Friday, April 6, 2012

Merion Barry Breaking My Heart B!

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I thought about this Merion Barry thing all night yesterday and didn't initially post cause I fux with Mayor-for-life. I shouted the mother fucker out in Cheap Bites for chrissakes! I'm also smart enough to realize, this is a situation where barbarians are fighting over scraps. I mean, what are we talking about here? This ain't Georgetown! This ain't Dupont! This ain't Jack Evan's Ward 2... It's Merion Barry's 8th Ward. Why are there "dirty Asian businesses" by Barry's description? Because Asians love Too Short and we GET IN WHERE WE FIT IN FOOL.



Look at the numbers from the 8th Ward. For the last 20 years and probably more, the 8th Ward represents the highest poverty rate in all of D.C. Most people don't want to serve this neighborhood, but Asians are willing. Yet despite owning many of the businesses in the neighborhood, Asians have not integrated. We only represent .5% of the population in the 8th so in many ways, we're carpetbaggers there.

This is what Barry had to say today via Columbus Telegram:

"We need businesspeople who'll be a part of the community, not exploit the community, give jobs to those of us in the community, and to contribute to the well-being of our community, have fresh vegetables and fruits and et cetera," Barry said.
Barry, however, did not back away from his claim that some Asian-owned convenience stores and carryout restaurants don't "respect" the residents in his ward.
"Ward 8 residents are spending their hard-earned dollars in these stores because they are the only stores in the immediate neighborhoods; my constituents want respect, too," he said in a statement. "It is to these less-than-stellar Asian-American businessmen in Ward 8 that my remarks were directed."

I'm sure a lot of Asians want to feed Barry to Red Pandas right now, but I'm not with that. I feel the man. If the tables were turned and we were being served by Black businesses who didn't live with us, break bread with us, and just dumped their combo no5 on us, I would be pissed too. We don't even eat this shit at home yall! I also liked that Barry pointed out the "plexi glass". It's interesting. The Plexi Glass isn't necessarily "dirty", it's symbolic. What bothers Barry isn't Asian businesses being "dirty" or even "Asian"... It's that a lot of Asian shop owners don't respect Black customers. The blame goes both ways. Neither side really tries to reach out and get to know the other, but I will say this. As the retailer SERVING the customer, I think this one is on Asians.

It would be entirely wrong for us to write off Barry's comments. He MUST be condemned for projecting stereotypes on us and the way in which he approached this problem. But, there is definitely a problem. The 99% percent needs to understand that we have power in solidarity. This is not a race thing. It starts with ameliorating a race thing (i.e. Asians-Blacks not getting along), but the real issue is that we are reduced to fighting over scraps in the 8th Ward. Asians need to understand that the 8th Ward isn't an impersonal port for us to fling our goods on. Yes, our prices our cheap and our service is fast, but we need to change the business model. It's a good thing we're getting called out. Let's take it and come back better, faster, stronger.



I'm telling you now, not just cause it's my joint, but if you want to see a prototype solution to Blasian relations, look no further than Baohaus. Counting Evan and myself, we employ 5 Asians, 9 Black People, 4 Latino (Chris is the light skinned ciroc boy that look like Montana), and 2 White People. Evan and I obviously are the owners but our Head Chef and 3 Shift Leaders are all Black and Chris. It's important to have different ethnicities in leadership positions.

This isn't by design, it's organic. We all just get along, but if you need a design, think but this and all is mended. Adopt the Bruce Lee method. Don't treat cooking like it's some exotic ancient secret art form. You give people a little and they'll give back. Teach the people in your neighborhood how to cook, hire other ethnicities, and integrate them into your business. If not because it's the RIGHT thing to do, it's the smart thing to do. They'll increase business, serve as a buffer, and in many ways replace that bullshit bullet proof glass that has been the extent of our outreach in Black communities.

