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The Indian chief and the barbecue

Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

An interesting thread developed in response to my post yesterday on Pappy Red’s BBQ – a well established Cumming barbecue restaurant that recently set up shop on Chattahoochee Ave. (The sign reads “P. Red’s BBQ”).

My 13-year-old daughter, who is very attuned to issues of  justice and wrongdoing, was offended by all the representations of Native Americans in the decor — lots of stern-faced chiefs in headdresses. She was so incensed that she wanted to talk to the owners. I dissuaded her with a “maybe next time” as we were in a bit of a hurry.

I mentioned this exchange in the comments section, and a couple of readers responded that I should have let her express her offense.

What do you think? Have you ever gone to a restaurant and been put off by racial or cultural stereotyping in the decor?

25 comments Add your comment

BuHi

October 13th, 2010
12:06 pm

It’s not too late! Someone better get on to these guys for racial stereotyping as well: http://festivals.stonemountainpark.com/mini-section/default.aspx?id=41

Last I checked, a lot of “Native Americans” were pretty proud of their stern faces, feathered headdresses and heathen dancing to drums… (I’ve got some of that blood in me and I’m more put off by bad barbecue than I ever would be by a wooden Indian)

Cekker

October 13th, 2010
12:16 pm

Unless the representations are truly despicable, I would tell your daughter to lighten up or she will be perpetually offended by the Mexican restaurants that are adorned with velvet paintings of bullfighters and men in sombreros, and the Chinese restaurants chock full of Buddhas and palace girls wrapped in silk, and the Japanese steakhouses festooned with geisha girls and Noh dancers and the German beer halls with their tankards featuring lusty frauleins and dudes in lederhosen. There are way too many real injustices in this world to get worked up about rather than tacky restaurant decor.

Kar

October 13th, 2010
1:46 pm

Hey, if sports teams and colleges have to be more aware of traditionally offensive mascots, why shouldn’t restaurants evolve? We also don’t have blackface revues, coolie hats or use ethnic words with negative connotations.

Understandably, some areas are more volatile than others. Reading psalms in class, teaching evolution, having Christmas pagenants or flying the Confederate flag are touchy, sometimes inflamable issues. Many times I hear people remark that these old flags, mammy dolls, rituals are their heritage too. I also hear that these were offensive to others “back in the day” too. Not everyone may have felt able to voice their complaints but the tension was there if you look.

Bottomline, if you know that your decor offends a portion of your customer base, why would you keep it?

RK

October 13th, 2010
1:51 pm

Did you have a reservation? Did you give her the food, but then take it back?

Trying to remember the other references to that Seinfeld episode…

BuHi

October 13th, 2010
2:17 pm

I know I came off as flippant in my initial comment, but I guess the point is this – if you don’t like a place, whether it’s because of it’s decor, it’s food, it’s politics, it’s location, whatever – just don’t go there. John, it’s great that your daughter is attuned to injustices and wrongdoing, but my great fear is that we’re all becoming TOO attuned to injustice and wrongdoing and then we all end up getting “offended” at the least little thing.

For a pretty whitebread looking guy, I have a lot of different cultures mixed up in me, including the aforementioned Cherokee. However, if I got “offended” every time I saw reference to someone or something that caused injustice or harm to my family in the past, I’d be a quivering mass of jelly. The Bolsheviks destroyed part of my family in 1917 (furry hats don’t offend me), Native Americans killed part of my family in the Colee Massacre of 1836 (uh oh, Native Americans? I’m conflicted), the British occupied Minorca – twice (damn, I’ve got an English last name), Poland was decimated by the Nazis, someone flipped me off on the way to work today…

I guess my point is – who cares if they have some wooden Indians around? We all just need to relax a little and focus on what’s important. All we can do is be good to each other NOW – we can’t undo the bad things that happened before we were around.

CB

October 13th, 2010
2:27 pm

I had been on a quest to avoid chains when travelling, and when driving through SC, I ended up at a place called Maurice’s BBQ. Aside from the Confederate flag, nothing really popped out at me at first, but after we had ordered, I noticed the literature table full of backwards looking and, without inspecting too much further, what looked to be racist propaganda. After taking note of this, I noticed that while the town we were in appeared to be predominantly black, all of the employees and all of the patrons were white. The food was OK, but the experience left a bad taste in my mouth. I would definitely not go back. I only wish I had picked up on the ridiculousness of the place before I had ordered…

Jackson Four

October 13th, 2010
3:33 pm

I actually had a dream about this topic which I discussed with my therapist. In my dream I had a recurring vision that I was a teepee. Then I was a wigwam. Back and forth it went – teepee, wigwam. Teepee, wigwam.

My doctor told me to relax – I was two tents!

HotlantaHobo

October 13th, 2010
4:50 pm

Here in Atlanta, we had the Pickrick Cafeteria run by Lester Maddox handing out axe handles but hopefully we don’t have anything like that anymore. Columbia had Maurice’s but it’s still doing what Lester Maddox did 45 years ago. Mammy’s Shanty (never went there, only was told about it) also made a shtick out of plantation attire and stereotypes, but it’s been closed for some time, I think.

