Racist imagery on trucks is controversial, but is it illegal? - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Racist imagery on trucks is controversial, but is it illegal?

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POST FALLS, Idaho -

After our story Monday about a business owner who put a controversial image on his trucks, a lot of concern came from you, the viewers, on whether or not the images are illegal, here’s what we found out.

The caricature is described as the “pickaninny.”

Heidi Beirich is the director of the Intelligence Project for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The center tracks hate groups and hate crimes in the United States.

She says this image was deemed racist around the time of the Civil Rights Movement.

"The watermelon is particularly offensive because references to watermelon and references to fried chicken and so on have been used to demean black people,” Beirich said.

She says the images on the side of the trucks are offensive, but that doesn’t mean Jim Valentine, the owner of Dixie Services, did anything illegal.

“This business owner (Valentine) has every right to put whatever he wants on his trucks,” Beirich said, “so if he wants to put a racist image that's his right to do so under the First Amendment there's nothing illegal about that we don't have laws against hate speech or hate displays in the United States.”

Beirich also says the only consequence Valentine could face is customers not shopping at his business.

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