The owner of a Fort Worth, Texas, bar saw nothing wrong with a sign that read, “SHUT UP NIGGER,” to the point where said sign is only coming down, reluctantly, after two customers shared photos on Facebook.
According to James Emerson, the owner of Jim’s Rodeo Tavern, the sign was a sort of memorial to a regular customer who died back in 2016, the Dallas Morning News reports.
Underneath the offensive slogan, there was more text that read, “RIP Teresa Kidwell, 1-5-16.” The Morning News notes that an obituary for Kidwell shows a photo of a white woman, but Emerson said the phrase was a favorite of Kidwell’s, one that she used with everyone, even white people.
So, I guess that means it’s not offensive.
“It was kind of a joke,” Emerson said. “It was never indicative of anything racial.”
Owen McGrath and Jesse Bunting, who run another bar nearby, posted the photos to their Facebook page. The two had gone to Emerson’s bar for beers Monday when McGrath saw the sign.
“Rodeo Tavern has this alongside a confederate flag and an old rifle on their walls,” he wrote in the caption. “This is not something that can be condoned, it’s not something I’m willing to stay quiet about either. This does not represent my city.”
“I got very uncomfortable very quickly,” McGrath told the Morning News. “I took a picture because I couldn’t believe it was there.”
McGrath said that Bunting asked the bartender what the deal was with the sign, but she just shrugged it off. The men finished their beers and left without saying anything. McGrath said he avoided confrontation as he was worried about any harm or prejudice he could face as a gay man.
“That’s the only reason I didn’t say anything in the moment,” he said. “I don’t want to put myself in that situation in case that’s an issue.”
Bunting said he just wanted to get out of the bar.
“At first we didn’t plan on putting it on the internet or anything,” Bunting said. “We just talked about it, and we felt the service community in the area should know this, so if they plan to go there or even apply for a job there, they would know what was posted.”
Emerson, however, said that many of his customers are Hispanic and that he’d never had any issues with the sign.
“Everybody’s welcome there,” he said of his bar, “and we’ve never had that complaint.”
Emerson said that he believed the offensive slur, used to denigrate black people, meant “worthless person.” Nonetheless, he said he wishes that Bunting and McGrath had complained to him or one of the employees about the sign, as he says he never heard a word about it until a reporter contacted him.
“We’re in competition with them,” Emerson said. “We have a good clientele. We have good people. We have few, if any, problems. ... To my knowledge, they’re just out to make trouble.”
“If they had said something, we would have understood that it was bothersome to them, and we would have taken it down,” he added.