The new addition to Missoula, Montana: a bar with a racist name. But wait, you say: Shouldn’t that be a town with a racist name?
This town has a past, after all: It’s the hometown of the late Dylann Roof, the racist murderer who’s confessed to killing nine worshippers at a black church. The town also features the Old South Flag Park and is where deposed House majority leader Tom DeLay served prison time.
But why do I bring all of this up? Well, because the bar with a racial name is now a bar called Hood Keg, and it debuted its face-mask-and-stick-on masks for Halloween last week.
“The people who are tired of racism and thinking it should not exist in the country so they don’t want to support a bar where that is the name of a bar, you know, put us at odds with our customers,” Hood Keg bartender Jon Weiser told the Missoulian.
Mr. Weiser said that the people who objected to the name had run down the menu, ordered from it, but had walked out without buying anything. No complaints were logged with the city or police, he said. A few days after the launch, the bar’s Facebook page was removed, according to the Missoulian.
Hood Keg also gained attention because of its existence on the streets of Missoula, in the town of 95,000 where some of Roof’s family is from. They are, of course, white people, though Roof’s sister, Polly Sheppard, told the Billings Gazette that she didn’t see a conflict between their race and her hatred of his hate.
“You know, I have brothers and sisters and cousins of every color of the rainbow, and we’re all working the same land and raising our kids in the same house. And you don’t need to worry about where we are from,” she said.
In a city with this history, Hood Keg has tapped into a debate over how to handle it, and what a name is really for. Should a place be judged by its name? Should the name of a bar be taken in a racist light, with all of the social context that that one location might provide? Or should that bar owner be free to control the image his name has attached to it?
What do you think? Is there a place for racism in a town?