The bullet proof glass is despicable. It's not non-violent, it's defensive. It's rude. It's crass and it says nothing about who we are. If we want to be mad at Barry for stereotypes, we should be mad at ourselves for perpetuating them... From the people who brought you the Great Wall, comes take-out bullet proof glass. We need to do more... And Merion Barry, work with us on a personal level. This is gonna take a village.

P.S. - Please read the comments, especially Canela's. This is a multi-faceted issue with lots of valid points. Looking back at this post, if I sat with this longer I would have edited 3 things.

1) That this isn't "on Asians". Clearly, Marion Barry stands alone in the wrong with his comments. I thought that was more obvious than it is. This article is not self-hating, it's about understanding why someone like Barry takes issue with the Asian community in Ward 8. I saw lots of people pissed off at Marion Barry writing responses that themselves seemed racist and inflammatory so the point of this article was to set Barry aside and angry commenters aside to look at the conflict itself. I still believe the main issue is that people are fighting over scraps in Ward 8. It's a difficult situation for both parties.

2) Both sides are ill equipped to deal with this issue. I think that is the big miscalculation in this post. I used a personal example and was too quick to provide a "solution". I know there is a huge language and cultural barrier for a lot of these owners. My parents had to overcome it themselves when they came to this country, but it's hard and every one deals with it in a different way. The important thing though is to realize that we need help, ask for it, and try to improve. There's a reason that there is so much tension in the neighborhood and we should recognize that.

3) The bullet proof glass. I still feel the bullet proof glass is something that is very symbolic of the situation. I know the glass is there as a defense measure and it can't come down until people are safe, but eventually, that's where you want to be. I think every one involved would love to live or work in a neighborhood where you don't need bulletproof glass at take out joints and liquor stores. There is blame to go around on both sides, but we need honest conversation about these things.

26 comments:

  1. This applies to other business models as well. We NEED this. There are a lot of people who will see the wisdom, but leadership is what the people are lacking. Eddie for President!

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  2. fucking on point hermano.... well said...

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  3. I def feel you on the transactions vs interaction solution however I think the problem is way too complex - historically, culturally, socio-economically - for it to be "put on Asians." Proximity doesn't necessarily breed familiarity, not to mention comfort, especially if one group is completely out of their element. Americans tend to view race and racism through a singular, narrow, and static paradigm - White/Black. Perception's all effed up. Black people have been subjected to the stigmatizing shaming of American racism for so long they feel any social slight towards them is due to an inherent prejudice against them. This may or may not be true but what many don't take into account are cultural differences at play. Case in point: my family is Panamanian. We have the oldest Chinatown in the western hemisphere. I've been going to Chinese establishments (albeit spanish-speaking) since I was a kid, both here & in Panama. My pops was mad cool w/ the owners of Lum Chin Palace (shout out Richmond Ave, SI!). Never was disrespected, never had a problem w/ service. Cultural differences - owners were Chinese-Panamanian AND socio-economic - tho the area was mostly black & latino & ethnic whites, restaurant was also an eat-in spot in a more economically diverse (working & middle class) neighborhood. I grocery shop in Chinatown. What we as "Americans" may perceive as rude - and as Blacks may perceive as racism - is just how they get down. Old people push you, cut you in line, curt service, etc. They do it to each other, what makes you so special? Hood take out spots are usually run by immigrants & as far as I know don't make trillions of dollars; family members work there or newer immigrants for wages so low you can't get Americans to work there even if you wanted to. It's microeconomics: take out spots are cheap by keeping overhead as low as possible. They're not franchises, there's no economy of scale going on. They got that spot & that's it. If they start paying minimum wage & health benefits to hire 3-4 people in the neighborhood, chicken wing prices soar. Then people gonna be up in arms about outrages chicken wing prices. While I admire what you do at BaoHaus, you're establishment is very different. It's Asian American owned. It's not in the hood. And you can expand. People have to learn how to have effective and productive dialogue about issues & not just say shit to hear themselves talk. If Barry really wants change, start a community outreach program where you help businesses run by immigrants integrate more into the places they serve. Where are the small business initiatives to enable them to serve affordable food AND hire people in the community? He's the mayor. If you gonna talk about it be about it. You have the platform. Like what, he expecting the take out spot owners to come up w/ a solution?? N*gga please. You can't spur people to positive action w/ inaction. Constructive criticism & critical thinking are hard to come by in this land of reality TV hoes & practical joke politicians. I think it would be dope if Asian Americans had programs to help integrate newer immigrants into not only the areas they live in but, in the case of business owners, where they serve. I don't think they gonna be reading your blog tho. ;) PS - All the Dominican papis got the plexi up in the spot where I live. If people don't have a problem w/ the plexiglass in liquor stores owned by Blacks & Latinos in the hood, why the issue w/ it in Asian establishments?

