After months of protests, Korean convenience store owner Thomas Pak has apologized for racial slurs uttered to an African American in his South Dallas store. KERA’s Bill Zeeble reports the apology has been accepted by some, but not everyone.
Thomas Pak owns the Diamond Shamrock gas station in a heavily African American community in southern Dallas. Last December, Nation of Islam Minister Jeffrey Muhammed says he tried buying $5 worth of gas on a credit card. He claims Pak told him the minimum was $10. A verbal fight broke out. Racial slurs flew both ways. Then Muhammed’s group staged frequent protests in front of the store.
Muhammed: Don’t stop, don’t shop, don’t stop, don’t shop.
Thursday, at a press conference called by Korean and African American leaders, store owner Pak apologized.
Pak: I come here to apologize to all people involved in this protest. Even including protestors picketing outside.
This truce was negotiated by both Korean and African American leaders, including Reverend Ronald Wright, who’s Black. He said open dialogue will help improve race relations.
Wright: Despite what you are told when you come over here in this country, you need to learn and know me for yourself. If we say we love God and we love Jesus then we must act like that.
Jeffrey Muhaammed and a group of about ten protestors would not accept the apology.
Muhammed: I live in this community, I do business in this community. I worship in this community. I work in this community, as do others who have been disrespected by this particular store owner, who just happens to be Korean.
For some protestors, like this man who wouldn’t give his name, the problem is about those he calls foreigners.
Protestor: They come over here and blood-suck, being vampires and then take money from the Black neighborhood, and take all the money out of the community.
But Thomas Robertson, an African American who shops in Pak’s store, says protestors don’t represent all African Americans in the neighborhood.
Robertson: They lie, I don’t agree with them. I’ve been here about 40 years. They’re not speaking the truth.
Reverend Wright says he’ll talk to Minister Muhammed, and will pray he accepts Pak’s apology. Ted Kim. vice president of the Korean Society of Dallas, says it’s time to heal these racial wounds.
Kim: We need to create strong relationships so we can work with each other, educate our community, about the differences between them as well as similarities. And to create a meaningful way to grow and prosper together.
Kim said Koreans and African Americans must reject the “us-them” mentality. He says this agreement to work together is a good start towards ending that divide.