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#MicroblogMondays 145: Patron

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I read a super interesting New Yorker piece about a barbecue restaurant called Piggie Park, owned and operated by a white supremacist who decorated his restaurant in confederate flags.  Kathleen Purvis spoke for many when she said, “When I learned about Bessinger’s history, I stopped buying his products. I followed a simple policy on the Piggie Park: I didn’t go there. Ever.”

Then he died and his kids took over, removing the flags and their father’s political point-of-view.  Which brought about the question that drives the New Yorker piece: Is it now okay to go to Piggie Park?  Some felt the old man and his hate was gone, and it was okay to patron the place.  Others felt that the legacy of hate and the history of hurt should still be driving the decision to avoid the place.

I don’t eat barbecue — that whole vegetarian thing — so I had to think about this question in terms of a favourite space.  What if the owner of my favourite restaurant started to spew hate speech?  No brainer — I would stop patronizing the place.  What if she died and her kids took over, keeping the same recipes but changing the personality of the space?  Could I eat there?

I don’t think I could.  For me, the food is tied to the experience, and I don’t think I would have much of an appetite if I walked into the space, thinking about what had happened before that point.

What about you?  Would you eat at your own personal Piggie Park if that happened?

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1. Results & Marks | Naba 10. Geochick 19. Virg� nia
2. Circle of Daydreams 11. Lori@ Laughing IS Conceivable 20. Nonsequiturchica
3. Anamika Agnihotri 12. Empty Arms, Broken Heart 21. Stephanie (Travelcraft Journal)
4. A Separate Life (Mali) 13. Shilpa 22. Different Shores
5. No Kidding in NZ (Mali) 14. Delenn 23. Pom
6. Isabelle 15. Traci York, Writer 24. Laughing IS Conceivable #2
7. Raven 16. the OCD infertile
8. Loribeth (The Road Less Travelled) 17. Journeywoman
9. Lori Lavender Luz 18. Pics and Posts

26 comments

1 Nabanita { 06.05.17 at 6:07 am }

I don’t think so. It would leave a bitter aftertaste.

2 Linda @ Circle of Daydreams { 06.05.17 at 7:25 am }

I’m not sure… I would forever think the way it was before was completely and utterly wrong, but…. if I thought his children had different views and were trying to create a new experience, then I might give it a go in order to support them and their attempts to change their corner of the world and make it kinder! Problem is though, how could I know what their intent really was at heart, or if it was purely a business proposition. Hmmmm… tricky.

3 a { 06.05.17 at 8:45 am }

I’m not really a ‘sins of the father’s kind of person. But it would probably take me a while to readjust my thinking.

4 Anamika Agnihotri { 06.05.17 at 8:54 am }

I wouldn’t, for sure.

5 Sadie { 06.05.17 at 9:57 am }

I don’t think it’s a question of ‘sins of the father’, so much as feeling a responsibility to distance ourselves from that kind of hate. So, if the kids made a conscious and visible effort to do just that, then I’d probably consider it. But if it was just ‘business as usual’, I wouldn’t even feel comfortable patronizing the place.

6 Raven { 06.05.17 at 10:08 am }

I wouldn’t. Not as long as it remained the same place that it was, with or without the racist owner, I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to put money in their pockets. There’s enough hate in the world, I am not going to spend my hard earned dollars supporting it.

HOWEVER – if they kids took over, and did a complete overhaul of the place to disconnect it from the racist past – then I might try it. But it would need a new name, new decorations, and honest attempts to rectify the tarnished reputation. I can’t blame his kids for his racist behaviour, but I would need to know there was absolutely no shared beliefs before I’d be willing to be a patron.

7 Raven { 06.05.17 at 10:13 am }

I have to add that I feel that way about anywhere I shop or eat. If I learn something unseemly about the owners or have too many bad experiences with the staff…I don’t spend my money there. As a middle class person, there is very little I have control over – but where I spend my money is one of them and I am not afraid to “vote with my dollars”. There are plenty of small, struggling business who are owned/run by good, honest people who would be happy to have my business. I’d rather spend my money where I know it’s going to support a good family, then give it to someone who is using it to continue to spew forth hatred.

