A shop in downtown Duluth has gotten complaints from around the country about its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day sale.
"25% OFF Everything Black!" said a sign in the window of Global Village, which sells clothes and handcrafted items from around the world. Online, the shop posted more: "He showed us that the struggle and lookin' super fly can go hand in hand. We salute him with 25% off everything black, Monday, January 20th. Much more our style than a Columbus Day sale, no?"
A photo of the sign and accompanying Facebook post was quickly passed around, inspiring hundreds of critical comments.
"This is offensive," one woman wrote. "Are all the black items segregated to a certain part of the store?" another said. "This promotion equates black people with black objects that are for sale," one man wrote. "It trivializes and deeply insults the struggles of any race of people (in this case, black people) to be treated as equal human beings and not objects that are for sale."
A call to Global Village's owner, Rachel Mock, was not immediately returned Tuesday. But she spoke with the Duluth News Tribune, saying that she was caught off guard by the reaction and that the sale was meant "as a celebration of Martin Luther King and a way to honor him because he was a positive black leader."
But George Ellsworth, who shared a photo of the sign online, said "the sale, whether well-intentioned or not, was so tone deaf," according to the newspaper.
On the shop's Facebook page, Mock posted an apology Tuesday morning. It begins:
I adore this man. That was the spirit behind the MLK Day sale. To those whose feelings I've hurt, I contritely ask your forgiveness. That was most definitely not what I meant to do. I'm sorry. It seems the most offense was taken at "25% off everything black." This was not inspired, as some have suggested, by the history of blacks being sold into slavery, nor by the idea that black people are inherently of lesser value than people of other colors. It was inspired by the fact that Dr. Martin Luther King was black. Some may find it culturally insensitive to state this, but it's a fact he was proud of. I'm leaving the sale post up not to cause further insult, but so that you can take a deep breath and honestly evaluate whether it was created out of mockery or celebration.