Maine residents are outraged after a June 19 sign in the window of a Millinocket business radiated far beyond the local community.
An image of the sign circulated the internet on Monday, prompting thousands of reactions on social media platforms. Maine resident Alura Stillwagon originally posted it on Facebook with the caption, “Racism in Millinocket is real.”
Her photo showed a piece of paper taped to a store window, with a print proclaiming “Juneteenth”. The next lines added: “That’s bullshit…we’re closed. Enjoy your fried chicken and collard greens.”
A second photo identified the company as Harry E. Reed Insurance. NewsweekCalls to the insurance agency went unanswered.
“My first reaction was disbelief, I just couldn’t understand someone posting this without seeing anything wrong with it,” Stillwagon said. Newsweek. “Millinocket is a predominantly white city, and I just thought of the few people of color who must see this racism in their own city.”
What is Juneteenth?
Celebrated on June 19, Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when 250,000 enslaved African Americans in Texas learned that the Civil War was over and they were legally freed. You can read more here.
Is it a public holiday?
Congress made the event a federal holiday on June 16, 2021, and it was signed into law by President Joe Biden the following day.
However, public and media interest in Juneteenth has dropped sharply since last year. The occasion is not universally recognized in the United States – about 24 states, including Maine, have made it a national holiday.
In some states, the holiday has highlighted bitter national divisions. White Lives Matter, a white nationalist group, protested the second annual June 19 observance in Franklin, Tennessee. Young white men marched with signs reading “Stop White Replacement” and “It’s ok to be white”.
Harry E. Reed Insurance has a one-star rating on Google reviews, although all but one of 131 reviews have been hidden.
A one-star review written on Yelp on Tuesday reposted the photo of the sign, along with the sarcastic message: “I’ve been insuring my KKK balaclava, grandmaster robes and Confederate flags for years with this company. Watching them do a racist and The discolored “chicken and cabbage” remark is appalling.”
On a Reddit forum, an image of the Juneteenth sign garnered more than 45,000 votes. Commenters flocked to share their disgust at the company’s outright use of racist stereotypes about black Americans.
“The amount of racist tailoring and bubbling in this single sheet of paper is insane. What a f**k,” one comment read.
“Pleasant [and] an easy way to show everyone and the community that your business is racist and ignorant and doesn’t deserve any customers/clients,” another user posted.
A self-proclaimed Maine resident said, “This state is going through an exceptionally tough time with this holiday. I’ve been everywhere since Wednesday and I’ve heard people left and right pissing and moaning about it.”