Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Complaints about Eastern Empire Chinese food?

I wasn't going to post about this, but the guy has posted it literally everywhere (Yelp, CH listserve, Ward 1 list, South CH list) and he emailed me about it too. It's a complaint about Eastern Empire, the Chinese place next to 7-Eleven on 14th Street:
Unless you like to feel as if you are eating your Kung Pao in the gorilla cage at National Zoo, avoid this place. The food is great and the portions are big, but come on -- the owners and management are terrorized by neighborhood ne'er do wells and unless they get a security guard to monitor the place, go there at your own risk. Everytime I go to this conveniently located Chinese food "restaurant" (I use that word lightly), the place is full of loitering teen thugs (male and female) who terrorize other patrons and engage in loud, obnoxious, and socially unacceptable behaviour. Despite a No Loitering sign, these juveniles get around this by having one person order some food, usually fries and chicken wings (almost never Chinese food!) and a drink, while their posse engages in rowdy, boisterous profanity and foolish talk. Yesterday, I went to get some takeout (if the owners wish to ensure the safety of their patrons, they should remove the tables and make it a takeout only place) and there was a scuffle among two teens, with the egging on and laughing of the rest of the dozen hoodlums. These punks would never do this at Julia's Empanadas or Five Guys or Potbelly or any of the other establishments within a block radius. They bully people and intimidate business. My piece of advice for Eastern Empire? As lucrative as the chicken wings are for you, if you eliminate this from the menu, these folks will no longer go there and your business will thrive even more. On the other hand, I guess loud-ass ghetto folk who act like jackasses on the Metro do need a place to go, so this is it.
What do you think? Valid complaint, or racist? I've never been to the place, and it seems to me that he might have valid complaint in that nobody wants to be harassed while getting food, but he sure makes it in an angry and borderline offensive way. How about talking to the ownership or police?

When the poster emailed me, he wrote this as explanation:
I am sure I will catch flak for being "racist" by having posted this in several listserves, Yelp, Urban Spoon --- but I fail to see what is racist about being fed up with socially dysfunctional youth who do not know how to behave in public and act boorishly and offensively with impunity. No doubt you can gather who I am talking about and you have most likely experienced it at least once as a metro patron or customer of a place like this, but race has nothing to do with it: it is a class issue, and one of upbringing. I would be just as appalled if they were Asian or Latino or Irish Catholic thugs....
I kind of wonder if he's just posting it to inflame people -- but since it's so many places, I figured I'd write about it.


  1. I'm new to Columbia Heights so I haven't checked out that specific Chinese place yet, but I have been harassed outside many times in the past, often at night.

    I understand what the writer is saying; no one wants to be terrorized by loitering individuals (why the hell are there so many loiterers in DC, btw?). Fact is, he DID go overboard and racist in his note to you although he claims he did not. At one point he stated “…race has nothing to do with it: it is a class issue, and one of upbringing. I would be just as appalled if they were Asian or Latino or Irish Catholic thugs…”, but then he goes on to mention “eliminating the chicken wings” and “loud-ass ghetto folk”, words and stereotypes negatively associated with one specific race.

    He could have gotten his point across without using race as an issue, especially the negative route he took with his complaint.

  2. I am not sure i agree with the author of the blog on his post being racist borderline or over the line. I agree with the sentiment that certain factions of society regardless of race have had no one to teach them how to act. So they resort to acting like uncaged beasts. it is annoying. I am just glad i don't have a young child because then i am sure i would be up at nights trying to explain the obsencity he/she just witnessed.
    He speaks well of the situation. Just because it happens to be majority black kids who are engaging such brutal uncivilized behavior doesn't make his criticisms of it racists, liberal, or conservative. People are too apt these days to drop an "ist" to societal woes. I dont' think this is even a (socioeconomic) class issues as he called it. I know people like the kids he describes who come from rich and poor families. i think it is a cultural dysfunction issue. if Fenty/Rhee are going to fix the DC schools they better start with some wholesome parenting classes prior to wasting money fixing up the worn down buildings.

