Dollarama won”t be bringing back black shackled feet next year

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Dollarama will not be restocking Halloween decorations depicting severed black feet in shackles after a Montreal customer complained they could be considered racist.

The retail chain plans to remove the item nation-wide, said Lyla Radmanovich, Dollarama’s manager of corporate communications. 

“It was meant to represent a rotten foot, so there was no intention to depict a particular race,” she said. “But obviously we take customer feedback seriously, so if that was how it was interpreted, (we) decided not to restock it next year.”

The item will remain on the shelves this year. The chain, which has 1,036 stores in Canada, has carried it for years without complaint, Radmanovich said.

Filip Aleksandrow was shopping at Dollarama with his children at Plaza Pierrefonds on Saturday when they came across a wide display of severed limbs in the Halloween decorations aisle. The only appendages that bore manacles were black feet, chained at the ankles. There were no unshackled black limbs. That led Aleksandrow’s four-year-old daughter, whose mother is of African descent, to ask why.

Aleksandrow left a message with Dollarama’s head office in Montreal saying he found the decorations inappropriate and asked for them to be removed. The Montreal Gazette published the story Saturday. Officials from the company left him a message of apology Tuesday, saying they did not mean to portray an ethnicity, and that they would stop stocking the item.

Aleksandrow acknowledged the intent might not have been to portray a black slave’s severed foot, but the fact it could be interpreted that way was enough reason for the store to stop selling them. Leaders from Montreal’s black community groups expressed the same views on radio talk shows this week.

The story lit up a torrent of criticism on Twitter and in comments sections, with people saying  Aleksandrow had gone too far.

“I know there are a lot of people who cannot relate to racism in general because they are not living that experience, so for them it’s not a big deal,” he said. “But I’ve also heard from people who do relate to it, people from the black community who are aware of this. They could see it and their kids could get hurt, and they find themselves having to explain something very uncomfortable with their child.”

On Twitter and in reader comments, people accused Aleksandrow of overreacting or being overly politically correct. Others said they believe the black foot is meant to depict a rotting corpse or zombie. 

The negative discourse has been enough for Aleksandrow to turn down requests for TV interviews. He said he and his family is not interested in getting into that kind of debate.

rbruemmer@postmedia.com

twitter.com/renebruemmer