The following is from a public Facebook post by Atif Qarni, who is Virginia’s Secretary of Education:
When we vandalize and loot small businesses in our communities (many owned by People of Color), we are not helping the cause. If you are white, your white privilege will protect you from the blame, and black people will suffer the consequences. Listen to your black brothers and sisters and ask how you can help. They don’t need a white savior, they need allies (of every color and creed) — people who will stand with them in this fight for racial justice and stand up for them when their rights are being trampled.
I woke up this morning heartbroken to see small businesses in Richmond located around VCU on West Broad Street were destroyed–burned and looted. When we lived on Broad Street last year, my kids used to shop at urban clothing stores like DTLR and Monument, both minority owned and operated.
This restaurant pictured here is Coliseum Deli in Richmond. I lived in the condo above this store and frequently visited for late night dinner. It was vandalized last night causing over $10,000 in damages. Looters took money from the register, ransacked the store, stealing merchandise and breaking windows.
Mr. Abbas, the owner of Coliseum Deli, immigrated from Iran 50 years ago. He has operated this Deli for over 17 years and has fed many students at VCU who are now lawyers, doctors, musicians, and artists. Mr. Abbas gives food to the homeless when they come in. He employs a young black man who helps manage the Deli. Mr. Abbas rents out space to a black barbershop next door at a very affordable rate to empower young black men to be entrepreneurs. My kids got some of their best hair cuts at this barbershop.
Mr. Abbas is very liberal in his political views and supportive of Black Lives Matter and other social justice causes. I know this because in the evenings I would go down to the Deli and eat his amazing Lamb Shank and can have great conversations along with my dinner. He is an amazing human being who has empathy for people of color because of his own struggles and hardships as an immigrant who left a politically volatile homeland to begin anew in America. He came to the US because it offered Liberty and Justice for ALL.
This morning Fatima and I called Mr. Abbas and his wife, Kobra. They are devastated to see their years of hard work left in shambles. Since 2 a.m. this morning they have been at the Deli trying to pick up the pieces left behind.
Destroying our community stores and neighborhoods is not the way to seek justice for George Floyd or countless other black men who have been murdered at the hands of the police. We all need to think about how we can further this important cause and not hurt others in the process.
If you are reading this post, please step up and see how you can help the people and small businesses in your community that are hurting.
For my Muslim friends in the Greater Richmond Area, let’s come together to help Brother Abbas recover and rebuild. Send a message to Fatima or Suja to see how you can help.