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For one Maine insurance company, Juneteenth was an opportunity to openly display their racism. The Harry E. Reed Insurance Agency in Millinocket announced their Juneteenth closing with a racist sign in their storefront window.
The federal holiday marking Black freedom from slavery was celebrated on Monday, with thousands of businesses closed across the country. The Harry E. Reed Insurance Company was also closed, but gave a very different explanation.
According to the sign in the window, they explained, “Juneteenth ~it’s whatever… We’re closed. Enjoy your fried chicken & collard greens.” The insurance agency is located an hour from the United States-Canada border.
Insurance company deducts its own credibility within community
The backlash was swift. One resident of Millinocket shared a photo of the sign on her social media, writing, “The racism in Millinocket is real.”
Then other businesses involved with the Maine company started taking notice. Progressive Insurance has already taken steps to end its relationship with the company.
Progressive states they don’t flow with racism.
According to Progressive spokesperson Jeff Sibel, the insurance giant is “aware and appalled by the sign” and noted that it will no longer work with the local agency. “At Progressive, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) are fundamental to our Core Values,” he stated in an email.
Sibel continued, “We’re committed to creating an environment where our people feel welcomed, valued and respected and expect that anyone representing Progressive will take part in this commitment. The sign is in direct violation of that commitment and doesn’t align with our company’s Core Values and Code of Conduct.”
The Harry E. Reed Insurance Company is also facing hundreds of negative reviews on Google and Yelp. Google and Yelp are investigating the reviews for fraudulent activity.
2022 is the first year that Maine is celebrating Juneteenth as a paid statewide holiday. The governor recently signed two pieces of legislation honoring the day of Black liberation.
Town of Millinocket is shaken by the sign’s blatant racism.
Meanwhile, several local politicians criticized the sign and the insurance organization. Steve Golieb, chair of the Millinocket Town Council, released a statement regarding the racist sign.
“It is deeply saddening, disgraceful and unacceptable for any person, business, or organization to attempt to make light of Juneteenth and what it represents for millions of slaves and their living descendants. There is no place in the Town of Millinocket for such a blatant disregard of human decency.”
Along with Progressive, AllState Insurance company has also severed ties with the Harry E. Reed Insurance Company. In a statement to NPR, the insurance organization noted, “We are terminating our contract with this independent agent. Our commitment to Inclusive Diversity and Equity is non-negotiable and we take action when individuals violate our code of conduct.”
However, residents of the Maine town are taking pains to note the sign and the insurance company does not represent the citizenry. In an interview with NPR, one resident stated, “I’m hoping that people will wake up and realize that this is not OK. People need to know their history. They need to realize that there was a lot of suffering and that this holiday is warranted — and it’s needed.”