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'Daddy, Why Do People Steal from Us?'

'Daddy, Why Do People Steal from Us?'

How I answered the question would prove crucial to addressing racial divides in our D.C. neighborhood.

I do not share this perception lightly, nor without personal experience. I have the dimmest of inchoate memories from childhood of a black man pointing a sawn-off shotgun at my father in his hat store in the West Loop of Chicago, and then spraying bleach in his eyes in order to expedite his getaway. My wife's family lost everything in the L.A. riots in 1992. More recently, D.C. Council member and former mayor Marion Barry went on record after his recent re-election,saying, "We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops. They ought to go. I'm going to say that right now."No less than two months later, just two miles from my house, a Korean American deli owner was robbed and shot to death inside her store.

A recent Pew Research Group study on Asian Americans thrust this often-hidden dynamic into the public spotlight. The study contained the following statement:

Korean Americans stand out for their negative views on their group's relations with blacks. Fully half say these two groups don't get along well; while 39 percent say they get along pretty well and just 4 percent say they get along very well. In several cities across the country, there has been a history of tension between Koreans and blacks, often arising from friction between Korean shopkeepers and black customers in predominantly black neighborhoods.

The Pew study confirmed what I and so many had feared, that Koreans and blacks simply cannot get along. It was as if a previously subconscious undercurrent had become a concrete fact: the unavoidablerealityof Korean vs. black animosity, given absolute contours through academic study.


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'Daddy, Why Do People Steal from Us?'

'Daddy, Why Do People Steal from Us?'

How I answered the question would prove crucial to addressing racial divides in our D.C. neighborhood.

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Displaying 2–5 of 5 comments

yvette moore

January 19, 2013  10:18am

Hmm. I know there were issues between Koreans and Blacks in NYC in the 1980s and in LA around the Rodney King unrest, but I really haven't heard of anything since that time. In NY one incident involved a Korean store owner slapping a kid allegedly misbehaving and the community boycotting the store. That's about it. I do see Korean stores all over Black neighborhoods and doing well. If the relationships were really bad, Koreans would set up shop in other neighborhoods with nicer neighbors. As for the thefts, if you talk w/your nonKorean neighbors, I'm sure you'd learn you weren't the only ones being robbed. Robbers want stuff, period. They really aren't nationalistic about who they steal from. In the 1990s, I can't tell you how many times thieves broke the glass out of my black-owned car & took my stuff. I even had a Black friend who just didn't lock his car doors. He said the alarm would still go off when thieves opened the door and he wouldn't have to pay for expensive new glass.

Sita Henderson

January 18, 2013  12:29pm

You speak from the Father's heart. Thank you for choosing not to pass on a legacy of 'prejudice' to your daughter. Racism has always been an issue of the heart, a heart of darkness, not an issue of colour. I know all too clearly what it is like to be paintbrushed with stereotyped assumptions about my character based on my ethnicity or gender as an Indo-Trini-Canadian woman. Instead you chose to turn the focus from the temporal to what is eternal. Your loving perseverance will be what breaks through the prejudice. May you always see people through God's eyes which sees straight through to the heart and its need.

Patricia Pope

January 17, 2013  3:01pm

And yet, we assume the petty theft of things like clogs couldn't happen in other neighborhoods? I've seen a lot of petty vandalism and theft in affluent and middle-class suburbs, both of which I've lived in. But it's a delusion that many people live with, thus the outcry when crimes like mass shootings, kidnappings, armed robberies, etc. happen in certain areas, we hear, "That stuff doesn't happen HERE." Well, it just did. Now what? I think it speaks more to the human condition. That is not to dismiss the very real components of race, class and culture, but to acknowledge that a lot of issues have a lot to do with the human heart. How it gets manifested may change from one context to another, but we are all fallen creatures.

bennett willis

January 17, 2013  12:37pm

My daughter lives in the same neighborhood (Deanwood) as Pastor Chin. She has experienced some of the same problems that he has. She likes the neighborhood because it IS a neighborhood. People know who lives there and look out for their neighbors. We have visited her there--and were a minority. I hope things go well for him.


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