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    1. With all respect I have to respond to clarify things for you. Barry is not the Mayor anymore. He represents Ward 8, which is the poorest Ward in DC. I am a resident of Ward 8. His intentions were not racist. This article was wonderful and on point. The Asian business owners have every oppprtunity to live in the communities they serve but instead they live in Virginia. Most of them live in Fairfax VA, which is a lot more expensive than the homes in Ward 8. These business also sell food that is unhealthy to a community that is suffering from food related illnesses. Or they are selling liquor in disproportionate amounts even though this is not done in the comminities they live in. We have a "convienence" store which is very overpriced and sells liquor and beer. Right next door is a liquor store and next to that is a carry out which is very dirty, including the bullet proof glass. For the record I don't spend any of my money in any of these places because I don't feel like the owners respect the customers. But I am also blessed to have a car which enables me to shop elsewhere. Others don't have that convience. We have a community garden right next to the market but they don't reach out to the people who plant in the garden to sell there vegetables. Instead they charge $3 for one head of cabbage. And they don't employ anyone from the community. There are opportunities to integrate with us but these owners seem to sit behind the glass, rake in our collective money and drive off to their rich community with out so much as a thank you to the patrons.
      I just wanted to give you a first hand perspective of the situation here. Barry was being honest bit he's guilty of not being politicly correct.

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    2. Don't think you completely understand what it's like to be a small immigrant-run business...

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  4. Canela!

    I love this. You make great points and I love the response. As a writer, I just make my case and we HAVE to have someone respond and provide the other. As an Asian person, I think it's counter productive for me to go blame another community. I try, when possible, to think how I can help. So, it's cool to see you tell your side.

    I absolutely agree that the solution is not as simple as I intentionally portrayed. There's a time to write Letter from Birmingham Jail and another for I Have a Dream... I've written neither, but the point is that I saw lots of people on twitter/facebook mad at Marion Barry and I thought it was missing the larger point.

    As the Mayor, it's on HIM! But, with every one already piling on him, I wanted to provide another voice. Lots of times, when I write, I don't necessarily write what I 100% believe is the solution, obviously I have to believe what I'm writing to an extent, but I try to be the voice that I think is missing. Is that weird? I don't know, it's just what I do. In this case, I think it was so clear that Barry fucked up. But I didn't want his sentiments to get lost. They're real and need to be addressed.

    I absolutely think the first step is to help with the language barrier. Representatives in the neighborhood need to do what they can to cross the chasm and identify the issues. There are so many things the institution can help with in this situation, but, I've seen how as one single business owner, I've been able to speak with many people and affect the way they see Taiwanese-Chinese people, food, and business. I think the 2nd generation, the sons and daugthers of these owners that speak English, have a tremendous responsibility. On the other side, Black people... yall already know what you can do! Come on family...

