At TacomaStories I do what I can to not vilify anyone. In the nine years that I’ve been writing about Tacoma and Tacoma crime, I’ve gone increasingly out of my way not to name the killers in Tacoma homicides. Last week when I wrote about an armed man who was shot by the Tacoma Police Department I didn’t mention the police officer’s name and I treated the victim like a human being deserving of respect. Other media outlets and social media weren’t so considerate.
The rule is to treat everyone like another human being even if they do not do the same for you or others. We gain nothing by singling out someone and destroying them. When we tear another man down, we are in fact tearing ourselves down as well. It’s not easy to write this way or behave this way and there are times I fail, but those are the times I’m reminded how important it is to keep trying.
Yesterday, the owner of Dorky’s Arcade in downtown Tacoma had an encounter with Tacoma Stands Up, a Tacoma variation of Black Lives Matter that stages marches on Sundays. The march ended across the street from Dorky’s Arcade on South 9th and Pacific Ave. Annoyed by the march, the owner of Dorky’s did the absolute last thing he should have done. He antagonized the peaceful marchers culminating in him chanting “NIG-GER” in the face of one of the protesters. It was a despicable, hateful, and racist act.
Today, the Court of Social Media meted out its punishment. Dozens of people vowed to boycott Dorky’s forever and encouraged everyone else to do the same. The brewery advertised on the owner’s shirt in the video immediately announced they would no longer be providing their beer for the establishment. Photoshopped images of the owner walking with Hulk Hogan and Klansman showed up online. Some said he should never make another dime in Tacoma.
The owner has publicly apologized and offered to let Black Lives Matter meet at Dorky’s. Both have been refused by Tacoma Stands Up. This is understandable.
Let me be clear that I am not in any way defending the owner’s actions any more than I defend the actions of the actions of those killed in justifiable homicides when I focus on them as human beings.
That said, I do not see how the causes of Tacoma Stands Up, Black Lives Matter, or racial equality in general are helped by destroying a downtown Tacoma business that employs ten people in addition to the business owner. Not one racist mind will be changed by such an action. Racists will point to it as political correctness run amok and say stupid untrue racist things. Are we using the same mentality for social sins as we do for the death penalty? Do we really think such things deter others of a similar bent? Studies have shown that fear of the death penalty has no effect on whether or not a murderer kills someone. Why would anyone think that destroying a man’s business will deter a racist?
The goal shouldn’t be to see how far and how quickly we can tear a bad man down. It should be, how can we go about making him and other bad men better? Instead of putting the man out of business and his employees on the unemployment line, wouldn’t it make more sense to have him sit down with the leaders of Tacoma Stands Up and have a conversation?
It’s become more and more obvious that we need to have a talk about race. We need to have many talks. Talking and getting to know one another and their point of views is the best way to eliminate hate. I do not know the owner of Dorky’s. I do not know the leaders of Tacoma Stands Up. I do know that we aren’t going to change any minds by hating bigots.
I do know the owner of Dorky’s arcade, and if you watch the video without the added bleeps and edits he actually was asking the man if he was calling HIM that, because he had. They were trying to make him mad, trying to disrupt other people’s lives to do what? I’m not saying he should have injected himself into the situation, he shouldn’t have. But he is not a racist. His wife is Korean, he has many friends of all colors. Just uttering the n-word does not make someone an evil hateful person. Your point is a good one, especially about the other employees, but it is misguided simply for the fact that he is unequivocally not racist.
Thanks for a great post Jack! I understand the goal for healing and understanding but I plan not to visit or recommend Dorky’s (a place I used to frequent while still in Tacoma) until I see some serious change or reconciliation. The video is clear at the 2:54 mark that the owner basically and repeatedly growled n***** into the face of one of the protestors @Jase. Whether provoked or not (I didn’t see/hear anything up to that point of the video) that’s completely unacceptable behavior for anyone let alone a local business manager. It’s hateful speech pure and simple. The owner had plenty of opportunity to see his error and remove himself from the situation in the 5 minutes of the video or 25 minutes the incident was said to have spanned.
We all make mistakes, yes, but lashing out with this kind of hateful speech is unacceptable. The court of social media is quick to judge, true, but a video like this and the consequences for his business are very real and justified. Pre-social media, he might have got away with it. I hope he explores and seeks help to get to the root of his problem but, until then, Dorky’s won’t be on my beloved map of places to experience in Tacoma.
Think about this strategically, using a little abstraction to simplify the situation. You are a member of a group affiliated with a national movement to eliminate institutionalized racism. The owner of a local business confronts your regular, scheduled march and is video footage showing him behaving poorly and making statements that you identify as racist.
