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[Editorial] Racial dispute in Texas

An ongoing racial dispute in Dallas, Texas, involving a Korean-American gas station owner and the local African-American community draws our concern for its possible impact on the life of the Korean immigrants in the area and elsewhere. Reasonable efforts should be made to prevent mistakes by individuals from causing unnecessary racial clashes.

A Park, who runs a gas station and a convenience store in the predominantly black South Dallas, seems to have somewhat antagonized poorer customers for his refusal to accept debit cards for transactions below $10 and relatively high gas prices. An argument occurred on Dec. 9 between Park and Jeffrey Muhammad, a minister at the local Nation of Islam mosque, when the latter wanted to use his debit card for a $5 purchase.

An online news report by an Asian-American activist group said Muhammad admitted he told the gas station owner to “go back to China.” But the black minister claimed he said so only after the Asian-American owner told him that he was a slave and should go back to Africa. Park asserted Muhammad made the slurs to him first, calling him a “Chinaman.”

Skirmishes took place incessantly around Park’s gas station as the local NAACP joined the Nation of Islam believers in their demonstrations to prevent African-American customers from patronizing the place. Injuries resulted when Dallas police tried to disperse demonstrators and part of them went to City Hall to protest. Police took special precautionary measures on Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 16, to ensure no violent incident by parade participants.

Since the Rodney King riot in Los Angeles in 1994, racial tension has existed in the United States between the minority communities. It is regrettable that some African-American activists deliberately arouse antagonism toward other immigrant groups to promote solidarity in their own society. African-American activists are calling for a boycott of Asian-American businesses, claiming that “foreigners” are taking away jobs from “locals.”

The Foreign Ministry sent Cho Yoon-soo, the consul general in Houston, to Dallas to find facts and discuss countermeasures with Korean community leaders. But there is nothing much for them to do at the moment other than contacting local activists to try to remove any misunderstanding.

The best advice to the members of the Korean-American society is to make conscientious efforts to exhibit a lifestyle of sharing with others, offering more time and money in community service activities thereby earning recognition as an integral part of the American society.