  3. I agree with DCGal. Racism aside, the writer introduces valid points. Harassing strangers is never appropriate but somehow we've become anesthetized to it in CH. I don't want to hear someone yelling profanities at their toddler and/or me anywhere I go. So how come I have to deal with it in my neighborhood? Removing items from a menu doesn't seem like an effective tactic. How do we address this issue as a community?

  4. Without getting into the actual situation at this restaurant, which I can't speak to because I've never visited, the guy who posted this to the Columbia Heights forum is a racist troll who pops in with rants like this one every so often. So, if you want to talk about teens in need of more supervision, fine, it's something that should be addressed. But don't quote the troll, please.

  5. Is this discussion really being had? The guy compares the environment to eating in the gorilla cage of the zoo and we are actually debating whether this is racist or not? NCH, are you really unsure on this?

  6. The anon above didn't think it was. This is all over the neighborhood's websites, so I'm writing about.

  7. Unfortunately, Andrew, I think the anonymous poster above is being completely unreasonable.

    By representing the initial listserve post like this:" He speaks well of the situation. Just because it happens to be majority black kids who are engaging such brutal uncivilized behavior doesn't make his criticisms of it racists, liberal, or conservative." They deliberately ignore all of the overtly racist things that the listserve racist said and that you have given an extra forum to. In any rational American context, comparing black people to gorillas is racist. End of story.
    And, frankly, so is calling someone's behavior that of an "uncaged beast." Dehumanization is at the core of racist ideology and as such is always unhelpful.

    Or, let's put it this way, do you think that if you read either the first poster's screed or anonymous' addendum to the kids in question it would produce anything resembling a positive result?

    If you're going to post nonsense like this Andrew, have the foresight and decency to take a firm stand when do.

  8. Whoa there Fritz, I'm not agreeing with the anon, I was responding to Matthew, who asked "is this discussion really being had?" Clearly some people agree with the original person. I'm writing about it because it's all over the place, and I disagree with most of the guy's statement.

    Like I said, he might have a valid argument that nobody wants to be harassed, but he couches in lots of crap. I think this something that we in the neighborhood need to talk about.

  9. To Fritz, I understand, and most should the analogy of the "gorilla" or "monkey". So, let's say they act like a pack of wild dogs, happy? I walk by said establishment, 7/11, and Columbia Rd between 14th and 13th everyday to and from work. I witness ridiculous behavior from all walks of life. I've no idea what drives people to act like this whether it's their upbringing, music, friends, environment, various media, I don't know. But, I do agree with other posters, and the original, that it is certainly degenerative and shouldn't be acceptable. I work at a local restaurant and see the same folks come in, cause trouble, ask for free stuff and bitch when they can't get it. They loiter outside and bother other customers leaving a trail of garbage. What to do about it, I've no idea.

  10. While the stereotypical connotations are harsh, I think it expresses the level of outrage/frustration this person has. Stereotypes come about for a reason, typically they are negative but often true.

    I wonder where these kids live. I wonder how grateful their parent(s) are for being able to live in the nations capital for below market rent. I wonder if they instill in their children that other people's hard work and sacrifice affords them this luxury of below market rent and that they should aspire to repay society by becoming a "net producer" in society.

  11. I understand where many of you come from, I've experienced the same frustrations. But realize that even though these children live blocks away from you; they do not share your cultural identity. Your experience and opportunities in life may have been dramatically different than there's. I can't imagine how different my life would have been if racism, whether it be overt or subtle (as many, even progressive people engage in) was a constant shadow.

    Instead of spending so much time and energy complaining about these children, why not volunteer with at risk youth in the neighborhood? You may find that the life you enrich is yours.

  12. Wow, ummm alllison, I don't think anyone should be "thankful" for living in the horrible excuse for community housing in this city. (plus, how do you know they live there?). What out of touch, conceited planet do you come from?

