Questions raised over novelty soap labels

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Updated: .

Mary Milz/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Some people found more than an offensive odor in a soap for sale in a central Indiana store. They find the labeling, and the brand name, offensive in a different way.

Noblesville is dressed up for the holidays, but not everyone likes what's being sold. Inside Logan Village Mall, one of the vendors is selling novelty soaps from a bygone era depicting minstrel and other racial images which we intentionally blurred when we aired the story.

(Note: To see two examples, click here or here. Please keep in mind that the labels may be offensive to some people. The images are being provided so that readers can judge for themselves.)

"I don't think it's much of a joke," Joe Slash, Indianapolis Urban League.

"It's not okay and not something that people would take very lightly anywhere," he said.

Slash heard about the soap through an email asking the Civil Rights Commission to look into it.

"There are people who still think minstrels and black-face comedy is okay and it's not," said Slash.

Attorneys Gary and Kim Dewester, who own the general store, have leased the space here for ten years. They sell much more than soap and Gary says they haven't had a single complaint.

"As far as I'm concerned, we're conducting a legal business and if these people are upset about it, they don't have to come in the store. Again, if it didn't sell, we wouldn't have it in the store," Dewester said.

Dewester said while some might be offended, that's okay.

"I don't believe in political correctness. I mean, trying to live your life so that you offend nobody in this world, is almost impossible as far as I can tell," he said.

We asked several people in Noblesville and in downtown Indianapolis what they thought.

"My instincts say I don't like it," said one woman.

"Yeah, I think it is [offensive]...just the label and the wording and the coloring," said one man.

One of the mall owners Eyewitness News spoke with said she hadn't seen the soap nor had she received complaints, but said it still sounded offensive and asked that it be removed.

Several minutes after Eyewitness News spoke to that owner, a mall employee took the drawer out and put the soap in a back room. While it diffused the situation, it didn't settle the debate.

"We should be sensitive to saying, doing or displaying anything that makes people of other cultures feel uncomfortable and that's certainly what this is," said Slash.

Dewester said that soap is made by a Florida-based company. Besides those period-type soaps, they also make Christmas and holiday soaps and sell to stores across the country.