MASON, Mich. — The owner of Darb's Tavern & Eatery has expressed remorse after staff members gave a biracial employee a watermelon for Martin Luther King Jr. Day with "Happy 1/2 MLK" and "Happy black day" scrawled on it black marker.
Kelly Martin Aimery of Mason posted a public Facebook status Saturday saying her daughter, who is biracial, received the watermelon from her co-workers and boss at the Mason bar.
"I’ve sat and stewed on this and am furious about this. Decided to post and see what everyone thinks. My daughter got this on MLK Day because her work, including her boss, thought this was OK. It is NOT. Come on people. This is awful on so many levels. She is biracial, hence the Happy 1/2 MLK Day. This is on top of many comments her boss feels free to say to her including “halfsy”. PLEASE SHARE #NOTOKAY #racismstillexists #letsmoveforwardnotback," Aimery wrote.
As of Tuesday evening, the post had been shared more than 610 times. The post generated more than 830 comments.
Aimery declined to comment for this story, saying she planned to talk to a lawyer first. Aimery's daughter, the employee who reportedly received the watermelon, could not be reached for comment.
Rob Hearit, owner and manager of Darb's Tavern, issued a statement Monday which confirmed that co-workers had given a "wonderful minority employee" a watermelon, which was "intended to be a friendly joke" but "was in poor taste and offensive, to say the least."
The statement also acknowledged that Hearit, the employee's boss, was among the people to sign the watermelon.
"Many of you have expressed your outrage over this incident, and you are right," the statement reads. "I take full responsibility. I saw the 'gift' and I didn’t stop it. In fact, in a lapse of judgement, I also joined our employees in signing it. While I thought it was an innocent inside joke between employees who are friends, as the owner I should have recognized the inadvertent message, stepped in and stopped this behavior."
Hearit says he will undergo mandatory diversity and sensitivity training along with his employees.
Follow Sarah Lehr on Twitter: @SarahGLehr