    The original post is OBVIOUSLY racist. You can complain about neighborhood kids and not be racist, this poster just didn't do it.

  13. I walk by that place every day, and while I will submit that the original poster was extremely racist ("gorillas?" really? we're still saying shit like this?) I've never even thought about patronizing thid restaurant for much of the same reasons he and other comments have mentioned. Aside from looking generally run down, the place is constantly filled with and surrounded by thugs and other people acting completely inappropriately (shouting, fighting, littering, etc...). Everyone knows there are certain people hanging around on the street you just know to avoid, and this place seems to attract them in droves. There's plenty of other places to eat that have much more appealing atmospheres, so I patronize those places instead.

  14. I think it's incredibly tacky that you reposted this obviously racist man's comments. I get that you are probably trying to drive hits so your google ads make money, but if this is how you are going to do it - I won't be visiting this blog again.

  15. agreed. I won't be reading this blog any more if I see something like this again. I'm disgusted that you reposted something so racist.

  16. everyone gets caught up in the politically correctness of the post as if he doesn't have a point.

    There is a problem here and it's not racism!

  17. He could have covered the problem without reposting this man's diatribe.

  18. I've made literally $0.00 from Google ads since this blog started. I posted it because it was all over the listserves, and thus is pretty much public knowledge. I wanted to see if other people agreed with me and to start a discussion, which I did.

  19. I was there and was harassed with the guy who originally posted this complaint. If you want to talk about race, I can tell you that neither of us is "white" but we obviously don't look like one of the gangsters sitting in that Chinese place and consequently we were the target.

  20. part of the problem with the social dynamics in dc is that if you have a complaint about teens, you'll be deemed racist. if you offer a solution to a specific problem, you'll be deemed racist.

    if you are white, you're racist.
    if you have money, you're racist ( even if you're not white)
    if you dont dress like a thug you must be racist.

    teens that terrorize need to be dealt with. more people are offended by "stop selling wings" or "gorilla cage" than citiznes being targeted with intimidation and fighting in public. you realize how screwed up that is, right?

    ya'll are focusing on the wrong issue. but in dc we have a hard time seeing that, cuz we're all so sensitive to real issues of history of racism. white or black, its in your face everyday and we can't solve anything.

    people with good intentions getting villanized. thugs being defended.

    thats dc. are we ever gonna change?

  21. People are too easily tossing the term "racist" to mean anything they want it to mean in order to shut down people with whose they disagree. Is it racist to acknowledge that most of the crime committed in the area involves members of a certain race? Or that more non-blacks (as well as other blacks) fear for their safety from blacks? Was Jesse Jackson racist for saying that if he was in a certain dicey neighborhood, he would breathe a sigh of relief if he learned that the person following him was white, and not black? If anything, the original poster is saying what many are thinking or muttering under their breath but are too frightened to express. It is expressing frustration at feeling unsafe due to people's conduct, not due to people's race. This is the type of talk that goes on behind closed doors -- from one side of the door. Remember the movie "Crash?" Stereotypes exist for a reason, they do not emerge out of thin air, and yet people do not openly talk about race for fear of being perceived not only politically incorrect, but worse: a "racist" (currently the biggest insult you can hurl at anyone) Was it too emotional or over the top though? Perhaps. . but it is a reality people face living in Columbia Heights. There is a severe segregation line even in our diverse community, and it is unfortunate that most of the time we (who are a different ethnicity) simply choose to ignore each other (unless it is considered trendy to eat at Salvadoran hole-in-the-wall restaurants) until the lines are crossed at certain times such as these that he has experienced, which can be interpreted as "social turf" wars that foster hostility and continued suspicion. Those who are tossing the "racist" label because of comparing savage behavior to animals, remember the "water buffalo" name-calling incident that immediately turned one white student into a racist? ( )

  22. What? Your parents never told you to you were acting like an animal when you were a kid? I thought it was a fairly common way for a parent to say "you're misbehaving in a way that is not acceptable in human society." So maybe the real problem is their parents didn't tell them that one when they were 5, so they just continue to act like over-sized 5 year olds.

