‘White History Month’ Sign Stirs up Flemington

Rick Epstein, Hunterdon County Democrat, March 5, 2015

The sign in the deli window says, “CELEBRATE YOUR WHITE HERITAGE IN MARCH, WHITE HISTORY MONTH.”

Jim Boggess, proprietor of Jimbo’s Deli on Main at 22 Main St., says, “No matter what you are–Muslim, Jewish, black, white, gay, straight–you should be proud of what you are. I shouldn’t have to feel bad about being white.”

But a neighbor and former customer, Bhakti Curtis, who is bi-racial, doesn’t accept that. He said the sign, is “mocking Black History Month,” especially the way the T was crossed in “WHITE.” The cross piece was not right at the top, it was lower down, in a style used by the Ku Klux Klan and other white-power groups, Curtis said. That cross piece of the T has since been broadened to make it a more traditional, if top-heavy, capital T.

On March 3, Curtis saw the sign, told Boggess it offended him, but got no satisfaction. So he filed a complaint with the Flemington police. Detective Sgt. William Svard said Cpl. Louis Hribik’s report indicates that Curtis said the sign is “racist,” that he felt harassed by it and wanted to know what would be done about it.

Hribik went to Jimbo’s, looked at the sign, spoke with Boggess and decided that the sign wasn’t derogatory or racist and that no further police action was needed.

Boggess agrees with that assessment and believes he’s lawfully exercising his right of free expression. He keeps a copy of the Bill of Rights in his establishment for ready reference.

He said reaction to the sign has been mixed. Lots of people have been photographing his sign with their phones and giving him a thumbs-up. But others have objected, including someone from the Business Improvement District who asked him to take it down, he said.

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Boggess said if there’s any racial discrimination going on, it’s by people who are objecting to his sign “because I’m white.” He said that while other groups have their own celebrations, “I just want to be included. Why is this such a big deal? I don’t get it.”

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So is the sign staying up? Boggess said on Wednesday, March 4, he’d leave it up for as long as he can, “but I’m getting a lot of pressure.”

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