Written by Vin Suprynowicz
Friday, 01 June 2001
No one had told them till recently there was any problem with the stuff
they were selling -- not sofa-sized Turkish hookahs, mind you, but
perfectly legal novelty glass vials (some containing artificial novelty
rosebuds) and miniature copper scouring brushes which police say can be
used to facilitate the consumption of crack cocaine.
The proprietors of the two west side convenience stores -- including
Koreans Ki Son and Suk Son -- even promised they would stop selling the
items, now that the problem has been pointed out.
But that wasn't enough for Las Vegas City Councilman Lawrence Weekly, who
was set on staging a publicity stunt Wednesday apparently aimed at driving
the Korean merchants from his primarily black neighborhood -- a proceeding
more than a little tinged with racism and xenophobia.
The Rev. Gary Hunter of the Greater St. James Baptist Church hauled about
40 young children into the council chambers for this show, the better to
illustrate his point that the Sons' new Jackson Market was too close to his
church at 316 Madison Ave. (The Sons needed to apply for for council
permission to shift their license from the store they now operate on F
Street to their new location on D Street, two blocks away, because selling
liquor is deemed a "privilege.")
"The behavior pattern of these store owners are disrespectful to our
children and our women," the Rev. Hunter told the City Council.
Their behavior pattern ... or their race and national origin?
"People who don't understand English don't understand respect," the Rev.
Hunter continued, referring to the fact that the Sons -- Korean natives --
depended on interpreters during Wednesday's council hearing.
In the end, the liquor licenses were denied. (The owners of the second
store, J. & D. Mini Market on North Martin Luther King, had also promised
to stop selling the items to which Mr. Weekly objected ... to no avail.
He's an Arab.)
Nor were these denials based on repeated liquor sales to minors or any
such violations of law, mind you. No, the merchants were penalized for
selling perfectly legal products.
"I think there's something really, really wrong with what I've heard in
the last month," commented Mayor Oscar Goodman, who along Councilman Larry
Brown voted against the regulatory lynching. "If there's something wrong
with the (novelty) roses ... I want to know why we didn't do something
about it before two weeks ago."
Regulators say both license applications were considered routine till Mr.
Weekly saw his chance to make political hay. The Councilman - and those who
sided with him - have thus set a very dangerous precedent. If they want to
outlaw certain glass bottles and copper brushes, let them see if they can
come up with an effective, constitutional ordinance that anyone can make
sense of, so everyone can look up the law and see where they stand. (And
lots of luck.)
Meantime, what next? Shall local supermarkets with the "wrong kinds" of
owners lose their business licenses in surprise proceedings for selling Dow
Corning and Union Carbide sandwich bags - perfectly legal products, but
items in which we all know controlled drugs are sometimes stored and
Deprived of their liquor licenses, will the two stores in question now
shut down -- depriving Mr. Weekly's constituents of handy places to buy
milk and diapers -- or instead raise their prices on other items to make up
for their lost liquor revenues? Either way, it's hard to see how Mr.
Weekly's constituents benefit.
Or does Mr. Weekly now intend to approach these businessmen and urge them
to sell out their now devalued businesses, perhaps to new owners more
likely to win liquor license approval, given that their skin color and
accents would doubtless be more pleasing -- more "respectful" to the
sensitivities -- of Mr. Weekly and the esteemed Rev. Hunter?
This is dangerous stuff.
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas
book, "Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement,
1993-1998," is available by dialing 1-800-244-2224; or via web site www.thespiritof76.com/wacokillers.html.
by Vin Suprynowicz
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Copyright © 2001 The Multiracial Activist. All rights reserved.