In support of the Levandowskis

33

To the Editor,

I am writing in response to the incredible surge of comments made and general tone of the discourse regarding LeRoux and owners, both on various  social media outlets and in the responses to the article “LeRoux Apologies for Racially Offensive Display” in your paper last week.

I understand how the display was found to be insensitive and I am grateful that it was promptly taken down upon the store first hearing that it was offensive. Nobody should ever feel threatened or violated by a window display or any other public display or behavior and it’s important to be vigilant about anything of this nature.

However, I had to write to say that I am overwhelmed by the comments and public shaming of LeRoux and two wonderful community members and business owners who have worked tirelessly to create and build their successful and socially engaged business here for many years.

As a neighbor and customer of the Levandowski’s and LeRoux for over 30 years, I want to say in support of them and our Island, that the derogatory comments and liberties taken in addressing their intention and character is inappropriate, insensitive, and frankly exactly opposite of the kind of communication that we need to have moving forward as the inclusive and tolerant Island community that we aspire to be.

As we move forward into a new year may forgiveness, compassion, and peaceful conflict resolution resonate with us both behind the computer and in the community.

Polly Simpkins

Vineyard Haven

33 COMMENTS

  1. What is “inappropriate, insensitive and frankly exactly opposite of the kind of communication that we need to have moving forward as the inclusive and tolerant Island community that we aspire to be” is the intentional obliviousness of privileged white people. The store owners and their employees are responsible for the use of demeaning and derogatory images of blackface to sell their wares, two years in a row. What kind of employees work at this store and how do the owners not know what is in their Christmas displays for the last two years? The store owners made their apology and that’s that. They chose to ignore that their xmas displays were racist more than one time. To write letters now, objecting to the those who rightly spoke up against the racist displays, is a big part of the problem of why this is not an inclusive and tolerant community. The owners deserved every word of objection against those displays.

    • Jackie,

      nice job perpetuating the conflict–please find something more useful in your spare time. We all learned from this several weeks ago. So please STOP!

      • That’s it everyone. Freddy says racism is over and we all learned our lessons several weeks ago. We can all stop worrying about equality! We Did it! We’re #1! He said STOP so let’s stop! You can tell it’s true because he capitalized it!

  2. “the intentional obliviousness of privileged white people.” Jackie, help me out here, please. Are all white people privileged, or, do you mean only the white people of The island who aspire for to be inclusive and tolerant – as mentioned in the letter, or, did you mean the writer of the letter itself?

    • Thank you for providing such clear examples of microaggression, Bulkington and Tennis. You would not have to ask such questions if you cared to put yourself in someone else’s shoes… someone who isn’t white and privileged, that is. Do you know that Prada permanently lost a large number of customers for their blackface ad campaign? They apologized too. Megan Kelly lost her job for seeing nothing wrong with blackface Halloween costume. I would not shop Prada for the same reasons I would not shop Le Roux again. Attacking the people who were deeply hurt by the racist ignorance of the store owners and its employees, as this letter writer does, does not make her sound like she has any real interest in inclusiveness. Just so you know, too, telling people to stop criticizing blatantly racist ignorance is not a good look. The store owners deserved the criticism. People can choose on their own whether or not they want to shop there anymore. The letter writer does not get any awards for sticking up for ignorance.

      • This letter does not appear in today’s Gazette, but a letter from the president of the Martha’s Vineyard NAACP does. That letter, which may have arrived too late at the Times to be published this week, does not stick up for the people who allowed the racially offensive Le Roux display.

        • I only responded by asking for a clarification to your own words. The chip of any aggression is on your shoulder – not mine. Now, then. What did you mean? Please explain how you used the phrase “white privilege,” but without rancor and hostility.

          • You might understand better if you look up the meaning and usages of words and phrases on the internet. Save us both some time.

          • Our business bureaucracy is overwhelmingly white. A white person visits a real estate office to rent or buy or submits an application for a loan or job, they are more likely to be treated with courtesy and get what they’re shopping for than a black person. There’s no wink-wink between the people, it was assumed as a natural part of life. That’s what the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was to correct, to ensure applicant’s financials determined the loan, not whether they currently lived in a “bad” neighborhood. (And I know this because I know people who worked on CRA stats for a bank.)

        • The letter from the president of the MVNAACP, critical of and disgusted by the racially offensive LeRoux display, appeared here in this newspaper’s Letters to the Editor the week before. Sorry I posted misinformation, and thank you, MV Times.

      • Jackie, please know I would never attack or judge anyone who was hurt by the display or any other racist behavior, my letter was an attempt to simply offer a suggestion not to shame these people but to find a way to communicate peacefully. I understand exactly why people feel the way they do and I acknowledge everyone’s feelings on this feed and I work hard to put myself in many people’s shoes. As I said in my letter it’s so important to be vigilant about any and all racist behavior. I want to help, not make things worse. So sorry if I offended you or anyone else with my letter. I have heard the comments and appreciate them all.

  3. Jackie, why dont you clarify what you meant when you used the word “intentional”? referring to Leroux’s “intentional obliviousness of privileged white people.” Are you directly writing that Leroux intended, had the specific intent to offend persons of color? The same display two years in a row does nothing to prove intent.

    • James, I am using the phrase “intentional obliviousness” to point to what the letter writing is doing– ignoring every single one the points of the black experience that “Islanduh” brings up. White privilege allows people to ignore the experience of those who are not white… and to demand that this conversation be over and stop saying bad things about the store owners who allowed this. Whover put up the display, and the owners who should know what is going in their stores, are responsible. I do not think they intentionally used racist imagery to offend. What they did was intentionally oblivious– they did not even think about it, although blackface has been in the news very recently. You have to be living under a rock not to know that the use of blackface is not okay as a store display, as a Halloween costume, etc. People who use blackface imagery have made the decision to be oblivious to the world around them and how the people in it feel. We have accidents of behavior, and we have “on-purpose” behavior. The store display, TWICE, was no accident. Choosing ignorance, and then apologizing for it when you get slammed on social media (when it went unremarked upon a year ago) is what intentional obliviousness is about. It does not have to be a “specific intent”. Intent notwithstanding, Le Roux offended and disgusted many people who choose not to live obliviously, not to mention our entire black community.

