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31 January 2021

Medford bar proud of its racist sign UPDATED: Trophy Club issues 'non-apology,' plays victim card


This is the picture Ken Narasaki took as he drove by Medford's Trophy Club Bar & Grill. When he attempted to contact the owner, Narasaki was greeted with offensive remarks.

By Brad Smith

MEDFORD, Ore. -- On Monday, the Trophy Club took down its racist message and issued what some considered to be a "non-apology apology."

Then, the bar owners claimed they were victims of alleged death threats.

And, as of late Tuesday morning, the Trophy Club's Facebook page was taken down.

A few days ago, as he drove by the Trophy Club Bar & Grill, Ken Narasaki said he was "angered and shocked" by what he saw: The electronic sign proclaimed China Virus Hrs.

"It was very upsetting," he said. "Ever since the pandemic, Asian-Americans have been the brunt of racist attacks. It's ugly and wrong. What the hell is wrong with people?"

Narasaki said he nearly went inside the Trophy Club to speak with the owner.

"Then, I realized it could spiral out of control and there would be problems," he said. "So, I went home and figured a phone call would be best."

It wasn't.

When Narasaki called the Medford bar, located at 812 S. Central Ave., a female employee answered the phone. According to him, as he explained the situation and how "China Virus" was a racist slur, the employee hung up.

He called the bar again and, this time, a man answered.

"The guy used a terrible Asian accent and said, 'Hong Kong Chopstick Factory. Why don't you suck my fat white rod?'" Narasaki claimed. "It was very offensive but this guy thought he was funny."

The Rogue Free Press called the Trophy Club and after speaking with some female employees, spoke with a Brett Howard, after being initially blocked by an answering service. Howard said the sign wasn't racist and then launched into a series of personal attacks -- female employees could be heard giggling as he did so.

"Are you a moron," he said at one point. "Are you from around here? Are you even fucking married?"

Across social media, mainly Facebook and Yelp, the Trophy Club was slammed with complaints and negative reviews. Yelp finally locked down the bar's page until it could assess all of the negative postings.

Ambar Rodriguez, a reporter from CBS affiliate KTVL Channel 10, spoke with the other owner, Lori Fudge Howard, who issued this following statement:

"We are not and never have been racist, nor have our employees. The sign was not intended to be racist. It was to make light out of the situation we all have been going through for the past year. We apologize to whoever we offended. That was not our intention."

Narasaki called it a "non-apology."

"It's not an apology, I feel," he said. "I said that in my interview with the TV station. It's a 'non-apology apology.' No remorse, no honesty. None."

Rodriguez then reported the Howards took down the racist message due to alleged "death threats" they had received. Rodriguez said Lori Howard claimed that the bar had received telephonic threats. It's still uncertain if the Howards filed a report with the Medford Police Dept.

"So, they didn't take down the message because it was the right thing to do," one person opined on Facebook. "They took it down because of supposed death threats. They played the victim card."

This isn't the first case of anti Asian sentiment during the pandemic here in the Rogue Valley. Joe McPherson, who operates the Double R Pub in Rogue River, has made social media posts about "the Kung Flu" a number of times. Then again, given Rogue River's history of racism, no locals took issue with it. Recently, Grant Pass' Gold Miner Restaurant has advertised "China Virus" lunch specials for some time.

According to a September 2020 report issued by the Stop AAPI Hate Youth Campaign, a high school internship program at Stop AAPI Hate, a national center that collects reports of coronavirus discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, nearly 8 of 10 respondents expressed anger over the epidemic of hate against Asians as the pandemic went on. The data came from nearly 1,000 interviews of Asian American young adults conducted by a team of 87 Asian American high school students last summer.

According to NBC News, such cases were:
  • A 14-year-old student in Dallas was followed home by a group of high school boys who pretended to cough on him and shouted, "Ching chong! You have Chinese virus!"
  • A 17-year-old was told over social media that their "insides are full of 'fucking bats" and that they should kill themselves because they are a "dirty fucking dog eater."
  • An 18-year-old who was grocery shopping was called "chink" and told to go back where they came from.
It didn't help that Donald Trump kept using the term "China Virus" and emboldened his racist follows to do the same. According to Associated Press, there was a surge of racist social media memes that portrayed the Chinese as "bat eaters" responsible for spreading the virus and revived century-old tropes about Asian food being unclean and unhealthy.

Stop AAPI Hate reported last August that it had received more than 2,500 reports of hate and discrimination across the country since the group was founded in March, around the time the outbreak began to seriously worsen in the U.S. The group said it received data from 47 states, with 46 percent of the incidents taking place in California, followed by 14 percent in New York, AP also reported.

