Embracing diversity

As long as white people are still privileged.  Because that’s what “diversity” means.

The Flushing food and sign wars rage on.  It’s about accommodating all ethnic groups.  The diverse community that should be represented.  Accommodating everyone.

Assuming, of course, that “everyone” means “white English speakers.”

Chinese people have resided in Flushing for more than thirty years. In Census Tract 865, where New York Mart replaced Key Food, 70 percent of the population is of Asian descent (2005-2009 Community Survey, interactive map here).  Seven percent are Latinos, African Americans are one percent, white people are twenty-one percent and the final one percent is “other.”  According to the 2000 Census, 75.9 percent speak a language other than English, 72 percent don’t speak English very well and 73.2 percent were born outside of the United States (source).

Chinese, Korean and Indian people appear to be three major groups of Asian descent in Queens.  (Could not find more exact data.)  So exactly who feels “unwelcome” by Asian food stores and businesses and non-English signs?

“When you have a sign that’s only in Chinese or Korean, that’s very offensive. It says, ‘You shouldn’t come here.’ … You can have another language smaller than the English, but you can’t have these big Asian signs only.”

That’s James Trikas, described as “a community leader and member of the advisory board.”

The article that quotes Trikas also notes as follows:

Many community members say it is imperative that all signs be written predominately in English, as it is a safety hazard as well as an inconvenience for shoppers and residents to have only other languages on important signs.

Who is the “you” that is being offended by the Chinese or Korean signs? And who are the “many community members” and the “shoppers and residents” who find the non-English language signs an inconvenience?

Are Korean people complaining about Chinese signs? Are Chinese people complaining about Korean signs? Are the Chinese signs offensive to Chinese people, indicating that they aren’t wanted in the stores? What about the English signs?

Since that census tract is 70 percent Asian, it appears  “many community members” may find it convenient for signs to be in “Asian.”

It becomes clear that when people like Mary Ann Boroz asks “How can we accommodate everybody?” she has a very specific “everybody” in mind. Boroz has previously mentioned that she doesn’t shop in downtown Flushing anymore.  It appeared she had not been making regular visits to New York Mart, despite its addition of a deli.

The sign war has been raging for some time.  In 2004, City Councilman John Liu conducted a study of Flushing’s commercial signage.  It found that out “of 293 businesses in the area, 83 percent are identified by exterior signage containing English which accurately describes the products or services of that business, 12 percent had exterior signage containing English that was not descriptive of the business, and 5 percent had no English on their sign.”

83 percent sounds like plenty of “diversity” to me.

Edited to add links:

Some in Flushing don’t want to unite

1 in 8 New Yorkers is of Asian descent

A short video of the New World Mall food court (Nothing for your white folks here!)

The area can feel a “little too foreign”

6 thoughts on “Embracing diversity

  1. It must be the Chinese and the Koreans who are complaining about each other. It’s a well known fact (at least to white people) that all Asians hate each other, which is funny because they all look the same and it’s a wonder that they can tell each other apart.

  2. Cultural preservation isn’t racism. Is it racist that in Quebec the signs MUST BE posted with the French portion on top and larger than the English portion? No, it’s just the Quebecois trying to preserve the cultural flavor of their region, a culture that developed over a couple hundred years. Same deal with elderly white people, they feel like their cultural rug is being yanked right out from under their feet. Perhaps these older white folks are keeping in mind what happened to the Native Americans when the white folks’ ancestors brought diversity to the North American continent. Perhaps they don’t want their culture to disappear into history, including the penchant for eating creamed corn.

  3. Hey, I live in Flushing and am a native English speaker and have no problem whatsoever with signs being only in Chinese or Korean! Must be the 3 and a half years I lived in Korea and Japan. It’s not like English speakers are banned. They can go in if they feel like it.

  4. By the way, I am white and it’s people like Mary Ann Boroz that make us look bad.
    My husband is Japanese, and does he complain about no signs in Japanese? No, he (and I ) support the rights of the shops to display signs in whatever language they choose.

  5. I’m sorry, but if someone sees a sign that isn’t in a language they understand and they find it offensive… that’s just dumb. It’s not like there is a hidden meaning in the sign saying “(insert race here) people are stupid” or anything like that. It’s just that the person who runs that business wants that sign in their language not only for cultural preservation, but so that the people who have emigrated from their country to this one (or any country for that matter), and hasn’t come to a decent understanding of the native tongue can know not only what the business is, but also that they will have no problem being able to converse with the people who work in that establishment, because chances are, if the sign is in Chinese, there are probably going to be people who speak Chinese working there. Same goes for any other language.

    Also, to anyone who thinks it’s just white people, don’t forget EVERYONE is capable of being racist.

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