From the perspective of a group seeking to end institutionalized racism, how do you maximize your impact? I think most of us agree is that the ideal outcome is the business continues to thrive and its owner finds common cause with the national movement. So how do we get there?
Say there is a conversation between the two parties a day or two after the event. The owner manages to quickly extricate himself from the situation he has created with a minimum of impact on his sales. He’ll be able to win back some detractors by doing his due diligence, and the impact of any boycott is minimal at best. By my estimation, in this case, the likelihood that he critically examines his choices and beliefs from a perspective other than his bottom line, or perhaps someone close to him, is low. Both sides end up more or less where they were before the argument. In fact, if the owner comes out with a minimum of pain, then he may be emboldened and create a similar situation later, though perhaps not immediately. In short, having a quick conversation about something as serious as this is letting the owner off easy.
Using the situation the owner has created as leverage against him is a better strategic choice. It demonstrates that the group has reach and impact, and sends a message to other business owners who may have been inclined to do something similar. It shows that just because he is a job creator or beloved local attraction does not make him unaccountable to local direct action groups, because, after all, they are his customers and potential customers. Making the owner sweat over his actions, causing his business to suffer can also force him to show his hand–he could either double down on racism, which justifies the need for a boycott and calls for his business to end, or he will experience some emotions like anger, regret, shame, or discomfort, and attempt to figure out why. These are starting points for a genuine, constructive conversation that I argue simply do not exist at the stage the situation is presently at.
In short, in this situation, if a direct action group wants the owner of Dorky’s Arcade to be a better person with regards to institutionalized racism, the present course is a great way to get his attention. I doubt the endgame here is to put Dorky’s out of business, but I could be wrong.
As a side note, a much smarter business decision would be to offer the protesters a small discount on product (happy hour prices?) after their march.
Say what you may about him going out of business, as a black woman I’ll never spend a wooden nickel In his establishment, nor would I even feel comfortable in the building.
I don’t understand why everybody is making this so complicated. Les walked up to the protestors, attempted to intimidate them by aggressively rubbing up against them and blaring a bullhorn in their faces (It’s painful, try it if you dont believe me) When they didn’t back down he lost his temper and called somebody a nigger to their face (on camera!) Now people don’t want to give him money. Why is this conversation still happening? So many things in life have grey areas. This is not one of them. Les has lost the support of his community because he is an awful little man and somebody finally caught him on camera. Any one of these things on their own would be enough. He did all of them. Get real people
This was very well said. Jack Cameron is a very wise man.
Shunning a word doer does not teach him anything. Redirecting, teaching showing love goes miles. We as people can not change people with hatred. What does closing down the business do? It puts his family in a poverty situation along with the lives of the employees. Why did that video have to be posted online he realized the errors of his ways and apologized. So that video never should have been posted. If it was posted online before he apologized that day then it should have been pulled down.
It takes two to tango and we forget as we cast Judgement upon Les that BLM was not blameless. Had BLM approached Les’ actions with love or even logic not emotion this whole media storm would have been avoided. had the guy in the yellow shirt not been pushing Les’ around would the n-word have been utter. If Les was African American none of this would matter because can and do use that word with each other (with slite modification) and nothing is thought of it. This is an age long discussion why can one word when utter between parties of the same race be acceptable but when a white person says it it becomes racist. I have heard the argument of we take the ER off the end and replace it with an A. I would think though any form of the word by anyone should be unacceptable. Maybe because I am white I do not understand it.
I also do not understand why we are protesting police brutality on a Sunday in downtown Tacoma? Would this protest and the message be better received closer to a police station for example the one on 38th and Pine? Downtown on a Sunday is empty and those down there are not your target audience. This though is a question for Tacoma Stands Up.
I also want to know why Tacoma Stands Up refuses to accept or even comment on the apology Les has offered them. This question I pise to them: Can we not let bygones be bygones? Dorky and its owners have apologized and offered to make amends. I do know Les and have never witnessed this type of behavior from him before. He often is found outside Dorkys chatting with his customers of all races. Who knows what has happened in his personal life to push him to the point of needing to mock these protesters. As I do not condone the use of the n-word (end in ER or A) by any race. I do know how to love and to forgive. I am human and have made many of mistakes. This is the first incident I know of by this man so I choice to take the high road and forgive a person who appeared to be very emotional and impulsive. A man who made a poor choice and has paid greatly for it and has apologized sincerely for his actions. I forgive the situation and hope that Tacoma Stands Up will find the same forgiveness that the NAACP has found for this man. LONG LIVE DORKYS!!
You’re such an amazing and inspirational person Jack!