Assimilate! Assimilate!

And learn Chinese while you’re at it.

So New York Mart officially opened Jan. 29 in Flushing.  You may remember that some Flushing residents were not pleased at the presence of yet another “Asian” grocery store.    Despite the fact that the previous “American” store folded for lack of business.

Some residents complained that New York Mart did not meet their needs.  For example, they needed pet food.  Apparently they had never been in the store, because a manager stated that New York Mart did in fact carry pet food.

New York Mart also added a deli after receiving complaints.  A store manager noted in an interview that they even carry Oreos.  But nothing is enough for those people!

“I’m not asking for all American products, but just a reasonable selection,” said Mary Ann Boroz, a longtime Flushing resident who had started a petition to keep the Key Food open on Roosevelt Ave. “We’d like to see a 50-50 split.”

You may remember that Boroz previously demanded that a full line of foods encompassing “all ethnic groups” be available.  So how is that 50-50 thing going to work?  How would you determine that 50 percent of your vegetables are Asian?  And will Chinese people be allowed to purchase Oreos?

Boroz additionally had these complaints:

After visiting the store, Boroz said too many of its products are Chinese, the deli is insufficient and many of the products’ packages do not have English translations.

How many of the “American” products have Chinese translations?  Since we’re being all 50-50 here.

As somebody who cannot read much Chinese, I haven’t had any real difficulty in the Chinese grocery store.  I can’t think of anything that didn’t have an English label.  But if I didn’t know what it was, I probably wouldn’t buy it anyway.

But maybe it’s just the presence of all that Chinese that bugs Boroz.  Complaints about non-English signs are commonplace in the United States and apparently that bothers Boroz as well:

“A lot of the complaints we get don’t necessarily stem just from lack of English signage — a lot of it also comes from a feeling that many English-speaking customers don’t necessarily feel welcome when they walk into a store without English-speaking employees,” [State Assemblywoman Grace] Meng said.

Many residents and members of the board, including Mary Ann Boroz, who has lived in Flushing for 33 years, believe the issue will not be addressed unless legislation is passed requiring that all stores post English signs. Boroz said she does not even shop in downtown Flushing anymore because she does not feel welcome there.

“I really don’t see any progress with the stores. I’m beginning to think they’re not going to voluntarily use English. So what choice is there other than to make it mandatory?” she asked. “I don’t want to sound racist or bigoted, but we have to remember where we are, we’re in the United States of America … and Asian people are not the only people who want to shop here.”

Just a tip … If you start a sentence with “I don’t want to sound racist,” you probably already know you’re going there. Additionally, that preface doesn’t undo any of your racism or bigotry.

Boroz organized meetings with New York Mart owners and elected officials about the issue. She said the language barrier has also been a problem.

“We were hoping they would hire more people from the neighborhood, not just Asians,” said Boroz. “No one speaks English.”

Well, Boroz has already said she doesn’t shop in downtown Flushing since she doesn’t feel welcome. So apparently she isn’t aware that many of the New York Mart employees speak both English and Chinese and some speak Spanish as well.

Our America is changing. And I’m learning Chinese.

16 thoughts on “Assimilate! Assimilate!

  1. She’s only hurting herself. Who wants to demand higher priced produce, premium pricing on non-“American” items and a grocery that is generally unresponsive to its customers? The Giant near me stocks a small aisle for “Latino/Asian/International” – the local H Mart has got everything you need from Goya Beans to scallion kimchee to lays chips and ranch dressing. And a video rental. And kitchen items bazaar.

    Again, must suck to be a racist asshat.

  2. It’s funny, but I’ve never seen non-Asian people in the local Chinese store. At the H-Mart I do see them infrequently, although it is not that common.

    The complaint about language is BS, though. Several New York Mart managers have been interviewed for stories and all seem to be fluent in English. Plus my experience has been that most immigrants working in the U.S. have some English.

  3. “many English-speaking customers don’t necessarily feel welcome” — holy crap, talk about entitlement.

  4. The big Korean supermarkets in my area are hella multilingual. English and Korean primarily, but in recent years they’ve added signage in Spanish, Chinese, and another language written with a script I don’t recognize — maybe Tamil or something? Because a lot of Indian families shop there too, and most of my multilingual Indian acquaintances speak Tamil or Telugu.

    Obvs. anyone “Asian” doesn’t speak English…

  5. “We were hoping they would hire more people from the neighborhood, not just Asians,” said Boroz.

    That’s interesting, because the census data shows that New York Mart’s neighborhood is 41% Asian.