As for the “Indian motifs”, the FSU Seminole mascot is actually approved of by the Seminole Nation, so not sure when these things become offensive. I suppose you have to watch 1930’s cartoons to determine what’s offensive nowadays. If it was considered funny then, it’s probably offensive now.

HotlantaHobo

October 13th, 2010
4:59 pm

I also recall there was a place called “Johnny Reb’s” here, again playing off the Rebel mythology. It did have one saving grace in that the great black organist, Graham Jackson played his Hammond there for years. He actually did a popular showpiece called “The Battle of Atlanta” which included the expected southern and northern songs as well as cannon and battle effects. The whole thing would be considered offensive now by many, but I really wish I could have heard that great man play. Jackson can be seen in a famous Life magazine photograph playing his concertina at the funeral of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

RK

October 13th, 2010
5:36 pm

I lived in Columbia for two years and refused to go to Maurice’s.

JIMBOB (aka James Robert)

October 13th, 2010
11:16 pm

I won’t eat at Einstein’s bagels until they get rid of those offensive elderly Jews from their logo.

Dunwoody Don

October 14th, 2010
7:08 am

Remember Sambo’s, a restaurant chain out of California that decorated the walls of its 1,200 nationwide locations with scenes from the story of Little Black Sambo? Blatant racial stereotyping by today’s standards, but seemingly harmless in the early ’70’s. I wish I was more sensitive way back then.

KoPP

October 14th, 2010
8:10 am

I still think you should let her speak her mind.

K

October 14th, 2010
8:59 am

99% of the time it’s really an ignorant-to-the-bone-and-very-proud-of-it type of thing rather than real racism. Happens to be a 10x tougher weed to deal with than plain old injustice.

kmb

October 14th, 2010
9:04 am

Maurice’s Bar B Que was owned by one of the best known segregationist in the state of South Carolina and the South for that matter.

John Kessler

October 14th, 2010
9:17 am

This brings back a memory of stopping in Maurice’s on a trip back from Charleston and having this sinking feeling of “Uh oh…what is this place?” I was kind of gratified that the barbecue was so poor….

Sophie's Choice

October 14th, 2010
10:34 am

Dunwoody Don– I remember Sambo’s. Rumor is that it actually became the chain now known as Denny’s (does anyone know if this is true?). For people who think it’s OK to have wooden Indians/etc. as decor: if you wouldn’t be comfortable seeing “pickaninny art” (a la Sambo’s) used as decor, why would you think using Native American parodies (because that’s what wooden Indians really are– parodies of the “stoic savage” used to sell things) is any less offensive?

Kirk

October 14th, 2010
10:57 am

I must admit, I’m confused as to how showing figures in a historical likeness is racial stereotyping? I’m no expert and can’t speak to the accuracy of the figures, but I do know some Native Americans did wear headdresses back in the day. It’s like calling a picture of a confederate soldier if full uniform insensitive and “racial stereotyping.” Am I missing something here – are the figures somehow portrayed in a negative fashion? If not, this is a really silly conversation.

BuHi

October 14th, 2010
2:43 pm

Kirk – you’re right. It is a silly conversation. That was the link in my first comment – it’s to the Stone Mountain Park Indian Festival and Pow-wow. I went last year. Funny, it was full of hundreds of people wearing headdresses, feathers, deer skins – making jewelry, sitting in teepees and dancing to drums. Rumor has it that they were actual “Indians”… Notice that they refer to themselves as “Indian” in the title of their own festival (how insensitive).

I live in Cumming...

October 14th, 2010
3:29 pm

…and Pappy Red’s was the first place I ate when we moved here 16 years ago – unfortunately, Pappy Red’s changed owner’s about 5 years ago and became PR’s Bar-B-Que. PR’s closed about a year ago –

John, do you get outside the perimeter much? I guess not…

RK

October 14th, 2010
3:46 pm

Maybe cigar-store Indian wood makes good smoke for BBQ?

blurb-o-mat

October 14th, 2010
8:14 pm

Do any of you remember Aunt Fanny’s Cabin in Smyrna? The menu was recited by a young African-American boy who would come to your table with a small chalkboard hanging from his neck. That was excruciating to me even in the 1980s when I was in high school and really didn’t know better.

FM Fats

October 14th, 2010
11:10 pm

I’ve spoken out in my life and I’ve held my tongue in my life. Guess which times I’m proud of?

Kar

October 15th, 2010
12:38 pm

Kirk, it matters to a lot of people. Historically accurate or not, displaying the likeness of someone others find offensive or have issues with their beliefs matters to folks. Heck, a number of tourists still won’t go to Stone Mountain park. Whether they have issues with the portraits on the stone wall or the background behind it’s creation, many people see it as a blight and an embarrassment from an earlier period.

Same reason others avoid antebellum house tours and others wouldn’t be seen at a St Patrick’s Day parade.

Just as Rich Iott if you doubt me.

Rupricht

October 15th, 2010
6:29 pm

Carey’s hamburgers on Highway 41 had the best burgers in the entire city, but the jukebox was filled with racial songs. They had a cleaner restaurant off of Collier Road as well. Both locations are gone now though.