An insurance agency employee based in Millinocket, Maine, has apologized and taken responsibility for a racist sign that appeared in the business’s window on Juneteenth, the federal holiday that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.
The sign, which said “it’s whatever” and called on people to “enjoy your fried chicken and collard greens”, was met with uproar when shared across social media, leading Progressive to sever ties with the insurance agency.
Allstate, which has been approached for comment, has also reportedly ditched the insurance agency.
In an apology letter, shared on insurance agency Harry E Reed’s Facebook page, Melanie Higgins, reportedly the daughter of Harry E Reed owner Karen Hansen, claimed responsibility for the sign and its contents.
“I would like to publicly apologise for any misunderstanding or hurt that has arisen out of my usual, snarky office closure signs and content,” Higgins said in the post.
Higgins confirmed she had been “reprimanded” but did not share further details on what this had involved.
Higgins said she “quickly wrote the note” after a death in the family, and said that she would “never in any facet of the word be characterized a racist.”
Higgins, who claimed to be “overweight” and “multi-racial”, said she had been posting food-related signs since the COVID pandemic hit in 2020, having previously shared signs about hot dogs, cake, snacks, and burgers.
The agency worker claimed that she often used humor to “lighten” situations, “often at my own expense”.
“I am so sorry for any pain I have caused and the negative attention it has brought to our community,” Higgins said.
The insurance worker urged people not to “chastise” Hansen, who Higgins said had nothing to do with the sign “in any capacity”.
“I apologise deeply to my employers of Reeds Insurance Agency for having brought on turmoil and distaste and hatred to their long-standing business in this community,” Higgins said.
The sign met with condemnation this week when it was shared on social media by a passer-by.
Millinocket Town Council chair Steve Golieb said on Tuesday that the sign displayed a “basic disregard of human decency”.
The town “does not accept or endorse anything short of inclusivity”, Golieb said in a statement.
Harry E Reed’s phoneline was unavailable when Insurance Business attempted to reach out for comment.