Black-Korean Tensions Flare in Dallas
Author: KoreAm
Posted: February 9th, 2012
Filed Under: BLOG
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by Peter Schurmann and Aruna Lee of New America Media

SAN FRANCISCO –- Dallas resident Thomas Park recently appeared on a local African American radio show to offer an apology. The 40-year-old Korean émigré had been involved in a December altercation with a customer at his gas station in a largely black Dallas neighborhood.

The fallout from that incident has since engulfed the two communities.

The dispute began when Jeffrey Muhammad, a leader in the local Nation of Islam chapter, requested that Park waive a $5 minimum for a debit card transaction. Park refused, at which point the two reportedly exchanged racial epithets.

Muhammad later launched a protest campaign called “Don’t Stop Don’t Shop” targeting Park. The protest has now entered its second month, drawing support from a local city council member, as well as members of the NAACP and the Nation of Islam. Organizers say they are determined to drive Park out of the neighborhood.

“I pay my taxes. I work hard to feed my family,” Park later told the Dallas Morning News. “I’m not a racist. I’m just trying to follow the American Dream.”

Doing so meant setting up shop in a traditionally African American neighborhood long besieged by joblessness and economic blight. It’s a pattern repeated by Korean American business owners across the country, from New York’s Flushing Meadows to Oakland and Los Angeles, where in 1992 riots erupted that have left an enduring scar on the Korean American psyche.

“At first there was concern among Koreans in the area that the incident could escalate into a repeat of L.A.,” said Ji-hwe Park, a reporter with the Korean Journal in Dallas who has been covering the near-daily protests that began in February demanding Park close his business.

“What began as a personal matter has now pulled in leaders from both communities as they try and resolve the dispute,” she added. “So far, no one has come up with a concrete solution.”

“Nothing to talk about,” tweeted Muhammad after being contacted by the head of the Los Angeles-based Federation of Korean Associations, a nationwide business advocacy group. “Store owner must go.” He also referenced Park’s radio appearance, dismissing his on-air comments as “lies.”

Park’s gas station was the site of a fatal shooting incident in 2010 involving 26-year-old Marcus Phillips, who was shot by a Korean employee after attempting to run off with the store’s cash register. Park also employs two African Americans.

“Killed a man 4 stealing,” read one of the signs carried by protestors in front of Park’s store.

Juanita Wallace, president of the Dallas-chapter of the NAACP, also took part in the protests. Speaking at a press conference in front of Park’s station, she vowed that protestors would not stop until his business was shut down. “We are here for as long as it takes,” she was quoted as saying in the Korean Journal.

Her comments drew the ire of higher ups in the organization, reported the paper, including Anthony Bond, who sits on the board of the NAACP’s Dallas offices. Bond had met with Korean community leaders on February 2 and urged members not to take part in the protests, the report noted.

Dallas is home to the country’s fourth-largest Korean American community, with about 80,000 having settled in the area. Like Park, who came to the United States in 1990 and spent six years in the Army National Guard, a number are self-employed small business owners whose customer base revolves around the local black community.

It’s a relationship that some local African Americans see as exploitative.

“We need to bring OUR dollars back to OUR communities and businesses,” read one Facebook comment in support of the protests. “If you don’t, you are a traitor.”

Such sentiment, says Gordon Jackson, managing editor of the Dallas Weekly, which covers the local African American community, comes out of a “growing resentment” over the continued lack of jobs and business opportunities for black residents.

“Why can’t this be a black-owned business,” is a question he says is behind the anger.

It’s also symptomatic of the “low level of trust” held by community members on both sides, explains Jackson, a resident of South Dallas. “This [incident] is the tip of the iceberg… The perception is that Koreans make money off black business, but don’t recycle dollars back into the community.”

Most Korean business owners in fact do not live in the South Dallas area, Jackson noted, contributing to the sense that they are simply taking advantage.

Geun-baek Ko is president of the Greater Dallas Korean American Chamber of Commerce. He pointed out that of the more than 5,000 Korean-owned businesses in Dallas, “more than half” cater primarily to the African American community.

More needs to be done, he agreed, to improve relations.

“There has been talk of setting up scholarships or grants for African American youth,” said Ko, adding that he is encouraging Korean business owners to register with the city’s Black Chamber of Commerce and to join the NAACP.

“This incident,” he said, “should serve as a turning point in relations between the two communities.”

This article was originally published by New America Media. Reprinted with permission.

  • oh for fuchs sake

    That was a cute speech anonymous. Very Martin Lutheresque…

    that dead guy is irrelevant to this argument. Should I feel sorry for the crook that got shot? No. Absolutely not. Don’t try to pull at heart strings by saying someone died. If anything its Darwinism at its best.

