Here's a somewhat racial angle to the Ferguson, Mo., saga that you probably won't see MSNBC pick up on. The Daily Beast's Tim Mak today reported on "Ferguson's Other Race Problem: Riots Damaged Asian-Owned Stores."
"Asian-Americans own a number of the stores lining West Florissant Avenue, where more than 20 businesses have suffered damage in the wake of Michael Brown’s killing," Mak noted, adding that "At least five of these stores are Asian-American-owned, according to local sources and business records. Just 0.5 percent of Ferguson is of Asian descent, according to 2010 U.S. Census data." While he made clear that local Asian-American business owners "don’t think looters targeted them because of their race" that it's undisputable that they have suffered store damage and economic loss because of the looting and violence:
The Ferguson Market, where the teenage Brown allegedly grabbed a handful of cigars before his deadly encounter with police, is owned by the Patels, an Asian-American family. Looters have targeted the store twice. On the same block, Northland Chop Suey, a Chinese restaurant, has been looted at least two times. A second market, a beauty shop, and a cellphone store within walking distance also have been damaged; all are owned by Asian-Americans.
Jay Kanzler, the Patels’ lawyer, told The Daily Beast he believed that law enforcement authorities allowed the looting of Ferguson Market on Friday in part because it is a minority-owned small business.
“One could [ask] that if this had been a Walmart, a Starbucks…would they have done more to make sure this didn’t happen?…I believe that absolutely factored into the equation,” said Kanzler, who said 80 percent of his clients are first-generation small-business owners. “Their rights may have been placed on a lower priority for the people in charge of protecting them.”
Local Asian-American business owners, however, say they don’t think looters targeted them because of their race. Even as the protests continue, many of the owners are already back in their stores, rebuilding and serving Ferguson residents.
"[Looters] came in here two times, Sunday night and Friday night,” Chinese restaurant owner Boon Jang told The Daily Beast, before adding: “I’ve got to go, I have a customer here.”
In times of racial tension, Asian-Americans have tended to be left out of the conversation between white and black America, reflecting the prevailing sense during more peaceful times that they don’t quite belong in either camp.
That’s the result of “the role of Asians when it comes to race tensions between white and black,” said Johnny Wang, president of the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of St. Louis. “The common complaint is that we just stay on the sidelines and don’t say anything.”
Of course the plight of the shop owners, period, has been largely overlooked by the liberal media, which is a shame. Looting is not a victimless crime. It is costly to owners and eventually to consumers -- who inevitably will pay more for goods and services -- as well as employees, some of whom may have to be laid off, get a trim in pay, or lose hours as owners try to cut labor costs in response to losses from looting. In turn the damage to the tax base will be felt down the road, which could harm the city's provision of core municipal services.
But covering these issues and examining them responsibly would require the media deviate from the predictable, boilerplate fixations which give a megaphone to certain interest groups while leaving the voices of others drowned out if not altogether unheard.