  6. “We were hoping they would hire more people from the neighborhood, not just Asians,” said Boroz. “No one speaks English.”

    I laughed at this.
    …Whoops, what am I doing speaking English? I’m supposed to not be able to speak it.

    This woman is fucking insane.

  7. In my small city – there was once a day when grocery stores, menus, etc would feature majority Italian and German. Same thing is happening now with Spanish.

    Trust me – Chinese-American merchants will gladly help us Euro-Americans find what we want and learn more about their products. They’re trying to make a living so any customer is a good customer!

    Why do we need to legislate language – people have figured out ways to do commerce together for centuries on both local and global scales.

  8. My local H-Mart attracts a lot of Hispanic people. I’m personally I big fan since it more closely resembles supermarkets I grew up with in the Middle East. Funny how those managed to have a host of items from many different countries, and no one ever complained. When a Japanese company opened up a store in Abu Dhabi- none and I mean NONE of their products had English or Arabic labeling. No one cared, it was hot for the longest time precisely because it sold things you couldn’t find elsewhere. I’d never claim there was no racism there. But, coming from that experience, the sheer pettiness of this astounds me.

  9. Here’s a clue, lady. If you don’t like what’s for sale at the store, DON”T SHOP THERE. Radical notion.

    Also, Ms. Boroz, you’re a bigot.

  10. Trust me – Chinese-American merchants will gladly help us Euro-Americans find what we want and learn more about their products.

    The employees at the Pan-Asian (mostly Korean) grocery near me have been seriously helpful– e.g., on noticing that I’m getting a bag of kimchi dumplings, asking me if I noticed the ones made in the deli section (which are cheaper, and better, than the frozen ones). Also, a big ditto on what The Chemist said: it is wonderful to be able to go to a grocery that carries stuff you can’t find elsewhere nearby.

  11. I live just outside dc in the maryland burbs…we have a hmart, grand mart, lotte, and other with less anglo-friendly names I can’t remember. I shop at lotte the most, and the store is usually filled with at most 30pct asians, the rest being hispanics, brazilians, south asians, and africans – almost all coming for the produce n fish that are fresher, cheaper, and more varied than anywhere in the area. While the store puts out its flyers in english, korean, chinese, and vietnamese, my brazilian roomie, who doesn’t speak the spanish or korean of most of the staff is still quite content to do food shoppong there. Do I miss the rows of canned tomatoes and counters of salumi and cheeses from the grocery stores in my italian-amer bronx hometown? Sure! But stores respnd to customers… Shop there, ask for what u want…n if the mgrs want ur money (they do) they’ll be sure to get it

  12. Sounds like the melting pot boiled over and cooked this woman’s brain. Here is a thought treat people with respect and courtesy and see what happens. I frequently shop in multi national/multicultural stores and frequently see people who do not understand any of the signs do something novel – ask a polite question about a product and get a nice explanation of what it was and how to use it. Most people are pleased, especially merchants to help customers if they are polite, and respectful. Imagine that treat people with dignity and respect and they will return the favor

  13. “many English-speaking customers don’t necessarily feel welcome”

    bah, if only that were true. the last time I went to our local Asian food mart (Ranch 99!), there were a group of obnoxious white frat boys blocking off one of the aisles and laughing loudly about how gross one of the products was – given the aisle, it was probably dried squid or something.

  14. Boroz is pretty typical of the older white community where I live here in the midwest. We’ve always been a mixed-income community, and now we’re racially mixed as well – which I embrace and was the reason I moved back here. We have these outstanding Hispanic grocery stores with AWESOME produce. And yes, the first time I went in one it was disconcerting to not be able to read every sign, but okay… I remember holding up a container of stuff to make mole with and asking loudly, “Can anyone tell me what to do with this?” I met a whole bunch of perfectly lovely cooks from my community that day. And another day I had a woman nearly slap my wrists for picking up mangos that she thought were not the quality I should be looking for.

    Why, oh why, is is SO HARD to engage with your community? Yes, it’s different than it was. And your point would be…???

  15. It sounds like she doesn’t like the changing neighborhood. Although Flushing has had a large Chinese presence for some time. You can see she still considers “our neighborhood” to be white English first-language speakers (or maybe just non-Asians). But Asian first-language speakers are not on her radar.

    She had petitioned for the previous store to stay open, and was quoted as saying “The neighborhood has had enough of Asian markets. We have one on every corner. We need something that’s a little bit more diverse. We’re going to try our hardest to keep the store open.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s