White Stupidity on Display in Tennessee

Discussion
May 10, 2005
George Anderson

Editorial by George Anderson

The La Lupita Mexican store in the central Tennessee town of Marysville may have had the initials “WP”, standing for white power, scrawled in graffiti on it this weekend in an apparent attack by racial terrorists, but there was nothing powerful in this mindless and cowardly act.

The terrorists who carried out the attack smashed windows and destroyed merchandise in the store and broke into an outdoor freezer containing meat and produce. The store’s co-owner, Yurisan Cornejo, said nothing was stolen. The attackers were apparently intent on sending a message to Hispanics living in the area.

“It’s 2005. You’d think people would know it’s not like years before. We were kind of upset but we know that we could manage through it,” said Ms. Cornejo. “They did hurt our feelings but we just have to go through it.”

A report by WATE television out of Knoxville said incidents involving racism seem to be on the rise in Maryville with much of it targeted to Hispanics living in the area. This weekend’s attack was the second on La Lupita over the past several months.

Ms. Cornejo told Knoxville’s WBIR television that they would just pick up the pieces and start again. “We know there’s more of a good community than a bad community. It may hurt us today, but tomorrow, we’ll be O.K.,” she said.

Moderator’s Comment: Are incidents of terrorism and intimidation directed at retailers owned by minorities or serving minority populations on the rise
in the U.S.? What is your reaction to this story?

While the La Lupita story goes outside the “normal” scope of coverage on RetailWire, we have to ask that those who don’t see its “fit” to give us leeway
this time. This was too important to just remain a local story.

What happened in Tennessee this weekend was a terrorist act, plain and simple. As such it deserves the same attention as terrorist attacks carried on outside
the U.S.

For those who may wonder about our use of the word terrorism to describe the attack on La Lupita, we offer this definition of the word from the GlobalSecurity.org
Web site: “The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against people or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious,
or ideological objectives.”

George Anderson – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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22 Comments on "White Stupidity on Display in Tennessee"


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Arlene Jones
Guest
Arlene Jones
15 years 9 months ago
As an African-American, I am very sensitive to racial issues. But I am also sensitive to the problem of “illegal immigration” into this country. We keep hearing the same tired line that “illegal immigrants take the jobs that Americans don’t want,” but that is also tempered with layoffs of American workers who want to work and can’t find jobs. Nor do we speak about people who, because they used/sold drugs and now have felony convictions, are unable to get employment. Yet the same employer will hire a person who is in this country illegally (and therefore in my humble opinion, already guilty of a crime). So the hypocrisy is set in motion. How do Americans demand and get better wages when the employer is only looking for a workforce to pay as little wages as possible? At what point is the anger that should be directed at the system, misdirected onto individuals because they become the symbol of the problem? I will not deny racial feelings in this country can be profound. But as sympathetic… Read more »
Anna Murray
Guest
Anna Murray
15 years 9 months ago
This kind of story gives me the chills. I’m troubled by people’s need to live in a black-and-white world. I understand the compulsion. When there are clear rules, life in a complicated world seems easier. Just point to the rule book. “It says so in the Quran.” Or “It says so in the Bible.” As humans, we want to know what The Answer is. Along with that, there’s the need to put everyone in black hats and white hats. Everything “American” is by definition good. All else is foreign, suspect and bad. We don’t want foreigners here. How strange! — a nation founded by foreigners. We define everyone against us as a terrorist. And, then, like these White Power-ites, end up acting like terrorists ourselves. Life is hard, and complicated, and unclear. We in America certainly didn’t invent fear of the strange and the new. Just ask Galileo. It might be helpful, however, if we considered that part of the human condition is living in discomfort — with complexity, and strangeness, and conflict. Trying to… Read more »
James Tenser
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

Our “grand experiment” in democracy is evidently not yet wholly free of tyranny. We have tyranny of the majority on certain social issues. We have tyranny of radical minorities who employ violence and intimidation in pathetic attempts to engineer our society from below. As an American, descended from immigrants (who isn’t?), I condemn these vandals and deplore their ignorance and disrespect of our nation’s core values. They diminish our quality of life and our reputation in the world. It means the rest of us must work a little harder to preserve the dream of a just, pluralistic society with fair opportunity for all.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

I don’t have any problem classifying the La Lupita incident as domestic terrorism … As a gal who grew up in the South and returns there often, I’m always taken aback by the “American owned and operated” signs all over the place (kind of begs the response “So what?!”) and the American flags waving everywhere (particularly in front of Asian-owned businesses). It’s really stunning that business owners in certain parts of the country feel compelled to over-state their Americanism for fear of turning business away (or incurring wrath?).

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

I read this story with great concern. I think that too many bad people use protecting American’s Rights as an excuse to be a thug. Yes, I also agree that elected officials in our current government set the tone of this condition. ‘Yer either with us or agin’ us cowboy!’