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    1. Haha. Yeah, I'm not mad at Marion Barry but that's also because I don't take him seriously. He's a clown. But I hear you. At least you have the presence of mind to remove yourself, if only a bit, to gain a broader perspective. Most don't. And issues in the hood need to be addressed, period. I see the plexi-glass as a hood thing, not a "dirty Asian store" thing. Like I said, all the likka stores by me have it too. But you know what happens when one tries to effectively address issues in the hood - Panthers, Young Lords, latter-period MLK. So it's back to the businesses: 2nd generation immigrants don't want to run the spots their folks opened. They do them and leave. What to do? And why are current Black Americans least likely to start entrepreneurial ventures as opposed to Blacks from the diaspora who immigrate to America? Blacks owned businesses during segregation out of necessity, yes, but why such a drastic shift away from ownership once integration was "achieved"? Hash out the variables - cultural, educational, economics, etc. - and attack those. But if the government won't address it (it won't) and there's a void of community leadership ("mobilizers" like Sharpton instead of organizers like Malcolm), you stay stuck in that rut. (Maybe that's what Raekwon meant by "Immobilarity.") Either way, meaningful dialogue needs to happen on a larger platform to spur action. Those AAWW After 1989 panels were good & I hope they get those e-mags up soon. Maybe that'll help. Or fuck it, you should just come out with a rap album. Have Drake's multi-culti Canuck ass sing on the hook.

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  5. Too insider for me but I thought it was "Marion".

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  6. It is Marion, and I am a DC native that is proud to see solutions coming from the Asian American business community. I thank you for your clear headed rhetoric and for the ability to see past Councilman Marion Barry's rough presentation and understand the point of the statement.

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  7. Pretty disgusting that you consider yourself Asian, you are a whitewash embarrassment to Chinese people. You don't speak for us, you obviously haven't seen how blacks treat Asians throughout the country (the glass is there most likely because they know store owners who have been KILLED, or have been robbed at gunpoint in the past, Asians are definitely targeted in these robberies, it isn't some hypothetical fear).

    Who is stopping the blacks from opening their own businesses? Nobody. What is your solution for these (most likely) foreign born Asian shop owners? How else are they supposed to support their families? Are you going to provide them an alternative job? Should they sit on their ass, collect welfare, and complain about how other races are destroying their community?

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    1. I retract the first couple sentences, that was before I took my bipolar medication, my apologies.

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  8. We should install some bullet proof glass at Toki Underground.

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  9. To be honest, i think you're an idiot. You are someone who calls yourself and other asians "chinks", like in "chinkstronaut", this alone should show how unqualified you are to speak for the asian community. You have once again lumped asians into one category, and dismissed them as whole for being unable to incorporate themselves into the black neighborhoods that they serve.

    It is a business and if the asian business owners do not want to interact with their customers like Barry would like, well too bad. It's none of his business, and as a public figure, he should butt out, because he will only get burned.

    P.S. interaction with black people in the "hood" is usually not the most pleasant of interactions, especially, when they're attempting to steal half the time ( not being prejudice, just reiterating statistics/facts).

    And yes, I agree with Paul for the most part, because no one is stopping blacks from opening their own stores. It seems to always be an excuse. OH, the "white man" is keeping the black men down. Blacks cant open stores, because the asian man wont let them. EXCUSES, EXCUSES, EXCUSES. There are many well educated, and wealthy black people that have made it, because they have not been lazy, and they don't give excuses. They work hard, like many people SHOULD.

    I'm tired of the excuses, and the blame game. Asian businesses are not the reason communities like ward 8 are in the shitter. Its because of the lazy fucks that choose not to work hard.

    So whoever made this post, IS IGNORANT AND UNEDUCATED. SO PLEASE SHUT THE FUCK UP.

    And

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  10. Stay in NYC. Plenty of Asian businesses here run "your" model. Ward 8 will have bullet proof glass until ward 8 doesn't have bullets flying around. This ain't lower east side yuppie ass hotel rivington

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  11. So easy for you to criticize the Asian business owners in DC when you place your restaurant in the middle of the 22nd most expensive zip code in the USA, according to Forbes. Until you open up a place in a neighborhood comparable to DC's Ward 8, SHUT UP. You don't know what you're talking about.

