- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The owner of Dixie Services, an Idaho-based contracting company, is defending its logo of a cartoon black girl eating watermelon amid criticism that it’s racist.

Jim Valentine told local ABC affiliate KXLY that the image fits well with his company, which he said represents the good times for many people in the 19th-century South.

The image, which is posted on the side of the company’s trucks, depicts a dark-skinned African girl grinning and holding up a large slice of watermelon — a racist caricature also known as the “pickaninny.”

“I was looking at it saying, ‘Is it the watermelon? Is it her hair?’” Mr. Valentine said. “And I know why they don’t like it. It’s ‘cause she’s smiling and a very happy child like a lot of children were in the 1800s.”

Dixie Services also posts Confederate flags on the front of its trucks, which Mr. Valentine described as historical, not racist.

“This kind of hatred thing that’s been built up around the Confederate flag, there’s a lot of goodness and happiness and it’s a part of history and a part of heritage, so we put the name on our company,” he told KXLY.

Mr. Valentine, whose wife is West Indian, said he’s against discrimination of all races.

“I’m sorry for anyone during that time that was mistreated,” he said. “Sometimes you hear about the chains and all kinds of horror stories, and I’m sure they’re there and I’m against all of that for any race.”

Nick Lee, a black Coeur d’Alene resident, posted a picture of the logo on his Facebook page, which quickly gained traction, KXLY reported.

“There is nothing more obscene than seeing an exaggerated, racist version of an African on a business logo on a business truck cruising around town,” Mr. Lee told the station.

He has demanded that Dixie Services remove the image “immediately.”

“You can rock Confederate flags all you want, it doesn’t bother me,” he said, “but when you are targeting me with an image like that, it’s not free speech anymore. It’s obscene.”

Heidi Beirich, the director of the Intelligence Project for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told local NBC affiliate KHQ that the “pickaninny” was deemed racist around the time of the Civil Rights Movement.

“The watermelon is particularly offensive because references to watermelon and references to fried chicken and so on have been used to demean black people,” Ms. Beirich said.

Still, she said the images are perfectly legal, and customers have every right to voice their displeasure with a boycott.

“This business owner has every right to put whatever he wants on his trucks,” Ms. Beirich said.

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