WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (WETM) — An antique shop in Watkins Glen is coming under fire after two women confronted the owners for having a controversial sign on display.
Deja Robinson and Lyric Boothe were visiting Watkins Glen last Saturday when they came across the Country Taverns Treasures antique shop along the main strip. Inside, the pair found a sign with a racial slur and derogatory image on it.
“At first, I was shocked and then I looked at it closer and I thought, this is really what I think it is…and it’s something I’d seen in my textbooks, and in my history books, about how these signs were created to really just make fun of black Americans. So after I saw it and I realized, ‘okay it’s an antique, I can’t be angry,’ but then I took that back because it was a freshly stamped sign,” Robinson said.
Deja and Lyric told the two owners, who are husband and wife, it was racist and made them uncomfortable – to which the owners replied, it’s a part of American history.
“And I agreed – yes it is a part of our history, but it’s an ugly part. I didn’t want to enter a family store and have to be reminded that my people used to be targeted as, just kind of a joke.
What happened next is disputed between the two parties.
“As we were leaving – me and my friend – the man behind the counter said ‘well we only sell things for white people here anyway.’ And that didn’t make me feel good because it did acknowledge that it was a derogatory statement, but since I didn’t look like the average customer, it wouldn’t matter anyway,” Robinson said.
The owners denied both making that statement and being discriminatory.
“”All that was said to her on her way out was to have a nice day…We don’t care – they could be blue or purple or pink..I don’t care what color they are. I mean everybody’s money is just as green as ours,” Steven Jayne, co-owner of Country Haven Treasures said.
Jayne says he has no problem suing for defamation of character, and argues that Robinson should take up the fight with the company who makes the product.
The sign was originally on display, but the owner says she put it in a spot that is harder for people to find. Deja says that doesn’t make her feel any better, because it is still for sale.
Comparing the sign’s historical value to that of a swastika, Deja says Germans are embarrassed of that part of their history, whereas Americans have not yet reached that point. Therefore, this is part of a bigger picture.
“The question is – is that of historical value, or is that part of his systemic racism mentality?” Willie Jackson, Robinson’s grandfather, said.
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