8 Lori Lavender Luz { 06.05.17 at 10:18 am }

I like to believe that good can emerge, so I probably would try to investigate the next generation and if they seem to have reversed their father’s hate-orientation, I would give the place a chance. I would feel horrible if they turned out to be kind, inclusive people and I held a fixed bias against them. That’s exactly the kind of thing I do not want to perpetuate.

9 Geochick { 06.05.17 at 10:56 am }

I’m with Lori. I’d investigate to see if there was a change in ideology.

10 Geochick { 06.05.17 at 11:12 am }

In regards to the Piggie Park, after reading the article, I’d say no to returning. The son is trying to sweep it under the rug and is not acknowledging the damage.

11 Lori Shandle-Fox { 06.05.17 at 11:17 am }

There are so many other places to eat. If the new generation was completing reeling against the old stuff, I might but there are definitely companies I do or don’t patronize/ buy their products because of their open beliefs. Some are car companies that had Nazi ties and/ antisemitic beliefs. I know none of those people are alive anymore but I still won’t support the companies. Others are companies that support anti-gay causes and other things I don’t believe in. There are enough alternative options out there.

12 Journeywoman { 06.05.17 at 11:24 am }

My mother was a bigot. Not too outwardly racist, but enough that she spoke to me about her views of “others”. I am not. I would possibly go once and if the feel of the place was different I would return.

13 nonsequiturchica { 06.05.17 at 11:32 am }

If I was able to discern that the kids did not share the racist views of their father, then I might frequent the place. It would certainly help if not only they took down the flags, but also renounced his racist views. It also depends on whether the restaurant was located- there are probably other BBQ joints in the area that don’t come with that baggage.

14 Jill A. { 06.05.17 at 11:39 am }

Yes, I would eat in the restaurant run by the children. I have eaten at other restaurants that at one point in their history did not permit black patrons. I’ve gone to schools that were segregated at one time. I have walked into buildings, through doorways, that excluded all but whites. I am glad at the changes that have occurred.

15 Delenn { 06.05.17 at 12:03 pm }

This goes to a deeper issue of whether we ever forgive? What about Germany and Japan. Do people journey there and have distaste over what atrocities they have done? Does it stop them from going there? I think it depends on how it is handled. For example, both Germany and Japan spent a long time not only atoning for sins past, but re-educating their populace regarding that hatred and history. On the other hand, America, has had sharp divisions regarding the Civil War since the end of that war. Reconstruction was badly done, and we still have symbols of that hate–and that led to KKK, Jim Crow, etc.

So…in the small microcosm of the restaurant…if the new owners acknowledged the hatred and history of their place–if they made an effort to educate people on the wrongness of that…and how they have changed (ala George Wallace, say) and maybe making a gesture of donating proceeds to an organization defeating racism, etc. Then I would patronize them.

16 Cristy { 06.05.17 at 12:36 pm }

Like many, I think this warrants investigation. Both Lori’s brought up good points, with both the children potentially having a different mindset, but also there are companies whose founders had racial mindsets (*cough, Disney, *cough) and yet are open today.

Im also not a fan of “sins of the fathers.” Good people can arise from terrible circumstances. Philosophies can change. Sometimes they don’t.

As an aside, did you hear about Grace Slick and Chick-fil-A? That woman is a hero.

17 Alexicographer { 06.05.17 at 2:29 pm }

Interesting question, and I haven’t read the linked article. Like Jill A., I live somewhere that if I am frequenting a business (or school) that has been open 40+ years, it was segregated. When we drive together through town, my mom will still sometimes comment on which of the restaurants (etc.) integrated quickly, and which resisted. So I’m aware (at least in broad outline) of that history, but in all honesty, I don’t let that shape my decision about where to eat, though I will be guided by more recent history and have boycotted places — only based on their current ownership and practices, never past. I do also make sure my son is aware that the people who grew up living in our town who are my age or older either grew up in a segregated society (5 to 10 years older than me or more) or in one that was in the process of becoming integrated and where for our parents, integration was a novel experience — whether desired or not, it wasn’t something people were used to or accustomed to navigating, and the lived experiences of blacks and whites were starkly different even though de jure segregation was no longer allowed. Obviously we don’t live in a post-racial world, but even the world of de jure segregation is not ancient history, something I think we too often forget or ignore.

