We all remember the Kwik Stop protests, right? When some black civic leaders led some of their constituents in a picket against a South Dallas Korean storeowner named Tommy Pak, increasing racial tensions in the neighborhood until media braved the Trinity to report on the story and found that, actually, the protests were based on Grade-A B.S., peddled by one particularly racist fringe leader named Jeffery Muhammad? And the DMN's opinion writers opined, and The Observer's Observerers observed, and it ended in a cover story and, somehow, lots of press for Sandra Crenshaw, and black and Korean leaders joining to sing Kumbaya on MLK Boulevard and create financial and spiritual partnerships in the shadow of the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles Koreatown Riots?
Well, yesterday was supposed to be the culmination, the solidification of racial ties in the form of a selfless act for South Dallas resident Bria Bradshaw. But it it didn't quite turn out that way.
If her name sounds familiar, it's because the 16-year-old made it through elementary school, middle school, three years of high school, disease, boredom, curiosity, puberty and a Mavericks NBA World Championship without ever missing a day of class. Her impeccable record is due, at least in part, she says, to the fact that she remembers Dallas ISD making her a promise in fourth grade that if she made it through graduation having never missed a day of class, ever, they'd give her a $25,000 scholarship to college. She's a year away from graduation, and she'll probably make it to the Promised Land with perfect attendance -- but there's a problem. DISD reneged on the deal. Maybe. We called DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander yesterday, who said in so many words that no one knows what Bradshaw is talking about.
"We've gone back and talked to everyone," Dahlander said. "I spoke to the principal at her school. I talked with the principal that followed him. I talked to the current principal. I talked to teachers. So no one knows what happened. We've never even offered a scholarship like that."
Turns out it doesn't matter -- or didn't matter -- because the new Korean and black alliance decided to give Bradshaw a scholarship for college. It would be the first scholarship given, and it would signify the conception of a scholarship fund, which would help finance South Dallas students' education for years to come.
Yesterday, the new coalition scheduled a presser for 12:30 at the Kwik Stop to announce the scholarship and the healing of racial wounds on the exact spot they were once split asunder. Unfair Park showed up. But there was a problem. No one else was there. No cameras. No Bradshaw. No leaders.
The two sides met as recently as Tuesday, but after a squabble over money and fair shares on Wednesday night, the aspirational coalition can no longer even call itself that. Ted Kim, VP of the Korean Society in Dallas and the most visible Korean throughout the peace talks, tried to play down the breakdown.
"At first I was really upset," he admitted, "but it's a small, little hiccup now, the way I see it."
Mickey Wright of the Justice Seekers didn't see it quite that way, though.
"We feel like they misled us and lied to us," Wright said of the Korean contingent. "We don't feel that they respect us."
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According to Wright, Korean business owners only came up with $1,000 total, a negligible amount in comparison to today's cost of college. Apparently the two sides also couldn't agree on who should pay how much.
Ted Kim declined to elaborate, citing the gravity of the subject. But Wright wasn't so cautious: He told Unfair Park that one black paper, Elite News, is even calling for all blacks to boycott Korean-owned stores -- one week after putting Pak on its cover.
What made the Kwik Stop protests fascinating was the speed in which black leaders signed onto fight a racial cold war based on nothing more than lies spewed by one particularly hateful man. Pak, not a saint by any means, was found to be mostly innocent of Muhammad's accusations, yet his business and family still suffered. Four months later, an innocent 16-year-old is suffering because the same biases and egos and distrust were thrust ahead of the girl's welfare.
For now, anyway. There's always time for another round of Kumbaya.