    Hardships keep getting mentioned on this post. Africans brought over by slaveships and the subsequent use of Asians when slavery fell through. Blah Blah Oxygen Network Blah. You know what all that has to do with this story? NOTHING. The only common denominator is the phrase black people.

    Whenever black people feel wronged in present day, someone(usually a non-black person) always brings up slavery. oh stfu already. Thats what happened back in the day. People suffered. What about the people that Ghenghis Khan raped or the villagers that Alexander the Great slaughtered. Remember affirmative action? Thats this. Some ridiculous form of compensation that community college grads feel is necessary because they watched “the color purple” on UPN.

    and whats up with “It is not Black or Korean leadership that brought African migrants as slaves.”
    Are you trying to start a revolution against our white masters? Please shut your self righteous mouth.

    I responded with “vitriol” (nice word of the day) because blackgold came here with that racist nonsense.

  • auntie

    Right on, Anonymous!

  • anonymous

    What’s really sad is that someone is dead, and people on both sides said some racist things to each other here on this blog entry. I’m not going to reveal my race here. But let me say: I’ve been called racial epithets, and I hate it, but I don’t think someone robbing me or calling me names is enough justification for killing that person.

    I also think the oppression olympics that seems to be happening here is kind of nuts. I think that many immigrant families have had it hard here. The first immigrant families to really struggle in this country were African migrants, who did not arrive by choice, and who for generations were forced to live in the worst conditions. Starting in the late 19th century, many Asian immigrants were worked very hard because the US sought new sources of cheap labor after the end of slavery, to supplement the sharecropping and Jim Crowing that was already going on. Later, specific laws were passed to try and keep Asians out. There was meddling in Korea and Vietnam that lead to great heart ache and some of the migration to the US. Coming into the second half of the 20th century, black and Asian immigrant families from around the world have struggled to gain entry to and have success in the USA.

    A question the iamkoream community should ask, perhaps, is whether directing vitriol at each other, two communities with much in common, is very productive. It is not Black or Korean leadership that brought African migrants as slaves. It is not Korean or black leadership that sought to replace slavery with a cheap Asian labor system. It is not Korean or black leadership that started a failing war in Vietnam. It is not black or Korean leadership that passed laws making it hard for people to migrate from Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia. It is leadership from neither community that has made it hard for Asian immigrants to integrate or for African Americans to integrate.

    So, anyway, eyes on the prize folks. And the prize is not throwing hateful stereotypes around, in either direction.

  • blackgold

    To “Oh for fuchs sake”, based on your corny, dry, sarcasm,you must be a cracka or a whitebread asian person which proves my point. I don’t know how slavery got involved in this. Did you read anything in my comments or in that article about slavery?? “Get over it!” thats so typical. You must be white.

  • oh for fuchs sake

    dammit blackgold, you made sense in the beginning saying the koreans need to stop generalizing. I completely agree that the comments below make koreans seem a little emotional and uneducated. I said, ” oh my a competent ‘black person’ that wishes to have a calm discourse about racial misunderstandings in America”.
    THEN you started with the blackness… all that name calling. Couldn’t even hold that black rage in for a whole paragraph.

    These comments are a perfect example of what probably went down.

    Korean guy was being a dick (normal), black guy said something racist (if you think the black guy didn’t say any racial epithets then you’re a duimbass). Anyone putting in $5 worth of gas on a credit card does not have the common sense to keep it civil in an argument. PLEASE try to argue this. Asalamalakum…

    Korean dude calls black dude a “nigger” in response to probably being called a “chink”, “gook” all that good stuff. You know how I know the black guy started with the name calling? Cuz the sky is blue. Thats why. You ever see any Koreans, or any asians for that matter, going around calling people “nigger”? I know the reverse happens all the time (go to worldstarhiphop and see for yourself) . Don’t get me wrong, I’m 100% sure that the Korean store owner is racist. He probably whispers nigger under his breath every time he gives you your change and flips off a KFC on his way home.

    Blackgold, if you look deep into that oh so black heart of yours and REALLY think about what went down. What are you so angry about?

    The black dude took it too far. Got butthurt and made a collect call to Jesse Jackson.
    “how dare this chink call me a ‘nigger’? I’m leader in the local Nation of Islam chapter”
    Just take the L like a man and move on with your unemployed life. Also, you know whats going to take the place of that gas station after its gone? Nothing. Maybe I should go blackfaced and setup a redbox that only rents Tyler Perry movies. I’ll MAKE MILLIONS

    Ok all jokes aside. If the store owner was black (HAAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHH ok I’m good) and the customer was Korean. There’d be a protest that Koreans are trying to swindle hard working black business owners.

    So in conclusion I have no conclusion.

    P.S. about slavery… its been a while. Get over it.

