Allstate, Progressive drop Maine insurance firm over racist ‘fried chicken’ Juneteenth sign

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Folks in the town of Millinocket, Maine, found their individual approaches to observe Juneteenth, a federal getaway commemorating the conclude of slavery in the United States. Yet a indicator posted in the window of an insurance coverage organization has obtained the most interest soon after it not only dismissed the new holiday break but also included a racist trope concerning Black people and fried chicken.

“Juneteenth, it’s no matter what … we’re shut,” the sign go through outside the house of the Harry E. Reed Insurance policy Agency, according to a photograph posted to social media. “Enjoy your fried chicken and collard greens.”

As the company has faced backlash about the indicator, insurance giants Allstate and Progressive declared this week they are dropping the Maine business, following times of nationwide headlines. An Allstate spokesperson reported in a assertion to The Washington Write-up that the organization had terminated its agreement with the Harry E. Reed company, which Allstate described as an “independent agent.”

“Our commitment to Inclusive Range and Equity is nonnegotiable and we take action when folks violate our code of conduct,” a assertion from Allstate claimed.

Progressive spokesperson Jeff Sibel explained to The Submit that the firm was “appalled by the indication a short while ago posted at the Harry E. Reed Agency” and that Progressive was also terminating its relationship with the organization.

“We’re dedicated to building an environment the place our persons come to feel welcomed, valued and highly regarded and expect that any individual representing Progressive to acquire component in this determination,” Sibel claimed in a assertion. “The indication is in immediate violation of that dedication and does not align with our company’s Main Values and Code of Conduct.”

Melanie Higgins, who assists run the insurance policy agency with her mom, wrote in a Wednesday letter posted to Facebook that she had posted the signal. Higgins apologized “for any misunderstanding or damage that has arisen out of my usual, snarky office environment closure symptoms and content” and claimed she had been reprimanded for her actions.

“My only rationalization I can give is I had a death in my relatives and I just desired to go residence and I speedily wrote the note,” Higgins wrote, figuring out herself as multiracial. “I can assure you all, actually, I would by no means in any side of the term be characterized a racist. Nor would I purposely incite these acts.”

Messages left for the insurance policies firm were being not straight away returned on Thursday.

Juneteenth recognizes the activities of June 19, 1865, when people enslaved in Galveston, Tex., figured out they ended up absolutely free extra than two many years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. The future 12 months marked the very first Juneteenth celebration statewide, and it has been a cultural mainstay considering that then, with parades, cookouts, art shows, and game titles. Texas was the 1st condition to make Juneteenth an official holiday getaway, in 1979.

Immediately after Juneteenth was produced a federal getaway final calendar year, some Black leaders were concerned that its historical significance would be co-opted by blowout income on mattresses or patio home furnishings — considerably like Memorial Working day and the Fourth of July. Some organizations have confronted social media blowback for early missteps. Between them was the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, which advertised a “Juneteenth watermelon salad” in its foods court docket — using another food items that is been weaponized as a racist trope to belittle Black people today, according to the National Museum of African American Heritage and Lifestyle. The museum then dropped it and issued an apology after blowback.

Some experts have argued that the backlink concerning the Black neighborhood and fried rooster stems from a heritage in which enslaved Africans turned their ability at frying chickens into successful entrepreneurship. Marcia Chatelain, a professor of background and African American research at Georgetown University, wrote in The Submit in 2019 that even though there is been a long association among fried chicken and African American foodstuff tradition, the link has been twisted into a racist trope.

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“Despite these optimistic connotations, fried chicken has also generally been utilized as a prop in well-liked culture to degrade black men and women,” wrote Chatelain, who later gained the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for history. “D.W. Griffith’s 1915 celebration of the Ku Klux Klan, ‘The Beginning of a Nation,’ integrated a scene that includes Reconstruction-period black legislators feasting on hen for the duration of a formal continuing. This pejorative stereotype has remained section of our popular culture — on many instances during his profession, peers have made tasteless fried chicken jokes about Tiger Woods, for illustration.”

Which arrived first: The fried rooster or the racist trope?

About 71 miles north of Bangor, Millinocket is a town of about 4,200 with a populace that is about 98 per cent White, according to census information. Less than 1 per cent of the population is Black, details shows.

The signal in entrance of the insurance policy firm to start with received awareness on Monday, when Millinocket resident Alura Stillwagon posted a photograph of the sign to Facebook.

“The racism in Millinocket is actual,” she wrote.

Higgins wrote in her letter that she has posted closure symptoms with “humor to lighten” situations since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. She pointed out a person instance to WCSH in Portland, Maine, in which she thanked all services customers for their service on Memorial Day.

“A country now that is heading to hell in a hand basket more rapidly than my puppy stealing a piece of pizza off the counter … now that I point out pizza, I’m craving it … try to remember, the extra you weigh, the harder you are to kidnap,” she wrote.

But the indication on Juneteenth echoing the racist trope was a different story, city officers said. Steve Golieb, chair of the Millinocket City Council, claimed in a assertion this 7 days that it was “deeply saddening, disgraceful and unacceptable for any person, organization, or firm to attempt to make gentle of Juneteenth and what it signifies for tens of millions of slaves and their residing descendants.”

“There is no area in the Town of Millinocket for this sort of a blatant disregard of human decency,” he claimed.

Due to the fact the sign was posted, on the internet critics have still left a single-star testimonials for the business enterprise on Google and Yelp, several of them mentioning the Juneteenth be aware.

“The photo claims it all,” one reviewer wrote on Google.

Other insurance policies providers in Millinocket and around Maine have confronted blowback from people today imagining they had posted the signal. Even even though it is about 150 miles absent from Millinocket, the owner of Reed Family members Insurance plan Advisors in Damariscotta, Maine, told WGME his enterprise has been flooded with indignant voice mails and reviews.

“We are not affiliated nor linked with it,” Nate Reed reported. “It just takes place to be the identical final title.”

A very similar issue has absent on with Millinocket Insurance policy Agency. Proprietor Lori Velocity advised WABI that the phone numbers of the two firms are virtually equivalent and that it has been inundated with criticism.

“We take pleasure in what Juneteenth stands for and we are not racist,” Pace wrote on Facebook accompanying a indication of their Juneteenth indication telling shoppers, “Have a safe and Delighted Holiday getaway weekend!”

Golieb advised WCSH that the city is now striving to uncover a way forward, stressing that “an regrettable incident like this does not characterize who we are as a community.” Soon after noting to the outlet that the business enterprise has acquired loss of life threats, Higgins reiterated her remorse for what’s happened.

“I truly apologize,” she reported. “I’m mortified that this is even taking place.”

Samantha Cherry, Lateshia Beachum, Jacob Bogage and Jonathan Edwards contributed to this report.

Maria Flores

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