PERSONAL EXPERIENCE:

Why Are Blacks Scapegoating A Korean Grocer?

by A. Robert Kaufman

In my middle teen years through my 30's, while most of my friends, neighbors and relatives were establishing their mostly successful careers, I was investing much of my time and energy in the struggle against oppression of African-Americans. I walked picket lines, I marched, I sat in at the restaurants, rode the Freedom Rides, spoke out, and attended innumerable meetings and conferences.
I didn't so all this because I was Black and "had to." I did it simply because I don't like to see people pushed around. somebody had to do something-and I was somebody.
I've been spat upon, called "nigger lover," beaten, arrested numerous times, denied employment, and been disinherited.
I'm not complaining, mind you; just explaining. Matter of fact, I'm proud of how I have lived my life, and stuck to my convictions despite popular pressure.
Recently I've involved myself in another unpopular cause, because I still don't like to see people pushed around.
This time the victim is an immigrant Korean family's grocery store that has two Black employees. The Canaan Discount Food Store was originally charged with selling outdated frozen meats; the Health Department said they weren't. That should have been the end of it.
But that hasn't been the end of it. There seems to be a Black-led effort to drive the store out of business. The Health Department, deluged with complaints about the store, is conducting numerous inspections of Canaan, finding only petty violations that have been easily corrected.
Few stores of any nationality could survive such "inspections." A "female" toilet seat, which by law should be a "male" toilet seat? Replaced! A leaking faucet? Fixed! An odor that pervades every market that sells chicken parts? Normal!
The leaders of the boycott against Canaan swear up and down that this is not about race. But if Canaan were Black-owned, my bet is that the picketers would not have even considered boycotting it. They probably would have rallied to the store's defense if its license (like Canaan's) were suspended, and accused the Health Department of harassment.
Two days before Thanksgiving, I attended the Health Department hearing over what I consider an entirely unjustified suspension of Canaan's license.
In the informal debate in the hall outside the hearing room as well as in the hearing room, all pretenses of this not being about race were abandoned. I was told I didn't have a right to speak, that I didn't live in the neighborhood (I live in Walbrook Junction), that I smell bad, that I'm fat, that I'm "White trash," and that Jews are vultures.
One can understand how, in the heat of what I see as a lynch mob mentality, out to crucify a scapegoat, some ignorant jerks might make such irresponsible statements. But among the scores of boycotters who witnessed this demagoguery against me, not one protested!
What shall we make of such behavior?
Blacks have been getting the short end of the stick since before this racist nation became a nation. Even now, ignorant and self-serving Whites, and even some "Blacks," blame Blacks for everything imaginable. So it is for good reason that Blacks feel isolated and alone, without viable allies. The pain must be unbearable. Anyone who articulates that pain is deeply appreciated. But after the acknowledgement of pain must come a search for a solution.
That solution, and those needed allies, await on the sidelines of history. An ever-growing majority of Whites, for the first time since the Depression, are suffering dramatic declines in their standard of living. They want to know why, and what to do about it. Blacks become easy scapegoats for such Whites.
Just as Koreans and Jews make easy scapegoats for Blacks.


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This story was published on January 3, 1997.