Ask a Korean! News: Racial Tension Flaring in Dallas

Oh boy:
The African American community in Dallas has been protesting a gas station run by a Korean-born U.S. citizen in a predominately black neighborhood in South Dallas for over a month, taking issue with what they claim were racial remarks by the station’s owner.

. . .

According to the ministry and the local Korean community, the conflict occurred on Dec. 9, 2011, between the Korean-American owner of a gas station in southern Dallas and a black customer over the sale of gas.

The customer, complaining that the price of gas at the station was much higher than at other stations, demanded he be able to buy gas by smaller amounts than what the owner set as the minimum sales unit. The owner refused and told him to go to another station, to which the customer responded by telling the owner to go back to his country. The owner responded by telling the customer to go back to Africa.

That triggered a boycott of the gas station by the black community in the region, followed by them speaking out against Korean and other Asian immigrant communities.
African Americans in Dallas Target Korean Business [New American Media]

There are other reports that Korean American gas station owner called the customer names first. There are also other reports that the gas station owner is not exactly a first time offender with this incident. Fortunately, Korean American groups moved quickly once this made news -- the president of the Federation of Korean Associations USA, the umbrella group for all the regional Korean American groups, plans to meet with the NAACP on this issue.

The Korean has no interest in the pointless exercise of trying to parse out who said what first. The only point to be made here is this: a lot of Korean Americans, particularly first generation immigrants, have a long way to go in terms of catching up with the way mainstream America feels about racism. Addressing this issue is a task for other Korean Americans, because we are the ones best suited to deal with this issue. 

Was the African American customer wrong to yell at the gas station owner, "Go back to China"? Sure. But the proper response is simply to note the point and move on. It is not productive to lecture other minority communities about what they should or should not do, particularly when it is undeniable that a lot of Korean Americans operate their businesses while having their noses held up on their darker-skinned customers. Avoid the temptation of the dumb tribalism -- which, it must be said, tempts the African American community just as much as it does Korean community -- and get our own house in order first.

-UPDATE Feb. 5, 2012- The gas station owner publicly apologized on a Dallas radio program, attended by African American civic leaders like city councilman Eric Johnson. The Korea Society of Dallas also donated 500 winter coats to NAACP as a gesture of goodwill. Reportedly, there are still a few people picketing the gas station, but the situation is now unlikely to escalate.

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