  • blackgold

    You korean commentors need to stop generalizing. A lot of you are just as bad as white people. You sound just like a bunch of racist whitebread conservatives. Saying that were a bunch of “Whiney”, black people and that we are not “hardworking”. You complain about being the “model minority” until situations like these come up, then you act like your better than us. But when you all are the focus of white aggression then you start talking about the Civil Rights movement and how great Martin Luther King was and so forth. Remember the Virginia Tech Massacre? remember how you all came out there crawling on your knees begging for forgiveness and pleading with white people to not ” Paint your community with a broad brush?” You all looked like a bunch of begging rice picking peasants! Go da hell, stop being so fuckin two-faced.

  • Joanna

    Maybe I’m too harsh but if someone tried to steal my hard earned money, I might shoot him/her down too.

  • Jlee

    Are you kidding.

  • jennkim

    What’s sad is that if the Korean was black….and not Korean. These black people would have nothing to bitch about. Seems they are the racist ones and they got a taste of their own medicine! Good for you Mr. Park! Don’t stand up for whiny black people that want to ruin others hard work. They are just mad that they can’t mooch off asians like they do the government. If you don’t want to shop at an asian owned store….open up your own damn shop! That way other blacks can rob a black owned store instead of the asian stores!

  • sizlack83

    “Nobody told you to take that risk accept the ovenrment who gave you a kickback if you did,”

    Nobody gets handouts from the government for failing a business (aside maybe those billion dollar banking industries), if you fail a small business it’s on your own blood, sweat, tears, money, time, and effort. My parents immigrated here and they both work 72 hours a week. They started from scratch, built a business up and now own a house after 10 years of working. I go to college full time and work roughly 20 hours a week. A lot of immigrants come here escaping war, poverty, starvation, evil governments etc. so don’t act like only one group of people have struggled or are struggling. Targeting another minority group won’t solve the lack of jobs and other problems you’re community is facing in that area.

  • David Edwards

    Let’s look how the whole thing started. A guy wants to put less than 5 bucks worth of gas on a debit card. I am sure that the reason that the gas station owner has a $5 minimum is because after the charge that the merchant pays the debit card company, he is losing money on a tranaction of less than $5.
    The majority of businesses in America, regardless of where they are located, have a minimum charge policy. Sounds like things got a little carried away.
    But what has me puzzled is that one of the protesters is carrying a sign that says “Killed a man 4 stealing.” Sounds like this Phillips guy tried to run out with the register, and an employee shot him. Last time I checked, trying to make off with a merchant’s register was against the law. Dude tries to swipe the register, employee sees him, shoots him and, unfortunately, he dies.
    I try to be open-minded and liberal about things, but when the protesters trying to close this man’s gas station are taking up for a criminal, it makes it hard to do so.

  • jstele

    The C word he is referring to is “chink”.

    Anyhow, of course, Korean merchants like other businesses aren’t in it for charity. But you have to acknowledge the fact that they do open businesses in areas that are avoided by large retailers like Vons, etc. And that the neighborhoods do benefit, so it is a gain for the community in that sense. The government does not help Koreans. But it is the Koreans themselves or their community that helps them start businesses. It is very ignorant for you to suggest such a thing. Anyone who is willing to do the work and save money can open a business. ANYONE. So if you don’t like Korean businesses, then shop elsewhere and open your own.

  • gilcreaseergilcrease

    Well first of all what is the C word, what is that? First of all just because you take a risk doesn’t mean you need to be ignorant of a consumer. Nobody told you to take that risk accept the ovenrment who gave you a kickback if you did, so let’s don’t act like you are taking risks for the sake of sake of taking risks. Next let us get our facts straight when it comes to magic as he does have businesses in the urban area. Also please don’t start that work hard nonsense as Asians who immigrated to this country have no inkling about the Civil Rights Struggle. If you need further proof of blacks working hard and doing for self go google black businesses or better yet go google BLACK n

  • James

    What about the black people using the C word. No one ever talks about that. I am persoanlly sick of people( black, Latin, asian, Etc) blaming color as a soap box to preach. I have an idea all you protesters if you got time to protest in front of other people business why don’t you think of way to make your neighborhood more safe so that honest working people in your areas don’t get robbed all the time. If us asian are willing to take a risk by opening in your neighborhood to help you people we should get a little slack for risk our lives to service you. I have yet to see a black person own a liquor or a gas station in black neighboehood yet. Even Magic Joihnson don’t want to do business in your neighborhoods and when they do its get vandalized or robbed. Unless blacks are willing invest in their own neighborhoods they are gonna have to put up with asain store owner or just buy us out. Money talks and until black people are willing to shell out their own money to open up their own stores its going to reamin the same. Nothing in this country is given to you. You have to work hard and set goals. If you got time to protest, that mnean you got time to get a job and make money and buy yourt own store.


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