LeRoux apologizes for racially offensive display

Vineyard Haven store window featured holiday decorations with blackface.

LeRoux Gourmet in Vineyard Haven is apologizing for a racially insensitive holiday display, which has since been taken down. - Josephine Brennan

A recent holiday decoration at LeRoux Gourmet on Main Street in Vineyard Haven was taken down after complaints that it was racially offensive.

The decoration — put up in the store’s front window display — consisted of several LeRoux olive oil bottles with red lips and googly eyes on the black bottletops and dressed in red and white gowns, resembling offensive blackface imagery.

A picture of the decoration was posted on Facebook on Dec. 14, and has received 200 comments from people, many of whom called the decoration racist, offensive, and ridiculous.

The decoration was taken down after a shopper requested it be immediately removed.

LeRoux co-owner April Levandowski told The Times the bottles were decorated as carolers, but came off as offensive. She said the decoration is uncharacteristic of LeRoux, and that it was isolated to the gourmet store and did not appear in its other Main Street location or any of its stores off-Island.

“Unfortunately, it was offensive and inappropriate. I will say it got by us, and we’ve taken steps to make sure it never happens again,” she said. “As soon as we found out about it, we removed it, and I hope we can be forgiven. We sincerely don’t want to offend our community. We want the Vineyard to be a welcoming place.”

Levandowski said LeRoux is implementing a centralized vetting process for all future displays, and all employees will be taking sensitivity and unconscious bias training. Unconscious bias is defined as “automatic, unintentional, deeply engrained” stereotypes. LeRoux is also working with the Martha’s Vineyard NAACP to address the issue. Levandowski posted an apology on Facebook and in both Island newspapers.

This was not the first time LeRoux decorated its olive oil bottles with eyes and lips. A similar setup was on display last year during the holiday season.

“We are horribly ashamed, embarrassed, and hope we can be forgiven,” Levandowski said. “We will be better, and we’ve taken steps to make sure this never happens again.”

Racism is not unique to the corners of Martha’s Vineyard, nor the state, nor the nation. The important thing here is the willingness to speak up and then work to resolve the situation,” Martha’s Vineyard NAACP president Erik Blake wrote in a letter to The Times.

In a phone conversation with The Times, Martha’s Vineyard NAACP executive committee member Gretchen Tucker-Underwood said LeRoux’s owners have agreed to come to the next NAACP meeting and work on reconciliation with those affected by the decoration. “We are looking for anybody to join with us to resolve the injustices as they see them and as we see them on the Island. We are a collaborative organization. We want to work with the entire community to work on this issue,” Tucker-Underwood said.

In late October, a scarecrow placed outside the YMCA in Oak Bluffs was taken down after complaints that it was racially offensive. The scarecrow depicted tennis player Serena Williams with blackface, using a ski mask, hand and leg coloring, and large eyes and red lips.

The LeRoux decoration is another incident involving blackface, which continues to be an issue throughout the country. On Dec. 14, Prada, a fashion store, pulled a line of items in a New York City store that depicted monkey-like figurines with black faces and large red lips.

In October, former NBC host Megyn Kelly received harsh criticism and her show was canceled when she defended the use of blackface costume on Halloween on her television talk show.


    • What does that have to do with an offensive display on MV? Can’t a person care about both? What are you doing about either one?

      • Walter, my point was that relative to all the other pressing issues, globally, this issue is ridiculous on every level. To answer your second question, there is nothing I can do. I open to your suggestion, but make sure they are practical and realistic.

        • Allow me to suggest what you can do about dismissing obvious racial biases and damaging stereotype. Stop doing that. Educate yourself about the history and use of black face imagery in this country. It’s always the people with white skin who have never been discriminated against based on the color of their skin who think that just because they don’t know about this kind of racial mockery, and demeaning bigotry that it is not important to know about, say something when they see it, and stand up against its use. What is alarming here and on local social media pages is that so many white people see this as not a big deal. No person of color would ever agree that this is not a serious issue, and no white person who is aware of reality would either.

          • Jackie if you really understood prejudice and discrimination you would know that it is most often based upon class not color. Black Africans have discriminated against other blacks based on class for ages and still do. Do you really really believe that the owners of this shop are racists? Your righteous indignation is disingenuous. Americans have done more to eliminate racism than any other country in history culminating in the election of a President.

  1. “She said the decoration is uncharacteristic of LeRoux”—-Except that it was almost the exact same as their 2017 display…

  2. When is the MV Time going to apologize for the headline in the West Tisbury town column this week
    “West Tisbury: dreaming of a white Christmas”.

  3. So we are now so politically correct that we can’t talk about a white Christmas meaning snow? I know the town of Dorchester had to apologize for using the phrase.

  4. When is the MV Times going to apologize for such an insensitive headline, “Tisbury Town Hall goes topless!”. Problem is The Times thinks they are clever wordsmiths. Fail!

    • Pro tip James, if you’re so offended by an “insensitive headline” you don’t repeat it. We had a photograph of the LeRoux display and didn’t run it in the newspaper because that would have compounded the racial insensitivity. Oh, and the headline was funny.

      • Yes a little humor never hurts. The NY post always manages to ‘lighten’ up the news with a catchy headline. One of their best was after a particularly gruesome murder, the headline was “Headless Body in Topless Bar’.

