Signature food dishes are essential to any ethnic culture, and Black people are very familiar with soul food staples like macaroni and cheese, sweet potato pie and the glorious combination of collard greens with fried chicken, just to name a few.
Unfortunately, that cultural fact can and has been used by bigots as material for racist jokes and commentary, which one insurance agency in Millinocket, Maine, attempted to pull recently after apparently being angry that it was being forced to closed in recognition of the Juneteenth federal holiday on Monday.
Many social media users like the one seen above took notice of the sign outside of Harry E Reed Insurance Inc., which read, “Juneteenth ~ it’s whatever… we’re closed. Enjoy your fried chicken & collard greens.”
The outcry from locals caused mainstream insurance companies like Progressive and Allstate to end relationships with the agency, according to NPR, which also reported that a mass amount of people have begun leaving one-star reviews under their business pages on Google and Yelp. Their current Google reviews rating currently puts them at 1.5 stars.
Read a quote below from Progressive spokesperson Jeff Sibel that was sent out in an email from the company in response to all the controversy:
“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.”
Millinocket Town Council Chairman Steve Golieb shared similar sentiments in his own statement released on Tuesday, writing, “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.” He went on to add, “There is no place in the Town of Millinocket for such a blatant disregard of human decency.”
Allstate’s response was a bit more direct, telling NPR, “We are terminating our contract with this independent agent. Our commitment to Inclusive Diversity and Equity is non-negotiable and we take action when individuals violate our code of conduct.”
While it’s unfortunate that something like this had to occur on the second-ever Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday, it’s also comforting to see action being taken so swiftly that will prove behavior like this can no longer be tolerated on a passive-aggressive level.
Hope you all had a Happy Juneteenth!
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