ST. GEORGE — A Cedar City smoke shop selling what some are calling a racist bumper sticker has received an outpouring of backlash online after a man posted about it on Facebook.
However, D&D Smokes & More, which sells a variety of novelty items and souvenirs, will not bend and the sticker will continue to be sold at the store, the store’s co-owner Jeremiah Davis said.
The sticker that sparked the debate had an image of a Confederate flag on it with a message that read: “If I had known this, I would have picked my own cotton.”
Other stickers in the store also include images of the Confederate flag.
T.J. Penrod, a history and social studies teacher at two private schools in Cedar City, said he first heard about the sticker Saturday when he received a text about it from a friend. He then took to Facebook to voice his concerns about the sticker.
“With the Confederate flag next to the message, it’s not a far jump to understand what it’s trying to imply,” Penrod said. “It’s a flippantly racist remark about slavery.”
Penrod messaged the owners of the store Saturday with a request to stop selling the sticker. He then posted about it on Facebook, where his efforts to get the sticker removed were met with an “abundance of support” from people in Cedar City and across Utah, he said. However, there have also been a few negative comments flung his way.
“I’ve received a couple of threatening messages, and that’s been it so far,” Penrod said.
After being told the stickers would remain on the shelves, Penrod visited D&D Smokes & More Tuesday to meet with the store owners. He said their debate got heated at times, but it was mostly a civil discussion about whether a Confederate flag is a racist symbol.
Penrod said the reason he wants the sticker removed from the store is not because he’s offended by it, but because it sheds bad light on Cedar City.
“A lot of our economy comes from tourism, and to have that sticker in a store in Cedar City is quite alarming because I think it could give people the wrong idea about what Cedar City’s values are,” he said.
While Penrod was discussing the sticker with the store owners, customers called him names and bought out the rest of the stickers to support the store.
Since the post about the sticker went viral, Davis said people have come from all over Utah to buy the stickers and “support the store’s First Amendment rights.” He said he will not consider removing the sticker about picking cotton from the store.
“Had it just been an issue with the one thing and if it didn’t turn into a big social media blitz, and if they just talked with me to begin with, we might have pulled the one sticker down,” Davis said. “But since they decided to go the other way to try to destroy the business, why would I get rid of my best-selling sticker now?”
Davis said the sticker is not racist because “it’s just a sticker” and because the Confederate flag is not a racist symbol. Despite the history around it, Davis said the Confederate flag represents a support for states’ rights and not slavery.
“We have a lot of people in this area who appreciate the rebel flag in different ways than what gets brought out in the media,” Davis said. “They all want to drag it back to slavery. Those of us who are supporting the Confederate flag do not support slavery.”
Davis also said he initially bought the sticker from an African-American sales representative — a fact Davis said helps prove the stickers are not inherently racist.
According to City Data, out of nearly 30,000 people who live in Cedar City, 0.4 percent of permanent residents in the city are black, which amounts to about 111 people.
Because the store won’t remove the sticker, Penrod said he wishes no harm upon the owners of D&D Smokes & More, but he said he will never shop at the store, and he will continue to tell all his friends and family to not shop at the store. He said his biggest goal is to raise awareness about this issue.
“It is good that there is now more awareness that these hate symbols exist in our community and that these are hate symbols,” Penrod said. “I don’t want to live in a town that supports white supremacy.”
Ed. note: The name of the smoke shop in this report is spelled differently on the sign at the store and on its social media pages. St. George News used the version on the store’s sign.
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