Unethical Restaurant of The Month, Busted Ethics Alarms Division: Joe’s Crab Shack

Joes Crab Shack

“Wait, someone took offense at the photo of a lynching that we had as a placemat? Who could have predicted that?”

Yes, in a case of a staff-wide ethics alarms breakdown that defies the laws of probability, Joe’s Crab Shack in Roseville, Minnesota thought it would be cute and entertaining to its diners to place on a table a large photo depicting the hanging of a black man before white onlookers. Labeled “Hanging at Groesbeck, Texas on April 12th 1895,” the placemat included a speech bubble coming from the doomed black man that  says, “All I said was that I didn’t like the gumbo.”

I don’t understand this at all. I know that Minnesota has as many African Americans as Washington, D.C. has albinos, but still: who would think this was appropriate decor anywhere in the U.S.?  And if there was one employee who did, due to a lesion or something, how did no other employee or no one in management intercept this atrocity, saying, “Whoops! Gotta watch Cletus the Closed Head Injury Busboy more closely, everyone. Look what he put on this table!” 

Surely most people in 2016 have better racism detectors than this. Please. Tell me this was a social science experiment or something. Please.

The evidence, though, suggests that the entire establishment is run by Cletuses…or maybe crabs! That would explain it—the Joe’s Crab Shack chain is operated by crabs! Crabs are notoriously insensitive. That would explain the restaurant’s apology:

“We understand one of the photos used in our table décor at our Joe’s Crab Shack location in Roseville, MN was offensive. We take this matter very seriously, and the photo in question was immediately removed. We sincerely apologize to our guests who were disturbed by the image and we look forward to continuing to serve the Roseville community.”

“We sincerely apologize to our guests who were disturbed by the image, and to those who were not, pretty funny, huh?”

How about explaining how your staff would ever think a photo of an actual lynching wouldn’t be offensive? How about explaining your hiring practices? Does it include singing Dixie and burning a cross? Did you fire the employee that put the photo there? How about every single individual who saw it, and didn’t throw it in the trash?

I really don’t understand this at all.

Unless it’s all the crabs’ fault.

That must be it.



13 thoughts on “Unethical Restaurant of The Month, Busted Ethics Alarms Division: Joe’s Crab Shack

    • Minnesota is generally as politically correct as any left-leaning state, but you can’t account for individuals’ lack of judgment.

      (Oh, and Minnesota has ~5% black population, and around 15% in the Twin Cities, of which Roseville is a suburb; unless there’s an incredibly high incidence of albinism in DC, I’m pretty sure we’ve got them beat.)

  1. Horrible! How could anyone think that was funny!?
    I just got done reading about protesters getting Trump’s appearance cancelled in Chicago. They yelled at and threatened Trump supporters…until now only Trump’s supporters have been described as violent. It looks like the other side is ramping it up as well.

  2. Jack, There is no defense for a photo like this being on public display in a restaurant, but there exists a difference between a public execution and a lynching. Is there any evidence that this picture portrayed a lynching rather than someone who had a “fair” trial? I am not trying to defend the episodes of bigotry and hatred that mare the history of this country, but every instance of every black receiving some form of judicial punishment is not necessarily evidence of white prejudice. Presuming that this is a lynching plays into distortion of the past and reaffirms a lot of current racial sentiment in the country today.

    • It’s a fair point, though whether a black man could get a fair trial from a white jury in that time and place is a question that might render the lynching/legal hanging distinction moot. See: “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

      • I don’t see it as a fair point at all, except for an historical debate. In this time, used in this manner, it is a black man being killed (according to the Crabs) for no good reason.

  3. I can’t wrap my head around how this actually ended up on the table in front of customers. Every step of this chain of events was blatantly unethical and shows a genuine lack of character of everyone involved.

    It’s been said that the root character of a person can be revealed by what that person instinctively laughs at.

      • Having been a waitperson at one, thankfully brief, time in my life, I can tell you that you don’t notice what’s on the placemats, not even egregious typos: mine had (so-and-so) “Cafee” on it for months before a customer pointed it out. I was doing professional editing at the time.

  4. While the impropriety of the image used is without question, it does depict a legal hanging of a convicted robber and murderer. The added flippant “gumbo” remark would make the use of any execution photograph -regardless of the era or the race of the condemned- completely inappropriate for any commercial use.

    • Then in your final analysis, it isn’t unethical because it depicts a lynching that is insensitive to what occurred unjustly towards some african-americans, but rather it is unethical to appropriate the image of anyone’s dying moments for a joke (however unfunny it falls on the continuum of humor)? And that it is merely just piling on that it happens to be extra insensitive?

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