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Insurance Company In Hot Water After Posting Racist Juneteenth Sign About 'Fried Chicken & Collard Greens'

Insurance Company In Hot Water After Posting Racist Juneteenth Sign About 'Fried Chicken & Collard Greens'
Alura Stillwagon/Facebook

It seems like it shouldn’t be that difficult to not be racist. If you’re ever unsure something you’re doing might be offensive, just don’t do it.

That simple, right?

Not for an insurance agency in Millinocket, Maine. The residents of the small town were upset over a sign posted on the window of the Harry E. Reed insurance agency this last Monday.

It was shared online by Alura Stillwagon to her Facebook page.

@Alura Stillwagon/Facebook

The sign reads:

“Juneteenth ~it’s whatever... We’re closed. Enjoy your fried chicken & collard greens.”

Many took offense at the sign, as a reinforcement of stereotypes of Black people.

Juneteenth is a new federal holiday, recognizing the date of announcement of General Order No. 3, which enforced the freedom of enslaved people in Texas in 1865.

The holiday, which is celebrated on June 19th, isn’t the day the civil war ended, nor is it the day people were freed everywhere in the country. But it marked an important step toward freedom, that is recognized in yearly celebrations.

On the other hand, fried chicken was originally a dog whistle that became a codified racist stereotype for Black people due to a century and a half of negative associations.

It was even used in the Klu Klux Klan film, Birth of a Nation to make fun of Black people.

Which is why people were not happy about a sign that drew this kind of connection between the holiday and fried chicken.

After the image went viral, the residents of the small, 4000-person town responded.

Stillwagon initially thought it was something random her mother saw on Facebook. But when her mother said it was a business in their town, she was disgusted.

She said:

“People have this idea that Maine isn’t very racist and that it’s pretty liberal. But up north, it’s not like that at all.”

On top of the town residents being angry, the insurance agency is in monetary danger. Two insurance companies have withdrawn their partnerships with the agency—Progressive and Allstate.

Progressive released a statement, saying:

“At Progressive, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) are fundamental to our Core Values.”
‘We’re committed to creating an environment where our people feel welcomed, valued and respected and expect that anyone representing Progressive to take part in this commitment.”
“The sign is in direct violation of that commitment and doesn’t align with our company’s Core Values and Code of Conduct.”

The company has freedom of speech which they exercised, but they don’t have freedom from consequences.

The Harry E Reed Insurance Agency has not responded to any publication’s request for comment.

In the meantime, the town council for Millinocket released a statement regarding the sign.

It said:

“It is deeply saddening, disgraceful and unacceptable for any person, business, or organization to attempt to make light of Juneteenth and what it represents for millions of slaves and their living descendants.”
“There is no place in the Town of Millinocket for such a blatant disregard of human decency.”

Two other businesses are being impacted by Harry E. Reed Insurance Agency's poor choices.

Millinocket Insurance Agency—located near Reed's offices on Penobscot Avenue—and another business in Damariscotta, Maine called Reed Family Insurance Advisors are receiving calls and messages by people upset about the sign.

Neither company is affiliated with Harry E. Reed Insurance Agency in any way.