Many years ago I lived in a tiny town that had 2 convenience stores, and my neighbors told me to go to store A, not store B. They told me this was what they had been told by their landlady when they had moved in many years before. I learned that store A’s owner was a dirty old man (read: he tried to grope me, though I will say he stopped when I pushed him away) and shopped only at store B and not store A, but as this was the kind of community where people knew where you shopped, I mostly shopped out of town altogether to avoid the “issue” (how can this have been an issue?!). Years later than *that* I learned that the original landlady, a Southern Baptist, had preferred store A because it did not sell beer, whereas store B did. The more ironic because (a) none of the rest of us in this saga were teetotallers, by any stretch of the imagination and (b) store A had in any case long since started selling beer.

18 Traci York { 06.05.17 at 3:59 pm }

I don’t know that I could say for definite sure without doing some digging, should the hypothetical situation arise. I’d hate to make assumptions about the kids based solely on their DNA, but I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable dining in a place littered with echos from past awfulness. Food for thought (see what I did there? *grin*)

19 Lavonne @ the OCD infertile { 06.05.17 at 5:13 pm }

I think it would depend on how the “new place” went about it all. Do they acknowledge the change and publicly admit the wrong that was there before and why they have changed things. Or do they just try to make it go away without actually acknowledging there was any wrong doing before.

20 Chandra Lynn { 06.05.17 at 5:50 pm }

I’m a vegetarian too, but if it were another type of place (a grocery store, etc.), I’d have to take a long hard look at the principles of the current operators before patronizing the establishment. That’s how I operate. I don’t even listen to musicians who have committed heinous acts. I simply can’t listen to you sing beautiful love songs or uplifting songs when you’re an abuser.

21 Nicoleandmaggie { 06.05.17 at 8:37 pm }

I would definitely go– I want to reward positive change.

22 Working mom of 2 { 06.06.17 at 12:06 am }

Depends on how sincere the change is. I’ve avoided products from large multi-conglomerates for years based on their ethics re: animal testing, but if/when they change I give them a shot. That’s much different from racism though. I grew up in and live in California and while there’s certainly racism and racists here it’s not like the South as described above by others. Although the town next door had a history of race based restrictive covenants in property deeds.

Just read the article–not impressed. Saying you’re not interested in politics is not exactly denouncing racism and your father’s past. And the son’s “but I have black friends!”-type comment…

23 Stephanie (Travelcraft Journal) { 06.06.17 at 2:30 am }

I wouldn’t be against someone else eating there after the kids took over, but I wouldn’t be in a hurry to go.

24 Different Shores { 06.06.17 at 5:27 am }

I don’t think I would eat there. If I knew a restaurant had been founded by a white supremacist, I don’t think I could – it would always be tainted. Honestly I think the kids should revamp the place and change its name and image 100%. I feel for them, as it’s not a given that they’d share the dad’s views (my own dad expressed a lot of bigotry when I was growing up and it definitely made me go in the opposite direction). They’re obviously not wanting to lose out by alienating clientele etc but they should have some integrity and distance themselves from their father; then I’d eat there. Although I’m not hugely into pig all the same…

25 Brid { 06.06.17 at 10:28 am }

I think a place like that can become a sign or symbol of progress. Perhaps allowing it to remain tainted gives it the power it once might have had. Meaning and symbols change, and if we see the positive changes and let go of the negative, maybe that’s a powerful sign of a changing society. By embracing the space, maybe we are embracing the progress it now represents… (I wasn’t able to read all comments, so if I’ve duplicated, apologies)..

26 Ashley { 06.06.17 at 12:12 pm }

This is a tricky situation for me because I want to give the children a shot at undoing the nasty their father did and not judge them based on their paternity. But, I’m the white mother of two beautiful black children and I couldn’t see myself taking them there to be guinea pigs (no offense Linus) for the purported change. Most likely, I would avoid going simply for that reason but perhaps patronage the establishment with a take-out lunch should it seem like the children are really trying to turn it around….

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