Restaurant owner faces criticism over Facebook photo

Papa Roux owner Art Bouvier faced criticism for this photo he posted to Facebook Tuesday.
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The owner of an east Indianapolis Cajun restaurant posted a picture on Facebook yesterday that some consider racist. He's apologized and taken the photo down, but insists he meant no harm.

"I could not have possibly been prepared for the tensions that I'm feeling," said Papa Roux owner Art Bouvier.

The tensions are in response to the photo he posted Tuesday that shows him in black face alongside an African-American employee. The picture was in celebration of Mardi Gras. The caption included a couple of inside jokes, reading, "Chocolate Soda" and "Get down with the brown."

On Facebook, he was labeled a racist.

"Better leave the black face alone," said one commenter.

But there were also supporters.

"Those who hate, keep the hate going," wrote another person.

"Is it possible to get a neck injury from shaking your head so much about a topic," wrote another.

"My heart was truly paying tribute to something that, in my culture, transcends race," explained Bouvier, a transplanted New Orleanian.

He's referring to the Krewe Zulu, who for more than 100 years have marched on Mardi Gras in costume, faces painted black.

"If he was racist, would I be working here?" rhetorically asked Papa Roux employee Deron Williams, the employee who posed with Art in the controversial photo. "It's part of his heritage, you know. I'm not part of that heritage, I'm celebrating with him."

The chocolate soda reference in the caption has to do with a newly introduced, locally-crafted chocolate soda. Maybe in need of an explanation, maybe difficult for outsiders to understand, but not, Art says, racist.

"We need to stop looking for reasons to attack, to stop looking for reasons to divide and let's have some conversations, even if they're difficult conversations, let's at least have them," Bouvier said.