If you have ever lived in or visited a black community, you’ve seen them. They occupy numerous corners. They accumulate countless black dollars. Dry cleaners. Chinese food restaurants. Nail Salons. Beauty Supply stores. These businesses remain staples of the black community, yet these merchants fail to mirror the hue of their customers. These merchants also regard their customers with an overt superiority. This superiority becomes obvious in the condescending demeanor to which these merchants speak to their customers and the violence that erupts in instances of misunderstanding.
This week a viral video of an Asian man kicking and choking a black shopper reminded the black community of the low regard in which many migrant merchants hold blacks. This video depicts a confrontation between a young black woman and Asian store owners, over an alleged pair of eyelashes. In an effort to prove her innocence, the young lady can be heard instructing the Asian storeowners to check her bag. Within ninety seconds she is kicked, thrown to the floor, and placed in a chokehold that muffles her screams. The video proved hard to watch, yet a disturbingly accurate depiction of the belligerent migrant business owner.
The belligerent migrant business owner occupies a significant place in the black experience. About a decade ago, I recall being in a beauty supply store on Georgia Avenue in Washington, DC with three of my classmates. One of my friends, a young black male, beeped on the way out and complied when the Asian store owner requested to check his bag. I grew overtly indignant and watched in disgust and horror as my friend unpacked his bag. This visit to this store concluded with us leaving empty handed, and we would never return. I sometimes wonder if things would have turned out differently had my friend been alone.
Similarly, I recall being in a beauty supply store with a female relative years ago. My relative was looking closely at one of the items and the Asian male, screamed at her to not to open or damage his items. My relative regarded this aggression with cavalier disregard, but I left with the same disgusting feeling in my stomach. This same relative was also violently pushed by an Asian male at a nail salon years prior because she refused to pay more than the originally quoted price.
I share these incidents from a position of extreme discomfort but with purpose. In the described scenarios, I was not personally confronted or attacked, yet bearing a witness to these injustices, affected my thoughts and actions. These sentiments mirror the acts of the black collective following the Emmett Till murder. Till’s murder proved a catalyst for blacks withdrawing their support from the store where Till allegedly whistled at a white woman. As a collective, we need to resume the mentality that what happens to our brothers and sisters also happens to us. Ideas of individualism will only foment our fall, as they bear no combat to the multi-faceted efforts to destroy us.
With all this being said, requesting courtesy is equally, if not more detrimental to the black collective. I’ve read and watched countless commentary following this video, most of which request that blacks detract their business from those who do not “treat them nicely.” To this I vehemently disagree. As reasonable as “courtesy” may seem, blacks have waited centuries for just and fair treatment. Our patience has merely produced variants of exploitation and systemic injustice. Whether kind or cruel, the foreign merchant solely seeks the African jewel.
Furthermore, all blacks are just one trivial object away from a chokehold or death. Let us not forget that in 1991, fifteen year, Latasha Harlins of Los Angeles, California was shot and killed by a Korean store owner over an orange juice. In consequence, Soon Ja Du had to pay a $500 fine, serve 400 hours of community service and 5 years probation. Du received no jail time and was allowed to remain in the country. The riots that erupted following Harlins murder resulted in Du’s store being burned to the ground. However, had the black community not asserted their power, Harlin and Till’s murderers would have most likely continued to exploit the black dollar. This cases prove didactic in illustrating how worthless the black body is to America.
I would say that I hope this video inspires many to withdraw their support from all migrant businesses in black communities. However, it should not take videos like this to show us what we have known for centuries. No amount of ketchup on chicken wings, weaves, acrylic nails, or dry-cleaned slacks can make up for countless security cameras that criminalize us all the while using our money to send their children to college. I recall talking with a nail shop owner about my job, when she said that her daughter previously attended the school where I worked. She then went on to mention how her and her husband paid over fifty grand to the school, and even more for their daughter’s vehicle and miscellaneous expenses. I looked around at the nail salon at all the black bodies, and cringed thinking how our quest for beauty sponsored their children’s education and lavish lifestyle.
Following this conversation, upon seeing Asian nail salons I now see college tuitions and expensive cars paid for by bi-monthly full-sets and pedicures. Now, I do not strive to deter women from taking care of themselves. I do encourage women of the black community to allow their maintenance needs to foster black communal wealth. I can only hope that this video performs a similar function. Namely, I can only hope that upon feeling the temptation to support these migrant businesses, the black collective is reminded of this young black woman in a chokehold, and the slain body of a fifteen year old laying in a pool of blood, amongst other faceless blacks bodies criminalized by the migrant quest for western capital.
However, I know that many will feel that they have no options and continue to patronize the migrant business, conceding to their dominant and abundant presence. But, there is always a choice. The black collective is without systematic advantage, and hierarchical privilege, but we do have power in our spending.
Will you fund your own demise, or literally and figuratively save to fund your own salvation?