Open letter to Russell Simmons

Dear Mr. Russell Simmons,
I read your letter from yesterday [Wednesday, October 19 – Ed.], and I have a very simple response to it. You are a racist. And you aren’t selective. You hate everybody equally. Americans, Indians, Chinese, Korean everybody that isn’t a local for you is an invader and not worthy of respect or dignity. A casual perusal of your writing over the years proves this beyond any doubt. If someone works harder or achieves more and they aren’t from “here” then they must be cheating somehow.
You think the Chinese are buying up the island? Here’s a news flash for you. You can’t buy something that isn’t for sale. You think there are too many stores owned by the Chinese? Where are your local owned stores? Did I miss the law that says locals can’t run supermarkets? You think the Indians have a monopoly on Front Street by some chicanery? Stop running your mouth and prove it.
You are what we used to call a “Zebra”. The reference is to referees in sports that wear striped shirts that stand around judging what other people do without ever having to do anything themselves. You write endlessly about the failures of others and the manifest problems all around you but offer nothing in the way of a rational or intelligent solution.
It’s simple, Russell, you think you have all the answers? Get elected to something and do the work. Back away from your keyboard and make a meaningful difference.
In your own inimitable style I’ll offer an anecdote from my childhood that might put your “Chinese problem” in perspective. I came from a neighborhood that was heavily industrial and bordered on what, before the days of politically-correct speech, was known as a ghetto. Rundown houses, burned-out shacks, rat-infested apartment buildings, etc. Then the Vietnam War ended and there was a great influx of Vietnamese refugees.
These people had nothing at all for the most part and a lot of them moved into that ghetto and a lot of the kids who spoke, essentially, no English, ended up in school with me. In the next four years those kids spoke better English than a lot of native speakers and that ghetto started to look like an upper-middle-class neighborhood. In 10 years it was a showpiece of beautiful houses and well-kept buildings and businesses. All owned and run by the Vietnamese.
So, one Sunday morning I am watching one of the local news channels and there is a panel discussion amongst certain local community activists and the Vietnamese civic leaders. The local activists were outraged at how the Vietnamese were all living in nice houses and driving nice cars and having nice businesses in the area now. And here is the punch line … the Vietnamese just looked at each other really confused and finally said, “Well, if it was so easy, why didn’t you do it?” And that is something you as a person, Russell, really need to get a handle on. Why do the Chinese and the Indians and all the rest have what they have? Simple. Because they are willing to do the work. And for that they deserve your respect. Not your disdain hatred and suspicion.
Let’s use a litmus test here. Quick, of the scooter gangs and kids doing wheel-stands up the middle of the roads how many are Chinese or Indian or anything other than locals for that matter? That’s where work ethic is developed. At home when kids are young.
Condemning a culture like the Chinese because they work harder and smarter than you is the mark of an ignorant man. And Russell, you have that mark in spades.

Steven Johnson

The Daily Herald

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