After assault on Black patrons by Asian workers at Flatbush nail salon, protesters call for boycotts
21-year-old Christina Thomas and her 58-year-old grandmother say that they were assaulted with broomsticks and had acetone thrown on them by employees of the Asian owned nail salon New Red Apple Nail. But according to a report from the New York Times, the mood on the ground in the area is rather calm even after protests.
Video of the assault went viral, thanks in no small part to Tionna Smalls, a 33-year-old ex-reality star who posted a video of the incident to her Instagram and Twitter accounts. Within a few hours of her posts, there was already a mobilization of people en masse to the front of the salon’s storefront, calling for its closure.
After that Friday night brawl, both Christina Thomas, who is Black, and 32-year-old employee Huiyue Zheng were arrested and charged. Thomas was charged with misdemeanor assault, menacing and harassment, and Zheng with felony assault and misdemeanor charges of menacing, criminal possession of a weapon and assault according to the police department.
According to Thomas’ mother, Abby Moses, her daughter approached the manager of the salon, refusing to pay for the eyebrow job and claiming that her eyebrows had nearly been removed. Michael Lin, the owner of the establishment did not make any comments regarding the incident, but the surveillance video shows an argument between a customer and an employee before a fight broke out.
Alexis Reigner, a 33-year old health worker, from nearby Midwood explained why protesters were taking the incident so seriously, telling the New York Times, “The black community has been pushed aside for generations, and it just seems as if the longer time goes on, the more people think we’re simply going to go away… If we go into an establishment to get something done, and then we end up being assaulted, something certainly needs to happen to that establishment.”
Diana C. Richardson, a Democrat whose district includes the Flatbush area, says that the outrage is justified because the violence which ensued from a complaint is unnecessary. “As an elected official, I deal with several of the small businesses throughout the community and at no point in time would I ever support that kind of aggression against a customer for something that you know could be handled by dialing 9-1-1 and the business owner,” Richardson says.
The calls for a boycott of the salon have roots in the tension between largely Black communities and the Asian business owners who sometimes act in the interests and suspicions of white supremacy, notably represented in the killing of Latasha Harlins in Los Angeles in the early 1990’s.
As Tiffany Diane Tso writes for Refinery 29, “As a society, we have ‘progressed’ from lynchings to viral videos of violence against Black people, from police killings and brutality to baseless accusations of criminality… When Asians internalize and perpetuate anti-Black racism and violence, we are reifying our complicity and driving a deeper wedge between the minority groups.”