This also gives me an opportunity to share good news and bad, as it relates to this issue. I’ve just accepted an offer from a company back in the Midwest to head up marketing for them. This necessitates a move from the wacky and anything goes culture of California, to the more politically conservative and morally uptight center of this country. You know, people that demand to have the right to tell you how to live your own life.

Not that I’m doing anything outrageously different, but I get concerned that if my family walks our own self-determined path in going about our daily lives, that we might be ‘terrorized’ as well.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

In many ways, the more we are exposed to the new and different, the more insular and defensive many of us become. Therein lies the conflict between self-determination of nations and manifest destiny. Therein lies one of the major flaws in globalisation; it cannot, and will not, benefit the majority until and unless the minority find some way of coming to terms with it. There is more to globalisation than trade. Just as the first of the world’s explorers eventually had to pay a price for imposing their superiority on natives of whichever land they “discovered”, today’s politicians and governments must devise strategies for cooperation rather than relying on protectionism, nationalism and fears of terrorism.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

You used the correct term George. The sooner we start calling it what it is, the sooner we will face up to the issue.

Its an interesting story in light also of the celebrations this week of the 60th anniversary of V-E Day. There are sharp contrasts to how far we’ve come in eliminating the mentality and, then again, how far we have to go.

These stories belong in the forefront of our discussions. They don’t belong hidden or deemed not suitable. They are real issues that we face in the industry. Just as we talk at length about how to market to Hispanics – we need to talk as much about Hispanics in the industry themselves or, for that matter, African Americans, Asian Americans, etc.

We must discuss it. Thank you for making it part of the discussion and causing us to think, and more importantly learn what exists for those who are working to join us among the industry and serve their communities and ours.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
15 years 9 months ago

I would hope that this incident serves as a rally point for the population of Maryville. I have visited this community and have found it to be progressive and prosperous. Perhaps the students at the University of Tennessee in nearby Knoxville will rally to the plight of this family and their loss. The publicity that could be generated by volunteers from the UT football team helping to rebuild the vandalized store would serve to shame the low-lifes who perpetuated this act.

George Anderson
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

Emmisary – thank you for your corrections.

Oscar Hinojosa
Guest
Oscar Hinojosa
15 years 9 months ago

westside2day, why would you question whether a Latino business owner is in this country legally? When I hear of Asian business owners, that thought never crosses my mind.

Being “racially sensitive” means being sensitive to races other than your own.

George Anderson
Guest
15 years 9 months ago
I was aware of the recent event at Trinity International University involving the “racist” letters sent by an African-American student who wanted her parents to take her out of the school and it was a concern of mine in writing the editorial and behind my wording of the Marysville incident as being an “apparent attack by racial terrorists.” That said, a few points… This weekend’s incident was the second at the store in recent months and was not just a case of drawing swastikas on a wall and breaking windows. In both incidents, the store was intentionally damaged but product wasn’t stolen. A freezer with thousands of dollars of goods was opened with its contents left to spoil. As to the attack being somehow directed at illegal aliens, I can’t find anything to support that. The store has been in business for three years and its owner granted interviews to two television stations in Knoxville. You don’t find any illegals drawing that kind of attention to themselves. People from all walks of life all seem… Read more »
Kerry McCollough
Guest
Kerry McCollough
15 years 9 months ago
We live in a country with a multiplicity of riches. Consider the price and variety of produce. Do we imagine this is unconnected to the economic system of hiring farm workers? Do we believe that the same people who attack illegal immigrants refuse to economically benefit each day from their labor? Purity of conviction is difficult under such circumstances. For example: who amongst us goes to the trouble (if it were only possible AND probable) to ensure we subsidize only legal means of production. In my experience, hostility is not directed with care and discretion. Blanket assumptions are made and crimes against people are committed without parsing out the distinctions of who might be legal or illegal. Fear of the “other” coupled with the resistance to the fact that, in the end, none of us are “other” drives this destructive bent. I suspect that a guilty conscience adds fuel to the fire. Our grocery stores are a ‘horn of plenty’ and the prices low. How do we imagine this happens naturally within the context of… Read more »
Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
15 years 9 months ago

I agree with just about all of the comments above, but have one quibble: this is a possible “hate crime” that should not be called “terrorism.” Just as burglary is not equivalent to murder, vandalism is not the same as terrorism. Granted, one can rise to become the other, but it hasn’t, at least yet, in this instance. Let’s hope education and “can’t we all just live together” seminars will keep that from being the end result.

