction and uploaded a photo to Instagram. Many pointed out, quite reasonably, that the name (which is similar to a certain favored slur among the Tea Party), coupled with ingredients usually used to stereotype black people, might be just a teensy eensy bit racist — but the Pizza by Certé owner says this unholy and disgusting  combination of ingredients is here to stay.

“I went there today and there was a new pizza that they are selling called “pic-a-nika” which sounded very horrible when I read it. It was when I read the description I knew that the name was in fact racist,” a New Yorker told PIX 11.

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The internet responded with an onslaught of phone calls and messages denouncing the clearly racist name, leading the pizza shop to come up with an excuse: The name is also similar to “Picnic,” if one applies an Italian pronunciation. Pizzeria manager Victor Guzman says that he is aware of the issue but has no plan to take the pizza off the menu because it is one of the shop’s best sellers. He explained to PIX11 that the name is an “Italian pronunciation” based on how the owner’s father said the word “picnic.” The restaurant also posted a half-hearted “apology” on its Facebook page:

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Though the “picnic”  excuse seemed concrete to the management of the pizza shop, the Internet continued to hammer the pizza shop — especially with the commonly-believed urban legend that “picnic” originated with the phrase “pick-a-nig” or “pick-a-n*gger.” While this is not actually the origin of the word, which is derived from a 17th century French word, picque-nique, the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia notes that the setting in which lynchings occurred were rather picnic-like:

It is clear that picnic was not derived from “pick-a-n*gger,” “pick-a-nig,” or similar racist phrases. However, some of the almost 4,000 blacks who were lynched between 1882 and 1962 were lynched in settings that are appropriately described as picnic-like. Phillip Dray, a historian, stated: “Lynching was an undeniable part of daily life, as distinctly American as baseball games and church suppers. Men brought their wives and children to the events, posed for commemorative photographs, and purchased souvenirs of the occasion as if they had been at a company picnic.” 2 Bray did not exaggerate. At the end of the 19th century, Henry Smith, a mentally challenged 17-year-old black male, was accused of killing a white girl. Before a cheering crowd of hundreds, Smith was made to sit on a “parade float” drawn by four white horses. The float circled numerous times before the excited crowd tortured, then burned Smith alive. 3 After the lynching the crowd celebrated and collected body parts as souvenirs.

Often the lynch mob acted with haste, but on other occasions the lynching was a long-drawn out affair with speeches, food-eating, and, unfortunately, ritualistic and sadistic torture: victims were dragged behind cars, pierced with knives, burned with hot irons or blowtorches, had their fingers and toes cut off, had their eyes cut out, and were castrated — all before being hanged or burned to death. One Mississippi newspaper referred to these gruesome acts as “Negro barbeques.” 4

In many cases — arguably in most cases — lynch mobs had a particular target and confined their heinous aggression to a specific person. Blacks were lynched for a variety of accusations, ranging from murder, and rape (often not true), to trying to vote, and arguing with a white man. In 1938, a white man in Oxford, Mississippi declared that it was “about time to have another lynching. When the niggers get so they are not afraid of being lynched, it is time to put the fear in them.” 5 There were many blacks lynched randomly, to send a message of white supremacy to black communities. As noted by Dominic J. Capeci, a historian, when it came to lynching, “one black man served as well as another.” 6

But the common belief in the word’s alleged origins exists, and watermelon and fried chicken are common stereotypes applied to black people. Nevertheless, many of our friends on the Right just don’t see a problem with it. When Fox News reported the controversy, its audience jumped in with their own colorful commentary about “kuhns” who are upset by this fairly blatant display of racism:

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Eventually, the pizza shop caved. While they still intend to sell the pizza under its new name, Pizza by Certé eventually issued something that resembles an actual apology. promising to “make amends” for their actions:

To the people of New York City and to those who were offended by the sign. And specifically and especially to the Black Community, we are (gravely,deeply, truly) sorry.

When we named the pizza “Pic-a-Nika” we disrespected an entire community, perpetuated a hurtful ideology and brought embarrassment to ourselves. In a time and climate when words carry so much change, we chose beyond poorly and cannot erase or ignore the damaging effects it has caused. It’s tough to think that we did something so HURTFUL. We made a shameful mistake. Once again, we are sorry.

We were fortunate to have individuals call the store and educate us to true harmful effects of our words. We now have a better understanding of the disappointment, frustration, anger and outrage felt. We know we’ve lost some of you and we can’t take it back but we stand by our philosophy: “If you are not satisfied, we will make it right.”

Thank you to everyone who left comments on our social media pages. Moving forward, we promise to do our due diligence to be more socially aware considerate. Pizza by Certe; is committed to treating everyone, employees and customers alike, with dignity and respect.

We WILL make amends.

While the name may or may not have been intended to be racist, a perfunctory glance at the Fox News crowd’s reaction to the controversy shows that it certainly had the effect of winning the withered hearts and feeble minds of the “White Lives Matter” crowd. It’s uplifting that maybe, just maybe, the pizzeria has learned a lesson from this.