Casual chain restaurants are given a lot of leeway with their decor. Want to put some college pennants on the wall? Go right ahead. A fake porthole on the bathroom? Sure, why not. A dirty old Squier Stratocaster hanging from the ceiling? That’s America, baby! Lynching photos? Slow your roll, my man.
The Joe’s Crab Shack location in Roseville, Minnesota did not get the memo. Tyrone Williams and Chauntyll Allen were dining their Wednesday night when they noticed the above photo, which is captioned “Hanging at Groesbeck, Texas on April 12th 1895.” The man in the photo, who is black, has a speech bubble which reads “All I said was I didn’t like the gumbo!”
Heh. Get it?
The local NAACP chapter condemned the restaurant fiercely. “This disturbing incident that occurred at Joe’s Crab Shack, demonstrates that racism is still alive and well in this country. It is sickening to know that someone would make a mockery of black men being savagely lynched and then use that imagery for decorative purposes in a restaurant,” Minneapolis president Nekima Levy-Pounds told NBC affiliate KARE.
The New York Daily News dug into death penalty records and found that the man being hanged in the picture is Richard Burleson, who was accused of killing someone with a rock. The specifics of Burleson’s alleged crime are not clear, but plenty of black people were lynched on specious charges.
Joe’s Crab shack quickly apologized. Its statement read:
“We understand one of the photos used in our table décor at our Joe’s Crab Shack location in Roseville, MN was offensive,” said David Catalano, COO Ignite Restaurant Group, Joe’s Crab Shack parent company. “We take this matter very seriously, and the photo in question was immediately removed. We sincerely apologize to our guests who were disturbed by the image and we look forward to continuing to serve the Roseville community.”