      • Jackie, I sincerely appreciate the heartfelt and authentic positions you have well put forward. I do. However, clarity in this discussion is lost by expanding its scope to include all manner of racist actions, covert and overt.
        What LeRoux did was not present black face but present Christmas decorations, two years in a row, that did not take into account a racially offensive interpretation. When brought to their intention, they made all possible steps to apologize and remedy its ill effects. Not a shred of evidence suggests this was deliberate racist actions, intended to offend. Insensitive, yes, but not intended to be so.
        To go on to lump LeRoux with all manner of deliberate racist actions such as hotel lobbys, Starbucks, etc. is it’s own unique form of racism. Yes, I said it, to hold LeRoux responsible for actions anything more than unthinking and insensitive, is a cruel, opportunistic striking out at business that has been a credit to our community.
        If you want help to raise consciousness to combat racism, I will be happy to partner with you. To continue to bludgeon LeRoux does nothing to solve the wider problem of racism in this country.

        • Did you see the picture? I don’t believe there is any way anyone could look at that display without blackface being the first thing to spring to mind. And if one can see that display without seeing blackface, then i suggest that they are woefully out of touch or possibly so deep in willful ignorance that some simple internet “bludgeoning” is the least of their worries.

  4. This letter is another example of white privilege. Addressing the idea that being called a racist is the problem and not the underlying racism present in society that allows this type of thing to continue.In answer to the question above. Yes,all white people are privileged they do not have a history of being murdered,enslaved and oppressed.Never having to wonder what your white friends say when you are not around,never having to wonder if that cop,real estate agent,job interviewer etc is a racist who will not treat you fairly. I could go on.

    • I want you to know that I am extremely aware of the underlying racism present in our society. I hear you and your comments. My letter was not an attempt to attack anyone who felt upset by the display or racisim that is present anywhere in the world. I just think the threats and some of the incredibly mean commnets made about the couple don’t help, they just seem to add to the anger. In no way did I or would I ever suggest that people who are offended shouldn’t be heard or not be able to communicate their anger or that it’s not present every day. I am so sorry for confusing the issue and thank you for your comments.

  5. OMG is all I can say, why don’t we drag this out until next Christmas, or would you prefer that the owners just be jailed???

    • Nice Straw Man argument. Literally no one suggested jailing anyone. Literally no one is talking about that, but rather than address the actual problem, you make it about something else so you don’t have to address the actual conversation. I’m gonna go out on a limb and suggest you watch less Fox News.

  6. Whatever their personal beliefs are, I don’t think we will see this again in their windows at Le Roux, which is a good thing

  7. B4JawsIV, also read my other comment….you know, where I said “we won’t see this again and it is a good thing.”

  8. Hello, I am so sorry to offend anyone by my letter to the editor, mentioned above. I wasn’t disregarding the fact that the display was inappropriate, I was just trying to say the shaming of the couple seemed like moving in the opposite direction of where we want to go. I would NEVER support racism in any form. I apologize if I was insensitive in any way. The owners are good people and willing to learn and move forward, and I was hoping to remind people to work toward forgiveness without shaming. Sorry if I hurt feelings or made anyone angry, that is the very last thing I would ever intend for anyone by my letter.

    • The unfortunate risk of print, voice inflections can be lost. I hope the offended parties are willing to give the store owners the chance to learn, not make the mistake again. The least those not targeted should do is give society the chance to move forward.

    • “Nevertheless she persisted” is not always a good thing. Minimizing racist imagery by calling it “inappropriate” instead of what it is, demeaning, degrading and racist, doesn’t help, either. I remember years ago Prince Harry, a public figure whom I adore, wore a Nazi uniform as a costume. I would never dream of telling people their criticism of his privileged and intentional ignorance had gone too far. He was very publicly and very harshly criticized for it– “shamed”, if you want to call it that. And it was well deserved. People complain all the time about not liking “political correctness” and how easily offended some people are. That’s ridiculous. You are free to offend as often and as offensively as you like. Just be prepared for the backlash when you do, because I and everyone else is free to repeat, over and over, that store owners who are harshly criticized for hiring and allowing employees to display disgusting racist imagery deserve every but of the harsh criticism they get. If you don’t a like a specific public reaction to something that is so shameful, like these displays, that’s too bad. White privilege is something you should know about. Until there is never a black person arrested for loitering in a hotel lobby, when in fact he is a paying guest making a phone call, I will call out every instance I see of white privilege such as yours, a privilege that allows you to continue to protest against what you feel is too harshly critical of a purposeful ignorance so great that it allowed racist displays in wonderful Vineyard Haven two Christmases in a row. It’s important to remember what life experience is like every single day for people who do not have your white privileged experiences. Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming, is a great read, and without it being about the insidious nature of white privilege relative to the black experience, it is there, front and center, for much of her life.

  9. I just finished Michelle’s book “Becoming”, it’s amazing and she is incredible. I guess my point from the beginning was if they go low, go high. I am very clear on white privledge, and I understand what you are saying and I hear you. I was just trying to espouse the virtues of peaceful conflict resolution in terms of social media. I never said people shouldn’t speak out and as loud as they need to, especially in the face of racism- I am in support of that and welcome it, I was simply trying to say maybe we should be kind to each other. Happy New Year to all and thank you for your response.

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