Blue Bell is “impressed,” and “humbled” by their suggestion.
It was a normal day in the Schmidley household. Traci Schmidley and her husband were treating their six children and a few of their friends to a little ice cream party at their home in rural Coushatta, Louisiana.
“A few days ago, we surprised the kids with some ice cream to celebrate the end of a week of hard work,” Schmidley recalled in a letter to Love What Matters. “We always buy Blue Bell, and this time we chose the flavor ‘The Great Divide,’ which has chocolate on one half and vanilla on the other half.”
Looking at the faces of his friends and siblings (two of which are adopted) enjoying their ice cream from across the family's oversized dining room table, it occurred to Schmidley’s 8-year-old son Kaleb that some people might misunderstand the name “The Great Divide.”
“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,” Schmidley explained.
After a group discussion, she encouraged her sons Isak, 10, Kaleb, and their friend Jayden, 11, to write a letter to Blue Bell suggesting a better name for the ice cream. It took them only 20 minutes to come up with something new: “Better Together.”
Schmidley shared the idea on Facebook as an open letter from the boys to the makers of Blue Bell:
“Hi Blue Bell! We love your ice cream! We all think Cookies and Cream is the best ice cream on the planet! Last week we had an ice cream party and we had the flavor the Great Divide. It’s a good flavor for parties because we can add a lot of unique toppings to it. But, 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.
Isak and Kaleb have lighter skin and Jayden has darker skin. But Isak and Kaleb also have a brother and sister adopted from foster care who have dark skin as well. We are all our own color and own flavor and there is no divide between us. We think we are all delicious in our own ways. So, we have a suggestion for a new name for your chocolate and vanilla ice cream flavor:
Thank you for taking the time to listen to our ideas. We love your ice cream. We think having a big bucket of Better Together chocolate and vanilla on dinner tables across the country will make our families and communities stronger than ever!”
The next morning, Schmidley woke up to thousands of notifications.
While most of the comments were positive—including many from other multiracial families—as the post gained momentum, Schmidley said the hateful comments started to roll in too.
"I've been called racist, pot-stirring, being divisive, a lot of profanity," Schmidley told Dallas Morning News. "Our intention is to be unifying. We don't want to cause division."
Eventually the post made its way to Blue Bell, and the Texas-based creamery was impressed—to say the least.
"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," Blue Bell spokeswoman, Jenny Van Dorf, told the Morning News. "We are so impressed by them and commend Traci for providing the environment where an important conversation like this can take place."
"We love the idea of 'better together' and especially the thoughtful sentiment behind it," she added.
According to Schmidley, a Blue Bell representative reached out to her family by phone and was “incredibly supportive of our family, complimentary toward the children, and not at all bothered or offended by our post,” she wrote in a Facebook update. “They actually loved it!”
Blue Bell has promised to send the kids a letter in return.
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Meanwhile, Kaleb is having trouble understanding why anyone would take issue with the idea. In a video message from the children Schmidley posted to Facebook on Friday, the 8 year old seemed genuinely befuddled.
“What?" he asked the camera. "It’s a better name!”