Lord Have Mercy: Xenophobic Zoning

A Chinese businessman is attempting to develop a residential and retail enterprise in East Texas. In part, he wishes it to be a multicultural community where Chinese exchange students may stay while studying at UT Tyler. I cannot vouch for this businessman nor his development. For all I know, there may be myriad reasons for the zoning board to ultimately deny his request. But the fact that he and his prospective exchange students are Chinese is not one of them.

“These people, they’re not going to bring in Ruth’s Chris (Steakhouse) restaurants,” said Tyler resident Robin Lord. “Neiman Marcus is not going to come into the area because of this development.

“Because that’s not where they shop,” Lord said. “That’s not how they eat. Most people in China will go shopping once a day. They don’t even have refrigerators, so they’ll buy what they need for each day.”

The reason I give this quote the time of day is solely due to the fact that Mrs. Lord exhibits an unsettling amount of knowledge about average Chinese existence. Usually, bias against a particular people group is predicated upon blatant ignorance. But in this case, having lived in China for half a year, I can confirm her “shopping once a day” statement to be anecdotally true–more than a lucky guess. This suggests Mrs. Lord is a different sort, having actually taken pains to read up on the Other before doing her level best to keep them as far away as possible. That’s dedication. And dedication may signal a worthy opponent.

I shall have to take her statement in reverse, for she structured it in such a way that it at first appears she’s projecting anti-Asian bias upon Ruth’s Chris and Neiman Marcus! But it is not her intent to besmirch the reputation of those establishments–quite the contrary. She is praising their business acumen for refusing to open branches in areas beset by a clientele unlikely to purchase their wares. Chinese, apparently, do not like expensive clothes or steaks. Nor do they like to go out more than once a day to purchase things, for they buy only what they immediately require. In other words, they avoid frivolity and are rather frugal. If not for the jab about refrigerators, one might almost think Mrs. Lord were complimenting them. But no–immigrating minorities have been paid these malicious compliments before. In this quotation, Chinese are the new Jews. No wonder, perhaps, given that Far-East-Asians have the highest average IQs on Earth excepting Ashkenazi Jews. Some traits are bound to be shared.

But I digress.

Is Mrs. Lord under the impression that the average Chinese citizens she describes are the ones who will be moving to this new development? That one whom cannot afford a refrigerator will merrily purchase a plane ticket and set up shop on the other side of the world? This is nonsensical. She knows good and well that the lower-class Chinese whom she chose for her example are not the ones whom will be moving here. Her new neighbors will be middle and upper-class Chinese–students and businessmen–the sort that are indeed a burgeoning market for high-end clothiers and restaurants. Thus I must conclude that it is this outcome which she wishes to forestall. Her fear is not that Ruth’s Chris and Neiman Marcus will abstain from Tyler due to Chinese presence. Her fear is that she will have to watch as Chinese individuals do more business there than she herself is capable of doing.

To conclude, I would like to pose another, far likelier reason why we will not be seeing a Ruth’s Chris or Neiman Marcus any time soon, and I will borrow Mrs. Lord’s phraseology to do it. Imagine, if you will, that an urban East Coast CEO is speaking.

“We’re not going to that area. That’s not where they shop. That’s not how they eat. Most of those cowboys only go shopping once a day, and it’s at Walmart or Whataburger, not with us!”

Ah, Mrs Lord. You’re no daisy. You’re no daisy at’all…

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