Mural on liquor store decried as racist

Saturday, August 13th 2005, 5:36 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A group of Choctaw Indians are rallying against a mural on a Hugo liquor store that they believe to be racist.

Bob Almond, owner of the West Main Liquor Store, had the mural painted on the side of the store more than a year ago. He said he was only trying to beautify an ugly side of the city.

The mural, which cost Almond $800, depicts a white man selling whiskey from the back of a wagon to an Indian. The mural also depicts three black men, two standing in line and apparently wearing Indian robes, a white man drinking from a bottle and an Indian family in the background.

``The depiction is racist and it is sexist and it's unfortunate that the owner of the store doesn't have the ability to see that. There's this ingrained kind of insensibility that it's OK to have stereotypes against Indians,'' said Senna Heyatawin, a Choctaw Indian from the West Coast. ``I'm sure he probably didn't think it was racist, God bless him for that, but it is.''

The group has rallied to pressure Almond to whitewash the mural.

Almond says he had no racist intentions and will paint out the Indians, women and children. Many of his customers are American Indians, he said, and they've never complained. He also said ``two carloads of full-blooded Choctaw women'' came to look at the mural and saw nothing wrong with it.

But two women who were offended have called and threatened to burn his store down, he says. Another woman called from Durant and threatened to bring in the NAACP.

``They talked to me like I was some kind of animal,'' Almond said. ``I'm married to an Indian lady, been married 38 years to her. I was raised with Indians, grew up with them and didn't mean to offend anybody.''

Almond said he simply wanted the mural to reflect his business of selling liquor and he chose to add all races to be politically correct.

``I'll just paint them all white,'' he said. ``And someone will gripe about that, I'm sure.''