Spinning Racism in a Restaurant

Tyrone Williams and Chauntyll Allen entered a Joe’s Crab Shack restaurant in Roseville, Minnesota to have dinner in celebration of Allen’s birthday. In addition to its food, the seafood chain is known for the eclectic decor at its eateries.

But when Williams and Allen sat down at their table, they noticed this old photo that was laid under the glass tabletop titled “Hanging at Groesbeck, Texas on April 12th, 1895.” A text bubble above the man being hanged reads, “All I said was, ‘I didn’t like the gumbo!’”

My first thoughts were jokes as poor in taste as the text bubble: “Come in for the hoods and robes, stay for the crab legs,” or “Hang around for the seafood gumbo,” and “Get a healthy bowl of racism with every Southern Style Catfish served.” But then, even though it was 121-year’s ago, joking over the death of a man, whether a convicted murderer or not isn’t in very good taste.

Instead of moving to another table or going else where for their lunch Allen and Williams had to make a mountain out of a molehill.

“We will no longer be eating at any Joe’s Crab Shack that supports White Supremacy and racism,” said Williams.

“They are trying to make a joke out of our black bodies being lynched and I had a real problem with that,” said Allen of the picture.

Her opinion was shared by Austin, Texas’ Black Lives Matter affiliate in a Facebook posting, “They actually used a real lynching photo.”

Unfortunately, because ignorance (or perhaps stupidity abounds) it has to be pointed out this wasn’t a lynching. It was an execution.

On May 3, 1894, a pioneer resident of Groesbeck, James Garrett McKinnon, was beaten to death with a stone and robbed. Richard Burleson was arrested for murder, tried and convicted and on April 12, 1895 the 21-year old man was legally hanged.

A great-grandson McKinnon’s researched the case and said Burleson was a freed slave who robbed his grandfather of a $20 gold piece. The two had been seen together earlier in the day.

“James offered Burleson a ride in his wagon, Burleson accepted, then clubbed James over the head with a rock,” Tom McKinnon of Arizona wrote of his research.

Prior to his execution, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas even took up his case, upholding his conviction in the end.

Ignite, the Houston-based corporate parent of the Crab Shack chain, issued a written apology and the table removed: “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.”

However, the apology is “not enough,” Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds said. She’s now pressuring the chain to make a donation to an organization focused on African-American youth.

So maybe a hefty cash infusion will wash away the ‘White guilt’ and the sins of the ‘White fathers,’ since James Garrett McKinnon life was only worth a $20 gold piece when Burleson caved his head in.

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