Hitting a Nerve on Race, Stereotypes

Sandy Banks, Los Angeles Times, January 29, 2008

One of the first calls Sundeep Bhatia received Monday was from the principal at Dorsey High, a few blocks from his South Los Angeles 7-Eleven store.

Bhatia is the store owner I wrote about Saturday after his 7-Eleven was hit by a group of rowdy kids last week on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. (See “‘Callous Disrespect Taints a ‘Sacred Day.’”) Bhatia was disgusted that the teenagers—most of them black—would act so disrespectfully on what he called a “sacred” day.

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Readers suggested the kids be publicly shamed—the video posted online, shown in school assemblies and linked to our newspaper’s website. Bhatia said he’s willing to make it public if he can get permission from his corporate bosses.

“I’m sure someone would recognize a kid or two” if images from the video were posted at neighborhood schools and churches, a teacher from Pasadena said in an e-mail. “A few students who can’t sit down for a week (as I would have been, had I pulled a stunt like that as a teenager) would be a good start.

“But from my experience,” she wrote, “I can tell you what most of the parents of these teenagers would say: ‘Stop picking on my baby.’”

And a former high school principal suggested the young looters themselves might relish the notoriety. Students at her school used to swarm local clothing stores, she said, “and scoop up jackets, hats and anything else they can carry . . . then have the nerve to show up at school . . . wearing the items and purposely keeping the tags on so people would know they had participated.”

So much for putting the tape on YouTube and turning junior thieves into Internet celebrities.

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