By Ivy N. McQuain
NDG Contributing Writer
The truest crime in America, or any nation, is not a crime of murder. Not a crime of theft. Not even a crime of accusations. The greatest crime the people of a governing body can inflict on themselves and others is the crime of hatred. Hatred is the foundation, and oftentimes the cause of all other crimes. Hatred is an infestation and spreads if not dealt with immediately. And mayhem ensues when an individual or group mix hatred with prejudice.
For the families of Marcus Phillips, 26, and Thomas Pak, a Korean immigrant and owner of Diamond Shamrock Kwik Stop on Martin Luther King Boulevard, hatred and prejudice collided. Phillips, an African American male who have been in and out of jail for several crimes entered the Diamond Shamrock with the intention of robbing the store. Unfortunately, Phillips was shot and killed as he fled with the store’s cash register by Pak’s employee.
While Pak claims he is not a racist and is just following the American dream, his attitude towards the customers that the Diamond Shamrock serves, who are predominantly African American, lead others to think otherwise. There have been numerous complaints about the overpricing of food and beverage items in his store as well as a substantial blow to the pocket for his gas prices.
Pak’s perceived distain for his African American customers was not exposed until December 2011 when a local Nation of Islam leader, Jeffrey Muhammad, attempted to patronize the store. The recap of the events of what transpired differs from both parties. Muhammad stated that Pak immediately began yelling racial slurs when he challenged a $10 debit card purchase requirement. Muhammad’s retelling of the story, which led to a large South Dallas protest, started by the Nation of Islam, to shut Pak’s and other racist business owners down in the community, has painted Pak as a racist who yelled racial slurs including demanding Muhammad return to Africa. Pak’s story is one of a personal disagreement he feels should not have been retold to the media. He does admit he demanded a $10 debit card minimum purchase in an effort to get Muhammad to leave his store. Pak also accused Muhammad of returning racial slurs at him.
Today the protest is still ongoing and Muhammad is still demanding justice, an end to hatred and prejudice towards the people who have made foreign business owners successful. Pak’s only desire is to end the feuding and start a path to recovery. In response, Korean community leaders are working to repair and strengthen race relations between African Americans and Koreans.Building a bridge towards unity
Make no mistake about it, African Americans and Koreans share a similar history of bondage and disparity that almost mimic each other. For Koreans, Japan was a cruel ruler that held them to captivity and slavery for years. Koreans were made to feel less than human and oftentimes faced cruel and harsh treatments from Japan.
The plight of African Americans is commonly known and continues to be a story in households across the nation. Slavery was and continues, for both groups, to be an issue that plagues families and legacies. So why the fierce tension between two groups with such paralleled histories? Unfortunately, in Dallas the disparity that both African Americans and Koreans feel towards each other have garnered fear, tension and even hatred towards the other. And add to that violence and a melting pot full of stereotypes, bitterness and an inability to identify a way to create community and cultural unity is always cooking.
Fortunately, Korean community leaders have reached across the imaginary color line in hopes of eliminating the issues that have kept these two groups bickering. The proverbial peace offering to include and expose African Americans to Korean culture is being planned during the annual Korean Cultural Day on Sunday, May 27 at the Irving Convention Center. The hopes of organizers on both parts are to build stronger relationships between the two communities. The African American community leaders in Irving and Dallas have agreed to begin the journey towards peace, understanding and open communications.
“We want to expose Koreans and African Americans to the fact that both groups are groups that have been oppressed by others through slavery,” said Rev. L. Smith. “Our stories are so parallel that we need to have an understanding a coalition between the two groups.”
Smith is one of the many African American organizers for the unity attempt. Other organizers include Brenda Cotton, Jackie Wymbly and Peter Johnson of The Peter Johnson Foundation for Nonviolence. The hopes by all persons involved, including Muslim leaders who initiated the community wide protest, is to establish communication, understanding and education about the past to build a strong present and future. Activities have yet to be finalized but the message African American leaders want people to take away from the event is that African Americans and Koreans need to build cooperation, tolerance and a coalitions. A connection of the communities is needed so that no more racism, hatred and prejudice will continue to infect these communities.
Anthony Bond, one of the organizers shared his thoughts, “We want this event to resonate and bring harmony for all people. This event is a free event and it provides attendees the opportunity to learn more about the African American and Korean communities.”
Smith shares what he believes to be the problem between African Americans and Koreans is the lack of understanding the two groups have about each other. “We work and own businesses right next to each other yet we don’t take the time to get to know each other,” shared Smith. “It’s time to correct this so we don’t feel exploited any longer.”
As the North Dallas Gazette prepared this article community leaders from both sides were still in the planning phase of the event to discuss how to better include African Americans in the Korean Cultural Day and how to spread enlighten and educate all attendees and races on the importance of unity.
Charles Ko, President of Greater Dallas Korean American Chamber of Commerce stated, “Resonance and Harmony, a cultural exchange event between Greater Dallas African American and Korean American Communities, is significant in many ways. This is first of hopefully many more events that will bring the two communities together to foster better understanding and greater economic cooperation. Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism through it’s office in LA has commited more than 25 performers to share the best of traditional and modern Korean perfromanc art. In addtion, through the generosity of City of Irving, Metro PCS, Law Offices of Domingo Garcia, Mr Bill Bueck of the Las Colinas Group, The Greater Irving Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce and many others. Both communities are able to present this event. Various civic and business leaders from African American Community are workng closely with the Greater Dallas Korean American to ensure full participation.”