Thursday, January 15, 2004

I love America!!!

People say that there are too many lawsuits. Well, some of those lawsuits have a point. Read on.

Posted on Fri, Jan. 09, 2004Steak shop's name stirs controversy:Woman wants Chink's changed, saying it's a slur to Asians; owner says no way By MYUNG OAK KIM

TO SUSANNAH Park and most any Asian-American, the word "chink" is as hurtful as the n-word is to African-Americans.

So when Park, of West Philadelphia, found out about Chink's Steaks, in Wissinoming, she was horrified. Park called the restaurant owner and has since begun a campaign to change the shop's name.

She has gotten the support of the Anti-Defamation League and other community groups, who will meet tonight.

"Having a restaurant with that telling the world that 'chink' is an appropriate term and that its not a racial slur," Park said. "It's also disregarding the pain that is associated with that word for people in the Asian community, how it dehumanizes us."

But Joseph Groh, owner of Chink's Steaks, on Torresdale Avenue near Benner Street, doesn't understand the hoopla and says changing the name would destroy the business.

Opened in 1949 by the late Samuel "Chink" Sherman, the steak shop has become a neighborhood legend. Voted Best of Philly for cheesesteaks by Philly Magazine in 2002, Chink's is known to locals as one of the best cheesesteak shops in the city.

"It's been here 55 years and no one has ever questioned it," said Groh, 41. "Everybody's welcome here. I know there's a lot of racist people in the world but I'm not one of them."

Sherman got the nickname when he was 6, said widow Mildred Sherman.

"He had slanty eyes...and the kids started calling him 'chink,' " Mildred Sherman said. Many people didn't learn of his real name until they attended his funeral in 1997. Sherman said the nickname is etched on her husband's gravestone.

Sherman called the controversy "ridiculous. We are Jewish. We're far from racist. We have Chinese customers," Sherman said. "My husband was well-loved by everybody."

Residents and patrons in the predominantly white neighborhood support Groh and have trouble recognizing the harm of the shop name. Chink is a derogatory term used for Chinese people.

"I have never looked at that word as slanderous before. That was his name," said Dave Sharkey, who has been eating at Chink's for 20 years. "If your name is connected with your reputation as being a quality sandwich shop and not implying any defamation to anyone, it would be hard for me to understand how you could change the name after all these years."

"It's like telling George Perrier to change the name of Le Bec Fin," Sharkey said, referring to the famed Center City restaurant.

City Councilwoman Joan Krajewski praised the shop and decried Park for being too "touchy."

"I don't see anything wrong with it," she said. "It's not meant to insult. We have a lot of Asian people up here. I'm just really sorry that this whole thing is happening."

Even the most innocent intentions doesn't make the word "chink" any less of a slur, said Andrew Rice, spokesman for the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, an Asian civil rights group in Washington D.C.

"People think that they can use terminology such as this and their intent makes all the difference, when in fact their intent really doesn't matter," Rice said. "Somebody walking down the street will not know about their intent."

"If you replace "chink" with any other racial epithet, people understand it very clearly. For some reason, when it's an Asian derogatory term, people don't get it," Rice said.

Groh has been working at Chink's Steaks for 25 years, doing every job from onion peeling to mopping the floor. He bought the business in 1999 and works 12-hour days at the tiny old-style shop.

Groh is visibly upset about the controversy and fears that Park's campaign will put him out of business.

"She has nothing to lose. I have everything to lose," Groh said.

Park, 21, heard about the restaurant during a conversation with an Asian friend two months ago. A former West Virginia resident, she called Groh in December to set up a meeting, but ended up discussing the matter over the phone. She suggested changing the spelling of the name, but Groh refused.

Barry Morrison, head of the local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, said his agency sent a letter to Groh and is setting up a meeting with him.

Park said she thinks the restaurant name hasn't become a controversy because it is in a neighborhood that is largely white and because the Asian community is not very outspoken.

She hopes bringing attention to this will help educate people.

The restaurant name "is just another reminder of how much cultural insensitivity there still is," she said.

Hmm, so let's say that I am dark skinned. Someone nicknamed me N*****. Does that mean that I can make a store named N*****? Yeah, right!!! Has anyone ever raised the point that perhaps people patronized the place because they thought that chinks was an appropriate name for Asians? I'm just asking!!!

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