    And yes, I've been in this place. The kids DO act like animals. Actually, it sounds really weird that I'm calling people my age and sometimes older "kids" but they sure as hell are not adults.

  23. @Annonymous 1:34pm--"Is it racist to acknowledge that most of the crime committed in the area involves members of a certain race?"

    It's not racist to acknowledge that crime in a particular area has been statistically proven to involve members of a certain race. It IS racist, however, to call such individuals "gorillas" or "ghetto" or allude to the "chicken wing" stereotype. Those things, without a doubt, are racist. You can argue with me until you're blue in the face but the fact remains, racism is racism.

  24. these kids in the store are black and they are acting like idiots and harassing people. the same thing happens at the mcdonalds on 18t and columbia. again, by black teens not old enough to get into bars simply loitering around, ostensibly to harass people. tangentially to actually eat food.

    how is this racist? this is not hatred. this is fact. walk into these restaurants some time. the gorilla cage comment is tasteless but the fact remains, this dude is spot on.

  25. Hey DCGal,
    I am the guy who posted the original message that is provoking discussion and I wish to address the issues you call "racist" (though I do not think I will be getting blue in the face):

    1. "Ghetto folk": This term is used to describe a type of conduct that is unacceptable by civilized society, irrelevant of race. To use it exclusively to describe blacks, however, as you do, is in itself racist. As you well know, however, the term "ghetto" is also used by many blacks to describe others of their ethnicity who "make them look bad." Bill Cosby had it right and caught flak for airing out dirty laundry, but it is true that most African-Americans shake their head because the asinine behaviour of some of their youth makes it easy for some people to yearn for the so-called "good ol' days," pre-Civil Rights. For more information go to: (see definition #24) (see definition #9)

    2. "Chicken wings": I have a lot of anecdotal evidence regarding the selection of the menu most often chosen by the riff-raff. It is difficult not to hear as it is blasted for everyone to hear. Is it not logical that cutting an item menu will reduce this type of clientele? If they had all ordered Beef with Garlic, I would have said cut the Beef with Garlic, but that was not the case. I only report what I have observed, not what I speculate or make up. I realize that it is within the realm of possibilities that these people only order chicken wings when I am there, though I doubt it.

    3. "Gorilla cage": I did not call any members of the unruly crowd "gorillas." I said that eating at this place when there are uncivilized antics going on was like eating your meal at the gorilla cage at National Zoo. I guess you and others also take the Bible literally instead of metaphorically regarding a seven-day creation. I could have compared the riff-raff to any other animals, which has nothing to do with dehumanizing them as one poster opines, and it would be the animals to whom I should direct an apology. I acknowledge that my use of hyperbole to make a point was perhaps misguided given that any references to primates are hurtful to African-Americans, whether literal or figurative, and would not have the same effect on white kids if I used "monkey house" to describe their tearing up and terrorizing a place.
    FYI, I voted for Obama, consider myself a left-of-center Democrat from that pinko college town/capital city/hi-tech center: Austin, Texas. I have dated black women there and here, and worked for years in Africa with an international agency. I have lived in Columbia Heights since 1997 before it was trendy and currently have black housemates and work colleagues, so don't be making assumptions about my being an effete coconut cat-owning condo-association organizer - newly arrived right-wing Palinista yuppie NRA member (apologies to my friends and family who are effete, own cats and/or condos, vote Republican, and own guns).

  26. wow... you know black people.... So obviously you're not racist... Pathetic.

    You're just digging a bigger hole, guy. you're disgusting. Comparing human beings to animals (which you DID do, indirectly) is disgusting.

  27. @ Anon 12:27pm

    Well forgive me, I had no idea you voted for Obama AND have black roomates and colleagues. That definitely puts things into perspective.

