Cops’ negligence killed a black man, riot starts, Asian businesses looted and burned. A repeat of 1992 LA riot. Many White people suffering from white guilt defend the rioters said they had no choice; Black rioters felt they are justified to do so, black “civil rights leaders” don’t care; Asian immigrants’ American dream shattered. Who cares about these hardworking Asian immigrants?
They said they are against racism, and racism in America seems to be defined as only between black and white, and other voices are simply only inconvenient nuisance unworthy of attention and easily dismissed. Where are the black “civil rights leaders,” why are you so silent on the plight of other racial groups who suffered unjustly at the hands of your own people; where are those sympathetic defenders of the black rioters, suddenly so quiet.
It is not justice we see, it is hypocrisy we see.
See below on Dennis Halpin’s article in Weekly Standard on Asian-American business targeted during the Baltimore riot.
When guests at a North Korea Freedom Week dinner in Northern Virginia learned the Korean-American pastor at our table led a Maryland church, they immediately asked about the situation in Baltimore. It was May 1, and National Guard troops had been deployed to the city three days earlier to help quell the unrest sparked by the death of a man in police custody. The pastor let out a deep sigh before responding. A few members of his congregation had lost everything. After working diligently for years building small businesses in a new country, they watched their efforts literally go up in flames as looters trashed their shops and carted off their merchandise.
A store burns during riots in Baltimore, April 28, 2015.
The crisis reminded many in America’s growing community of two million Korean immigrants and their descend-ants of another city’s devastation two decades earlier. Baltimore’s riots began two days before the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, in which Koreatown, the heart of the Korean diaspora in America, was subjected to pogrom-like attacks by irate mobs. Though Asian Americans had nothing to do with either Rodney King’s or Freddie Gray’s injuries, they appear to have been the targets of some of the animosity unleashed by rioters.
Baltimore has brought back these painful memories and raised a less-examined racial divide than the obvious one between black and white America. Not only in Los Angeles and Baltimore, but in Ferguson and other cities caught up in racially charged confrontations, Asian-American shopkeepers, including Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, and Arab Americans as well as Koreans, appear to have been the victims of racial profiling. These recent immigrants came to the United States largely after the Civil War and the Jim Crow system of segregation and thus have no connection to the charges of continued institutional racism that some blame for the disturbances. Yet the New York Times reported April 27 that gang members in Baltimore had specifically “stood in front of stores that they knew were black-owned businesses to protect them from looting and vandalism,” pointing the rioters instead “toward Chinese- and Arab-owned stores.”
The Korea Times reported April 30, quoting the Korean-American Grocers Association International and the Korean Society of Maryland, that at least 40 Korean-owned businesses in Baltimore were damaged in the riots. One Korean-American-owned business, Fireside North lounge and liquor store, was set on fire, with its owner and the owner of another business, Uptown Liquor, reportedly sustaining injuries. The Associated Press stated that a total of 200 small businesses, many owned by Asian-Americans, were shut down as a result of damage caused by rioters.
Baltimore’s WBAL News reported the same day that “42 Korean grocers, delis, and carry-outs” had been “destroyed or damaged during the unrest,” with the total number still being tallied. The television station also noted that the Korean consulate and the Korean-American wife of Maryland governor Larry Hogan subsequently held meetings with some business owners to discuss reconstruction.
WBAL added that masked intruders not only looted Freddie’s Liquor but beat up store owner Young Park. John Bang, the owner of Hopkins Beauty Supply, said he applied lessons he learned from the L.A. riots: He barricaded himself “with an arsenal of weapons.” He told WBAL, “I have registered firearms, a shotgun, AR-15, pistols.” Bang said that if rock-carrying looters tried to enter his business, “I would say ‘I’m armed! Don’t come in!’ And if they don’t believe me and became more aggressive, I would give them a warning shot.”
CNN carried a report on May 7 of a young Korean-American man viewing with shock a video of an older Korean woman sobbing in the ruins of her 30-year-old wig and beauty shop on Pratt Street that had been destroyed by looters. Her son, Matthew Chung, wrote on Facebook, “My parents came to this country with no money and worked hard to set up a little business that’s been in the same neighborhood in Baltimore City for over 25 years. But just in one night everything they have worked for is now all gone.”
Resentment of the commercial success of these immigrant communities, though this success is based on the age-old American dream of achievement through hard work and family values, seems to have been a factor in the attacks. National Public Radio reported from the Sandtown neighborhood of west Baltimore April 30 that “many Asian-owned businesses were targeted for destruction.” Yvonne Gordon, a witness to the looting, told NPR that the store where she works “was spared because it is owned by black people. . . . But she says that the Korean-owned shops on the block didn’t get that protection.” A young African-American man stated that the vandalism was “payback” and added, “I don’t feel like it was the most reasonable thing to do, but it’s definitely justified,” noting that the few businesses in the neighborhood that do exist are mostly Asian-run.
British newspaper the Daily Mail said shop owner Rajneesh Nagpal, 39, called the police 50 times during the riots, “but nobody came to help him.” He added: “This is not protest. They’re destroying their own community. I don’t see any national guard. Nobody cares about us.” Subsequent media reports, quoting police sources, indicate that Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake issued a “stand-down” order to police on April 27, the date of Freddie Gray’s funeral, thus enabling looters to attack Nagpal’s business as well as others in the city. Governor Hogan eventually, at the mayor’s belated request, activated 5,000 National Guard troops to assist in imposing a curfew and restoring order.
African immigrant Kibrom Ghebremeskel, 38, who came to the United States from war-torn Eritrea, boarded up his delicatessen before the “swarm” of youths arrived; he managed to keep the mob at bay. He told the Daily Mail that he thought he was free in America of daily unrest and violence—but now feels even less safe in Baltimore. “In Eritrea people die because of the political situation, here people die for no reason at all,” he said. “How can the U.S. let this happen?” Korean-American immigrant Sung Kang, 49, left his job at Johns Hopkins last year to open his own business, a tavern, which was looted. “This shop is everything I have,” he said. “This is America. I wanted to follow my dream and wanted to make something for myself.”
The new attorney general, Loretta Lynch, has announced a Justice Department probe of Baltimore police over possible violations of civil rights. She should also order a federal investigation of whether the assaults on ethnic Asian business owners in Baltimore involved racially motivated hate crimes. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 permits federal prosecution of anyone who “willingly injures, intimidates or interferes with another person, or attempts to do so, by force because of the other person’s race, color, religion or national origin.” Reports from the New York Times and other media suggest that business owners in Baltimore were targeted based on their ethnicity. The constitutional rights of Asian minorities in a majority African-American city, with an African-American mayor and African-American police chief, demand equal protection under the law.
Dennis P. Halpin, a former U.S. consul in Busan, Korea, is a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Korea Institute, Johns Hopkins University, and a consultant to the Poblete Analysis Group (PAG).