If you’ve ever been out to Flushing Queens, you know that’s where all the glorious Asian shit be. Lamb cumin burgers, pork uteri, underground food stalls, and even more Asian residents and businesses than Manhattan’s Chinatown. In fact, the population of northern Queens over the last decade has swung heavily immigrant and Asian, now at about 50% Asian and 50% white.
According to the Wall Street Journal: “Some non-Asian residents mourn the neighborhood’s transformation, saying it feels like a foreign country. They say the Key Food, which closed in late May, was among the last grocery stores where they could buy Lean Cuisine and deli meats…in a sign of the intensity of these residents’ lobby, elected officials are brokering negotiations with the manager of the Asian store, New York Mart, about what it will stock. Among demands: Boar’s Head bologna, bagels and pet food, for a start….”
Normally in New York (Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn at least), we hear about people of color being priced out of their homes and seeing their businesses replaced by upscale boutiques and restaurants due to gentrification. I certainly see it around Chinatown. Same goes for Harlem, Spanish Harlem, LES, Willyburg, etc. etc. ad nauseum.
I would be temped to throw out a “Ha! How does it feel, white people?!” here, but I think this particular situation is different, especially in terms of class. Your everyday Boar’s Head & Entenmann’s eatin’, four-decades livin’, old school Queens white person who isn’t tech-savvy enough to order from FreshDirect is an entirely different breed than your upper-middle class, transplanted fauxhemian, condo-buying yipster.
I’m hoping that community members like Assemblywoman Grace Meng and local business owners can help bridge the gap and ease racial tensions. It does appear that Asian business owners in Flushing are taking these residents’ concerns into consideration, with mixed reception over things like translating signs into English. But the consideration needs to go both ways, with respect rather than racially-coded resentment and demands coming from white residents.
Nothing seems to hit closer to home and inspire more outrage than losing access to your soulfoods, and I believe it’s a right to be able to eat your cultural fare, whether it’s char siu bao or deli meats. Y’know, Asian folks like cold cuts too y’all — let the fatty pork and bánh mì đặc biệt be the first steps towards racial harmony!
Thanks Princess Char Char of the land of Zane!