    Since you're so buddy-buddy with your roommates and colleagues, why don't you show them this letter you wrote? I'm sure they won't get offended, even when you call them ghetto folk. Let me know how it works out.

    (Ironically, or not, my word verification is wings, heh)

  28. I have to agree with DCGal. Congratulations, Anonymous, who originally posted this rant, you've made friends with people of other races. You are now free to insult anyone you want **sarcasm**. Just by using that "well I have black friends and voted for Obama" excuse, it reveals a problem. Being friends with a certain cultural group doesn't counteract one's insults towards them as a group.

    Your flimsy attempt to cover up your insults doesn't make you look better, it just makes you look worse because you can't even see how insulting you really are. I think that's the saddest fact of all, that you don't even realize it.

    "Allison said...
    While the stereotypical connotations are harsh, I think it expresses the level of outrage/frustration this person has. Stereotypes come about for a reason, typically they are negative but often true."

    That in and of itself is not true. Stereotypes generate through lack of experience with people within a group. We generalize behaviors, fill in the blanks with what we don't know, and because we only view certain groups from the outside (because stereotypes are usually generated outside the group in which they are created about) we make up the rest. Stereotypes are perpetuated not because they are necessarily true but because every time they are noticed, it serves as a confirmation that they are true, when probably the many more times they aren't confirmed go unnoticed. Stereotypes lead to discrimination and prejudice.

  29. To Abby and DCGal:

    From the "Stuff Black People Hate" blog, written by an mixed race dude (black + Native American) and which mirrors my opinion:

    "I don’t care how careful you are with your fucking words regarding race, nor do I care about your one or two black friends that ‘prove’ you’re not a racist. Racism, or a lack thereof, is proven by the three things that matter most to you: your willingness to have close friends of another race, your willingness to UNEQUIVOCABLY accept someone of another race as your spouse, and your willingness to let your children socialize and personally develop with children of other races. If any of those three things gives you any trouble whatsoever, you are a racist, and I don’t wanna hear a fucking peep out of you on the subject of race for as long as I live.

    For anyone that knows me, I spout off at the mouth about race because my friends are ethnically diverse, and we routinely break each others balls about our races for no other reason than that it’s funny.

    I know that people who don’t agree with me will speak up with deeply insightful questions such as “why can’t you keep these thoughts to yourself instead of posting public blogs?” or “you seem like a cool guy, but these comments/blogs are making you look like an ass” Here’s the easiest answer:


    I simply don’t have the inclination to bow to the requests of people who take themselves so seriously that they get offended by statements that are so blithely hyperbolic that even a chimp could understand that it’s merely jest. And as for people thinking I’m an ass…I am not a politician, and I therefore find complete strangers’ opinions of my character to be quite fucking irrelevant.

    So, you have a choice. Lighten up and enjoy the blog, or go do something else with your time and come back when you get over yourself.

    (from the blog "Stuff Black People Hate")

  30. Note: I did not bring up my black friends or presidential vote to prove I'm not racist. You did that.

    So don't get all snippy with me because you're feeling defensive about my opinion. I don't need to use all caps or swearwords to make my point.

    And I don't take life too seriously. I take offense when people use passive-aggressive means to insult other people, whether they think its okay or not. If you're asking me to deal with it, why don't you?

  31. Wow...this is such a disturbing conversation (on all fronts)! I simply want to say that if you truly wish to do something to help these young people, and the families that are raising them, there are many organizations around Columbia Heights (and throughout DC) where you can volunteer or even work as a counselor. I echo your concern for these young people and the neighborhood (that is I have a compassion for them and realize that perhaps they need additional caring people in their lives) and am considering getting involved myself.

    So maybe if you're concerned you might consider doing the same. But please do not volunteer if you are angry at them or have negative feelings about their ethnic identity.

    Just some thoughts...


Please don't advertise in the comments, and please enter some kind of name when you comment instead of being anonymous.

If the post is more than 28 days old, your comment must be approved first.