June 28, 2022
People in the town of Millinocket, Maine, found their own ways to observe Juneteenth, a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Yet, a sign posted in the window of an insurance company has received the most attention after it not only dismissed the new holiday but also included a racist trope regarding Black people and fried chicken, reports The Washington Post.
“Juneteenth, it’s whatever … we’re closed,” the sign read outside of the Harry E. Reed Insurance Agency, according to a photo posted to social media. “Enjoy your fried chicken and collard greens.”
As the firm has faced backlash over the sign, insurance giants Allstate and Progressive announced this week they are dropping the Maine company, after days of national headlines. An Allstate spokesperson said in a statement to The Washington Post that the company had terminated its contract with the Harry E. Reed agency, which Allstate described as an “independent agent.”
“Our commitment to Inclusive Diversity and Equity is nonnegotiable and we take action when individuals violate our code of conduct,” a statement from Allstate said.
Progressive spokesperson Jeff Sibel told the Post that the company was “appalled by the sign recently posted at the Harry E. Reed Agency” and that Progressive was also terminating its relationship with the firm.
“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,” Sibel said in a statement. “The sign is in direct violation of that commitment and doesn’t align with our company’s Core Values and Code of Conduct.”
Melanie Higgins, who helps run the insurance firm with her mother, wrote in a Wednesday letter posted to Facebook that she had posted the sign. Higgins apologized “for any misunderstanding or hurt that has arisen out of my usual, snarky office closure signs and content” and said she had been reprimanded for her actions.
“My only explanation I can offer is I had a death in my family, and I just wanted to go home and I quickly wrote the note,” Higgins wrote, identifying herself as multiracial. “I can assure you all, truly, I would never in any facet of the word be characterized a racist. Nor would I purposely incite such acts.”
Messages left for the insurance firm were not immediately returned.
Research contact: @washingtonpost