      • That seems to be a rather self serving idea, to conceal your misguided headline from future repetition. You can go on believing it was funny, see how well that serves you.
        Considering how many headlines have been “corrected”, not only from me but others, whether spelling errors or other mistakes, I would not be quick to be using “pro tip”.

        • Right, the three or four out of the thousands written every year. It must be something to never make any mistakes. Some people make excuses. I correct my mistakes. This isn’t a time where that’s needed. Happy holidays, James.

    • James– if you don’t like the headlines on the mv times, go to the national enquirer, or info wars– or fox “news” for that matter— I know George won’t let me tell you what i really think you should do, but i do think you would serve yourself and your community better by not baselesly attacking the editor of our local newspaper every time you feel slighted, or every time you pick up a typo.
      And, while I did not think the headline about the tisbury town hall was particularly funny, I did not find it
      “insensitive” — what does that mean ? “insensitive” to who ?

      • Don, I have very publicly supported Brennan at a time when it was very unpopular to do so, taking a lot of hits (oh, the pain of it all!) and I have criticized him when I felt I had sound reasonable grounds to do so.
        Why would I need to go read the Enquirer when the MV Times seems to take their inspiration directly from them.
        This is where we are at Brennan thinks he is a clever wordsmith, at the expense of women who face the scrutiny to be “topless”, with all the harassment and assault it brings them. Yet Brennan thinks it is a joke. I think it speaks for itself. Your choice.

        • James —I think the laws preventing women from walking around topless while men can do so freely is discriminatory and sexist on its own merit.
          Taliban men require women to cover their faces and wear burkas because they can’t control themselves. Your opinion that it is somehow “insensitive” to mention the word “topless” is grounded in some misogynistic dark age.

          Fifty years ago , it was consider indecent for women to show any of their anatomy above the knee or past their elbows. ( cleavage notwithstanding.)
          There is nothing “insensitive” in the word.

  5. Talk about a “war on Christmas,” and two years in a row, no less. What’s that about “fool me once”? The apology has come too late. What kind of culture exists behind the scenes in that store to come up with these racist displays? These displays don’t resemble black face imagery, they ARE blackface imagery. And they are racist. LeRoux got away with it last year without apology, but now that it’s gone viral, they apologize? The insulting, demeaning, and racist use of blackface was just in the news, too, when Megan Kelly was fired, so there is no pretense of ignorance. Don’t call it “unconscious bias”. It is racism. And it is conscious. I won’t be shopping there again.

  6. I urge everybody to view the images before commenting. Because it doesn’t make you feel anything personally doesn’t mean it isn’t real. They are fairly easy to find with a quick google search.

  7. I think everyone needs a slug of eggnog along with a chill pill.
    What a snarky group.
    Some folks don’t let it go.

    • I agree capawock!!~ too many hyper sensitive earthlings. Yes, let’s all gather round the Christmas punch bowl! cheers!~

  8. Have visited MV many times and always enjoyed the scenery, shopping, and restaurants. Sad to see this kink of mindless chatter in the local Times.

    • So you’re a tourist who thinks the Island’s value lies solely in what it has to offer YOU and that it’s “mindless” for anyone who lives here to discuss issues that affect our community. And that, in a nutshell, is why a lot of us roll our eyes at tourists. What a childish view. It’s not mindless or insane, as you implied below, to discuss something with a heavy, insulting history and how it still impacts people today. I don’t know who put together this display. I don’t know if it was intentional or incredibly ignorant. But it’s really hard to believe no one working in that store spotted this and thought, “There is no way we can put this out”. It was that obviously problematic. People are allowed to be proactive in eliminating something that affects their community, even if it doesn’t interest you. Not everyone and everything is here for your entertainment (which was a bit of an ironic angle for you to take, considering we’re discussing blackface…).

  9. I predicted that we were going to have a race war, a civil war and a class war the night Obama got reelected, I HOPE it starts here on the island at 5 Corners and happens the day after the new year!
    I am so sick of this politically correct & liberal BS!!
    OMG, “all employees will be taking sensitivity and unconscious bias training”.
    I wont buy squat in there any more just because you let them push you around!
    Granite in Edgartown has just as good products and better prices PLUS most of their employers are Jamaicans!!
    BTW ==>> All I want for Christmas is a beautiful giant WALL on our southern boarder!

    • There’s a bit of a difference between employing actual Jamaican people and depicting them in cartoonish fashion in your window….no?

    • tis native— you can send your next paycheck to the go fund the wall site– I don’t want to pay for it, Mexico doesn’t want to pay for it, trump can’t tap his former “charitable” foundation to pay for it– so please — you pay for it.

      • Well I donated a small chunk of $$ of the $17,549,357 of $1.0B goal that has been raised in less than a week to “Build the Wall”.
        “Ladders for Migrant Siblings” has raised about $145,000 (as of Dec. 24, 2018) $100 million goal.
        YOU might be interested in helping out the GoFundMe campaign “Support Tunnels Under Trumps Wall”, they have only raised $2,905 of $150.0M goal to buy shovels..

  10. There’s an old joke about a guy who’s psychiatrist shows him ink blots and on every one he sees his father abusing his mother. The Psychiatrist says ” I think you have some parental issues” and the guy says ” you’re the one showing me all the violent pictures”
    Get over it people– there are plenty of real racists out there– but a display at Le Roux is not the problem

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