Could a big tub ice cream help bring people together? One family from rural Louisiana thinks so.
When the Schmidley family, which includes six children — some biological, some foster and a mix of races — sat down to enjoy Blue Bell ice cream recently, they wound up sparking a surprising debate about the name of flavor.
After choosing the “Great Divide," which is half chocolate and half vanilla, as a reward at the end of a week of schoolwork, the Schmidley's 10-year-old son commented that it should be called “the Civil War flavor,” according to a post on LoveWhatMatters.com, where mom Traci Schmidley first shared herstory.
From the perspective of the child, who was just recently studying the Civil War, he said the line down 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.”
As a learning opportunity, Schmidley, who homeschools her children, suggested the kids brainstorm a better name for the flavor that “could capture the intent of Blue Bell ice cream but would reflect the remarkable progress our country has made.”
It didn’t take long before they had come up with a new name: Better Together.
The family then wrote a letter to Blue Bell with the suggestion and also posted the letter to Facebook, where it has since gone viral. The kids wrote, "We began to talk about the name and we think some people might misunderstand the name and think the name the Great Divide is about people and the division that exists in our world because of different skin colors."
Of course, they’ve since gotten their share of criticism from people claiming they are being divisive or even “racist” — but plenty of others are rallying behind the idea of a name change, too.
Schmidley’s reaction to the divisive claims? Absolutely not. “[The kids] are precious people, with beautiful hearts, who just didn’t think the name ‘great divide’ was the best name for something as wonderfully unifying as Blue Bell ice cream.”
So what does the Texas-based ice cream maker think of the idea?
While Blue Bell said it doesn't have plans to change the name anytime soon (the company says the name comes from the thought that families shouldn’t have to choose between two favorites but can enjoy the most popular flavors in one container), a spokesperson said they loved the sentiment behind “Better Together.”
“We were amazed when we read the letter, by their thoughtfulness and their compassion for all people, and we are humbled by their love of our ice cream,” Jenny Van Dorf, public relations manager for Blue Bell, told TODAY Food by email. “We are so impressed by them and commend Traci for providing the environment where an important conversation like this can take place.”
Schmidley posted on Facebook that Blue Bell reached out to her family, too. “They were incredibly supportive of our family, complimentary toward the children, and not at all bothered or offended by our post. They actually loved it!”