Michael Morris
Guest
Michael Morris
15 years 9 months ago
First off, let’s correct some facts: 1) It is Maryville, not Marysville and 2) it is in East Tennessee, at the base of the Smokies, not central Tennessee. To call this terrorism is a stretch. To call it reprehensible and vile, absolutely. The Hispanic population is growing in East Tennessee as more migrant laborers move here to find work that locals do not want to do. Yes, it is the 21st Century and yes, we are all supposed to be more enlightened, but this is the same sad story we have seen over and over: Italian and Irish immigrants shunned in the early 20th Century, Japanese during WWII, Korean grocers in NYC in the 80’s and 90’s. There is no motivation for systematic change here, no desire to change governmental or societal behavior. This is probably not even an organized group targeting Hispanic businesses. This is the activity of a small group of rednecks who want the Hispanics to go home or go anywhere but here. The fact that the owners of this store are… Read more »
Arlene Jones
Guest
Arlene Jones
15 years 9 months ago

One additional comment. In Chicago there was an incident at a college where all the minority students were ushered off campus to a hotel when several of them got “racist” letters. The resulting investigation bore out a terrible truth. The letter writer was an African-American student who wanted to transfer to a different school and felt, if those letters made her parents believe she wasn’t safe, then they would allow her to transfer back to her old school.

Let’s not assume that the graffiti was done by any one particular person until the culprit is caught. Otherwise, we judge too quickly who the culprit is.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 9 months ago
Mostly this report suggests questions. For instance, among all the responses on this issue I’ve seen today, none of us has answered the question, “Are incidents of terrorism [directed at minority retailers] . . . on the rise in the U.S.?” Yet, so many of the responses were framed as if they WERE on the rise. I can’t validate this one way or the other, but what if such incidents are a.) on the decline, b.) more consistently reported today because of heightened sensitivity, or c.) simply a redefinition of “hate crimes.” These incidents are deplorable, especially if they escalate to actual violence against persons. If the incident in question actually was a “White Power” action, which doesn’t seem to have been proved, then authorities have a good avenue for investigation. If, however, the “WP” decoration was a ruse by common burglars, it’s misdirecting. It is, however, great for newspaper speculation. As a final question, have “hate crimes” become “terrorism,” or is there some easily-understood distinction between the two? If an incident can be characterized… Read more »
Santiago Vega
Guest
Santiago Vega
15 years 9 months ago

I would characterize what happened in Tennessee as evidence of the growing xenophobia occurring in the United States and in just about every country in the world.

Hate and distrust of foreigners is a reality of every society and it has escalated to different proportions in different parts of the world, not only in the form of vandalism and terrorist acts but also as the institutionalization of groups. Just look at Europe and the rise of extreme-right wing political parties, especially in the last five years, in countries with increasing foreign population.

With globalization societies embrace but in some degree, probably in their attempt to prevent the fading of their identity, also reject what’s new, unknown and strange to them.

When protectionism and pride turn into fanaticism, it’s an alert to start worrying. This issue is quite alarming and we certainly need to address it immediately.

Michael L. Howatt
Guest
Michael L. Howatt
15 years 9 months ago

I believe our current government has a great deal to do with the increase in these sort of incidents. Under the guise of saving the world from terrorism, we are really sending the message thats it’s our way or the highway to the rest of the world. No wonder the ignorant population is mis-interpreting this as a “right” to act violently against minorities. This sort of religious or American fanaticism will not stop until we turn our attention inward and look at our own problems.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 9 months ago

Jerry, let me be of the first to welcome you to the Mid-West. I sincerely hope your impression of us when you get here is different from your predetermined expectations.

Arlene Jones
Guest
Arlene Jones
15 years 9 months ago

To OscarH,

I may not have phrased it correctly but this is what I meant.

As Americans, are we intolerant of other Americans based on their racial/ethnic makeup? Or, are we intolerant of anyone who is not an American citizen (or authorized to be here)?

That fine line can say a lot more about what is going on in this country as opposed to the simplistic story of one being the villain and the other the victim.

And let’s keep the points clear. We have immigrants and illegal aliens and they are not one and the same. I believe in being tolerant of one and intolerant of the other.

Marsha Tunnell
Guest
Marsha Tunnell
15 years 9 months ago

I never respond, but I can’t let the tolerant/intolerant statement go without comment. Does intolerance justify the actions taken against this retailer or anyone for that matter? This sounds like one of our US Senators, unfortunately from my state, who seemed to infer that you couldn’t blame the violence against federal judges because of the positions they took. Don’t I still live in America … or sadly, is this the America I live in?

Arlene Jones
Guest
Arlene Jones
15 years 9 months ago

Being intolerant never justifies what happened to La Lupita store. But just look at the headlines to this message board: “White Stupidity on Display in Tennessee”.

The letters “WP” and an ill-formed swastika does not truly identify who damaged this store. The ill-advised leap to assume who did the damage can be better assessed once the culprit is found.

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