"I grew up in Washington state," Narasaki said. "I've dealt with racism before -- so, this isn't new to me. Being an actor in Seattle during the '70s and '80s, hell there was a lot of racism within the theater community. Now, there's this."

Narasaki has lived in Los Angeles the last several years but his girlfriend resides in the area. Since the pandemic, he's been spending a lot of time in southern Oregon.

"I love it here, I really do," he said. "And, I've met a many great, friendly and kind people. The scenery is something I've fallen in love with and I do feel at home here.

"But, the other day, I was reminded that there's still some ugliness in the world."

Narasaki shared his experience on social media and already the Trophy Club has been hit with negative comments on Yelp. Plus, there are early comments talking about previous examples of racism at the bar. The business' Facebook page has garnered negative reviews too.

In typical fashion, Trophy Club defenders have said there's no racism involved and everything has been blown out of proportion. Of course, many who are defending Howard and the Trophy Club are -- not surprisingly -- white. People have been quick to point out about the Spanish Flu pandemic, which broke out over a century ago. However, the "Spanish Flu" was a H1N1 virus that had genes of avian origin -- and it was first reported at an army base in Kansas. Fort Riley, to be exact, and it happened on March 11, 1918. It never originated in Spain.

But, let's be blunt: Given Brett Howard's interactions with the public and press about this, it's clear that he's fine with promoting a racist slur and sees no wrong with it. The reality is that Donald Trump didn't turn a large number of our follow Americans into rabid, hatemongering bullies and white nationalists.

He didn't.

Trump enabled them, emboldened them. For years, they lurked in the shadows and were afraid to announce and embrace their views. As president, Trump gave them the okay to be bigots and intolerant towards others.

What's happening now is going to be with the American people for a long time. No, it's not right. However, people can still take a stand against it.

Narasaki said he's received support from many after his initial post and many have said they will call the Trophy Club and complain.

"I hope people will take notice and take action," he said. "This isn't right. We're Americans and we should be better than this. You don't treat people like this. That's not who we are."

Here is Narasaki's post on Yelp:

Yelp took down my review of Trophy Club and their racist marquee because "it was not clear" that it was my "firsthand experience". Who the hell do you think took the photo of their marquee? And when a business writes a racist statement on their marquee, I think it's "firsthand experience" when you see it, which is sort of the point of a marquee.

Yelp also took down about a half-dozen other reviews complaining about that sign. Why? Yelp, are you in favor of protecting public racist sentiments?

I'm going to repost this because my experience does qualify as "first-hand experience":

I drove by this marquee on January 27, 2021, that crows "China Virus Hours".

A sign that proves that racism is alive and sick in Medford, Oregon.

This is not just "hurt feelings". I know from my own personal experience and from the experience of many of my Asian American friends, not to mention countless news articles, that Trump's (and others') use of the racist term "China Virus" led directly to hatred, open hostility, and violence against Asians and Asian Americans (racists never know the difference). People have been beaten, have had acid thrown in their faces, and have been spit on by people like this bar owner/manager.

Unless you're a white supremacist or think that maybe white supremacists might have a point, I suggest you not go here. Better yet, call (541) 772-4131 and tell them what you think of their sign.

Medfordians, do you want people to think that this is okay here?

ps: A quick check of their other Yelp reviews will show that this racist sign is no accident.

PPS: I called and tried to explain why "China Virus" was a racist term and the woman who answered simply hung up on me. When I called back, a guy answered in a mock Chinese accent: "Hong Kong Chopstick Factory. Why don't you suck my fat white rod?"




2 comments:

  1. Racism is alive and well in the Rogue Valley. Even businesses that put up virtue-signaling signs about inclusion do their best to protect racists. Anna Weathers is a local racist in Medford who yelled at my husband that he "can't see out of his slanty eyes" while driving. Her employer, Ashland Automotive, put up an inclusion sign in response and took no disciplinary action against her. We can do better.

    ReplyDelete
  2. As the owner of Ashland Automotive, I can speak for all of our employees when I say we take any allegation such as this very seriously. I'm aware of this alleged incident, and I personally performed an exhaustive investigation over the course of many months, and can find zero proof that our employee said such hurtful words. We decry all racist words and actions. Furthermore, our inclusion policy has been framed and hanging at our front counter for 5 years, and wasn't simply posted in response to this allegation. Our policy of inclusion is a core value, which draws our diverse staff to want to work here. I'm truly sorry you feel the need to try to cause our employee to lose her job.

    ReplyDelete

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