South Carolina Restaurant Apologizes for Using Super-Racist 'Help Wanted' Sign

What happens when a minority-owned restaurant posts a help-wanted sign that blatantly and explicitly offends, well, minorities?

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Feb 2 2017, 11:00pm

What happens when a minority-owned restaurant posts a "help wanted" sign that blatantly and explicitly offends, well, minorities? We now know the answer.

Sook Shin, who is Japanese, and her husband, who is Korean, run Kenny's Home Cooking in Spartanburg, South Carolina. This week, they did just that.

A Southern food emporium run by an Asian-American family? Sounds like a pretty multicultural place, right? Just the kind of "American dream" story that one might point to as a success in these turbulent times, correct? Even better: the restaurant has Hispanic cooks and an African-American dishwasher. Hooray for them!

Uh, yeah—until Shin mistakenly posted a sign in the restaurant window that said "Help Wanted. Minorities Need Not Apply." To make matters worse, that second bit was also translated into Spanish.

The restaurant faced a torrent of criticism on social media, with some critics promising to call in the feds and others threatening to never eat at the restaurant again. Employees said business had been negatively impacted.

Shin said she was shocked by the whole debacle. She told WYFF-TV, "I never ever meant that, so I'm really sorry. Please forgive me." She says her English is not that good and that her husband bought the sign on eBay, thinking it fit the bill.

Read Jazz A.'s review of Kenny's Home Cooking on Yelp

A server at the restaurant, Melonie Henderson, explained further: "They thought it meant minors, not minorities."

Shin said that when she found out that the sign was offensive, she immediately removed it and replaced it with a sign that read as follows: "Dear Customers. I am the owner Sue. I am really sorry for the sign that posted earlier. I didn't know what it meant. After I know, I took it off immediately. English is not my first language. And I never thought about it again. I sincerely apologize for everything."

Some customers—and trolls who have never stepped foot in the restaurant—aren't buying it. To cite one example, a commenter named Doug Lewis wrote on Kenny's Home Cooking's Facebook page: "I am severely distraught by your racist tones. This establishment clearly shouldn't be in business anymore, if the owner isn't wise enough to have someone read a sign they put on their door they shouldn't be in business. Racism can not be tolerated or normalized!" Others wonder how none of the employees noticed the sign and told the owners it should come down.

Could an immigrant whose English isn't perfect confuse the words "minor" and "minority"? Probably. Can Americans in 2017 find it in their heart to give the owners of Kenny's Home Cooking another chance? That remains to be seen.