A bar owner in Michigan has apologized for the insensitive, racially tinged gift he gave to his biracial employee on Martin Luther King Day: A watermelon with the phrases, “Happy 1/2 MLK Day” and “Happy Black Day” scrawled on it in black marker, according to FOX 5.
The news station notes that an employee of Darb’s Tavern and Eatery in Mason was given the watermelon by her co-workers on the holiday that celebrates the civil rights leader’s birthday. The employee’s mother, Kelly Martin Avery, posted images of the watermelon on Facebook over the weekend with an angry post that called out her daughter’s boss for his actions.
“I’ve sat and stewed on this and am furious about this. Decided to post and see what everyone thinks. My daughter got this on MLK Day because her work, including her boss, thought this was OK. It is NOT. Come on people. This is awful on so many levels,” she wrote.
The boss has also allegedly referred to his employee as “Halfsy” in the past, Ms. Aimery claimed in her Facebook post.
The post ultimately generated more than 700 comments and was shared more than 400 times, says the Lansing State Journal.
In response to the claims, the bar’s owner, Rob Hearit, took to Facebook on Monday night and made amends for the “gift,” which he said was meant to be a “friendly joke,” but instead was in “poor taste and offensive.”
“Many of you have expressed your outrage over this incident, and you are right,” Hearit said in his Facebook response. “I take full responsibility. I saw the ‘gift’ and I didn’t stop it. In fact, in a lapse of judgment, I also joined our employees in signing it. While I thought it was an innocent inside joke between employees who are friends, as the owner I should have recognized the inadvertent message, stepped in and stopped this behavior.”
Mr. Hearit also claimed he would be attending sensitivity and diversity training to make up for his problematic actions.
The employee who was gifted the watermelon was not available for comment. Ms. Aimery told reporters that she would be looking into legal action against the boss for the insensitive gift.