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  12. It has a lot to do with class and opportunity. You're much bright then I can ever hope to be so thats not news, No one can express race in a way to be dealt with constructively except platitudes. The problem just needs to be analyzed better like Magic Johnson is doing bringing respectable, helpful businesses into the communities is important. Businesses that allow people to socialize and be together in a mellow environs, like movies and dare I say it coffeeshops, Starbucks. Mingle as people. You don't get that in a lot of these places. Just liquor stores, cell phone stores, gambling and average fast food. Most of the country isn't as intermingled as NY. Blacks are basically who the Tea Party and Republican reactionaries hate the most when they talk about values, if you talk to them in private. Welfare , where is it? Why is even being brought up, they ended that already. Even Clinton hopped on that bandwagon. Anybody who sticks up for black people get bullied either by the PC crowd or bigots on the internet. But the truth is, people do still do get shot, even with the glass, Its ugly on the street. I always thought the reason blacks get mad at other races is that once they deal with the white mentality, they see everybody else adopt it, with no reason to because its easy. Except to feel on top. Maybe a first reaction against the threatening posture of the aggressiveness in that society, which isn't helping. And its for real but as kid I learned that never really beat you up, even someone as fair-skinned as me, it's just a posture, more an attitude but it can go tragic real fast in the wrong scenario.

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  13. A few of your readers have got to understand, that a lot of blacks that wanted a home in the 60's, 70's and 80's , maybe 90's were royally screwed by the banks, had the last picking on homes in places that are geographically awkward and nothing to do when you go outside, unless you can afford a car. I saw it, I was there. I've seen it in LA too. They're not all lazy , looking for handouts and the whatever else people are saying. Even if a few them beat me up when I was there, but probably the same proportion of abuse I would have gotten anywhere else.They have to deal with pretty demoralizing circumstances just to get started. They were the only race here officially enslaved and people are programmed in this country to feel superior to them, it just take different forms now. Even before the rest of the world. Its pathological and ugly. And its modern times..They've got flaws but the dynamics of what they are up against is something most people can't even comprehend.

    When Jeff Bezos started Amazon, he got a 300,000 loan from his family . In your biz, Steve Ells of Chipolte, he got a 35000, then 1.5 million loan from dad. Not to say they aren't who they are without money but that helps, helps a lot. And its taught to understand business and the culture supports them. They've got a bot more room and acceptance to focus. A single mom or struggling family is just trying to survive or feel better, probably with no friends or options. Cooking at night after you're tired is its own challenge too . Society and cultures should just be honest. Business is all that matters to this country or money. Teach people essential business skills in high school, even a year or three of just that. They'll be less exploited and have a chance to use their brains against the money and cultural leg up the 1% has and exploits us with glee by pitting us against one another.

    And I'm an artist. I can't stand corporations but you've got to fight back with skills and less sports and blockbusters, more civic involvement. No one is going to do if for you. You get an MLK, LBJ or Bill Clinton going to bat for you, trying to make a difference and then a long time in between, after that, its 20 yrs there, 10 years there, another war, then people just give in and just want to watch TV.

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  14. btw, glad you're back... I missed how fun that knockout run of Next Iron Chef updates was, till Bourdain reminded me via Eater you had a blog . Of course! I'm slow. Had to check it out. This is as good a topic as any. I'll tell you this is a better conversation for people to have than the Hunger Games.

    Blog is great, keep it real. Unlike that pompous Food Network Star commercial, it looks like they are disappointed with the "Sandwich King". Too bad your on the payroll now, a next iron chef blast is needed.

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  15. You sound like a self-hating Asian, to be honest. Don't speak for the community. Thanks for supporting Marion's garbage.

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  16. Eddie, I was at the panel you were on a few weeks ago on "Are Asians Black" and when I went home to DC last weekend and found out Marion Barry said this the other day, I was so shocked. There is so much racism against Asians in DC and this makes it even worse. This is exactly what you were speaking out about. I think your backstory is really interesting and much more complex than you show even here.

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  17. Also, discussions on this topic always remind me of that bodega scene in Don't be a menace to south central while drinking your juice in the hood. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIk0abbYgXQ&feature=related How great is that doorbell?

