Cook’s Garage, a restaurant in Lubbock, is under attack on social media for its racist wall decor.
The neon sign features a caricature of a black man reminiscent of a character in a 19th century minstrel show (in which white actors painted their faces black and mocked African-American culture) with the words “Coon-Chicken Inn” written on his teeth.
An upset customer, Jessica Rios, shared a picture of the sign on Facebook Wednesday night, which apparently spread quickly over social media. Though the picture has since been taken down, her angry post reached Cook’s management.
In a Thursday Facebook post, the restaurant responded to the controversy:
“We did not put this sign up to be derogatory, racist or to offend anyone. This is part of Americana History…just like everything else hung in our collection and buildings. Aunt Jemima, mammies, and lots of other black collectibles are highly sought after, as is Americana collectibles with white characters. The Coon Chicken Inn was an actual restaurant started in the 20’s. Again, we want to stress we do not intend to offend anyone, and are only preserving a part of history that should remind us all of the senselessness of racial prejudice.”
It’s the same argument people opposed to taking down monuments to Confederate soldiers have used.
In Ghost World, Thora Birch is a student that claims her research revealed that the fictional “Cook’s Chicken” was originally called “Coon’s Chicken.” Oddly, the restaurant under fire for the exact same image is called Cook’s Garage. – tip of the hat to Cate
While The Coon Chicken Inn may have been a real restaurant chain nearly 100 years ago, the caricature was deemed racist back then as well by the NAACP and the black community. According to blackpast.org, each location had a 12-foot “coon head” that served as the entrance. The imagery was used by owner Maxon Lester Graham, a white man, to attract customers. It was used on all promotional items and inspired menu items such as the “coon fried steak.”
The logo is one inspired by racist caricatures used during the time of slavery — and repeated for decades. Blackface is still commonly used in 2017, so being reminded “of the senselessness of racial prejudice” isn’t necessarily the issue at hand.
Some comments on the Cook’s Garage post highlighted just that. One woman wrote, “Maybe this part of ‘Americana history’ is absolute shit and shouldn’t be memorialized?” Another user commented, “History is there to teach and learn from not to keep bringing up and keeping the hate alive.”
Yes, it was a real place. There were lots of them.