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  18. Nope, I'm not black or asian. European ancestry. My wife is asian though. If you want to see real hardcore asian racists, visit Flagstaff, Arizona. They're creepy, like from a 60's movie. They wouldn't even serve us breakfast until after an hour had passed . My wife insisted we get out of there as fast as we could, the stares and hostility freaked her out. I lived in a black neighborhood for over 25 years & seen alot but never went through that. Then all the news came out about Arizona and it made more sense.

    Honestly I didn't even know that Marion was still around so surprised to hear his name again. So just watched the video ( didn't the first time). I wouldn't get too worked up. Its ugly but he's obviously senile and looking for a group to blame. And he's famous so people listen. Maybe he got some bad takeout on election night. The shantytown thing he complains about seems to be a generally a poor businessman mentality - slovenly standards isn't just about being poor or ethnic. Investing in a few cans of paint to spruce up their place, taking a weekend to beautify things some for your customers. Thats a trait in so many kinds of low income neighborhoods. Seems to be changing but its usually through gentrification which brings with it the high rents, like Eddie's neighborhood. HGTV needs to jump in here. It hasn't changed since I was a kid. Is being poor really the reason or just a standard adopted in poor communities of people trying to hold on to every dime out of stinginess. Maybe you can't always renovate but tidying up and painting is affordable to all.Thats something never addressed. Maybe its taste. Need more art in the US culture.

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  19. Eddie - So sad, but you're wrong, this ain't on Asians in anyway. Barry isn't saying shit because he wants to spur cross-cultural conversations or even better lives for his constituents, he's a corrupt politician (1990 crack cocaine bust, 2005-2009+2010 not filing or paying taxes, stalking ex-girlfriend, etc.) trying to drum up votes by vilifying the s-c-a-r-y "others" (asians) in his community. His campaign motto: racism as a rallying point! This is typical Barry behavior and he's played played you like a fool.
    There is so much racism coming from the black communities in DC - against Asians, against Africans, against "whites", against everybody.(Disclaimer: of course I know there's a lot of racism out there in general from all sorts of peoples) But why specifically in DC? Lack of education and lack of exposure. Southeast DC isn't educated: " 41% high school graduation rate for African American males" and isn't very diverse: in 2010 94% of residents in ward 8 were "black, non-hispanic" and only .5% were "Asian or Pacific Islander". Racism is a matter of ignorance and Barry uses that to incite tensions and portray himself as the only solution - it's not a surprise he said this inflammatory shit at a campaign event on election night.
    Why didn't he call out the middle eastern folks who run liquor stores w/ plexi glass? Alcohol is more of a problem than lack of fruits and vegetables in Ward 8. Why isn't he calling out whichever ethnic group runs payday loan services in DC, which screw over his constituents everyday with 800% interest rates? Why isn't he encouraging African Americans to become business leaders? Why isn't he pissed at corporate America for not opening shopping malls in Ward 8? Marion Barry doesn't ask these questions because he's exploiting the ignorance of low-income, low education peoples with easy race-based blame games.

    I'm an Asian-American resident of DC for the past 7 years and live in zip code 20010 and work as the only Asian looking person at a grocery store in SW DC. I do the cross-cultural sharing thing everyday with my co-workers in the lunch room, riding the bus, etc.

    And the cross cultural exchanges happen all the time, if you choose to acknowledge it. For instance, "mambo sauce" known for being a DC food is sold mostly in chinese take-out places. How come many of the Vietnamese owned and operated salons in SE do weaves? Who's to accuse business owners (who are out to make money, so it's also in their own self interest) of not listening to the needs of the community?

    Don't get sucked into Marion Barry's bizzaro circus!

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  20. When you open a business in the 8th Ward without security measures or bullet proof glass, then your opinion will carry some weight. Until then, STFU with your ignorance. These people have a duty to survive and take care of their families, not make you feel better about yourself

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  21. That Great Wall comment was a great way to show your stupidity. The Chinese had a very good reason to build the Great Wall. The Mongolian invaders killed over 30 million Chinese.

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  22. Need to realize it well and think about all these issues.
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