Seven’s chief manager David Koch told me Wednesday he’s going to concentrate on the restaurant business and leave race relations alone.
“Yes, I guess I am,” Koch said. Good call, although he didn’t sound convincing. Last week Koch incited the Internet when he felt the need to go on Facebook to point out the problem of black-on-black crime at a time when the dominant news story was the massacre of nine black churchgoers at a Bible study in Charleston, S.C., by an avowed white racist.
Koch was moved in the wrong direction by a posting from local community organizer Wintana Melekin, who wrote: “I feel like I’m breaking. I don’t want to talk about Charleston. I don’t want to see pictures or articles. I want white people to talk to other white people about racism. Please, talk to your uncles and nieces no matter how hard it is. Please don’t just say, ‘This is a tragedy and I’m so sad.’ Tell me how you are going to use your whiteness to educate another white person about racism. Because your silence is killing me, literally.”
I completely understand. Koch, however, was rankled by Melekin’s use of the term “whiteness.”
“What does that mean, C.J.? Can you explain that to me? You can’t generalize all white people. That’s really the only part that really got me,” said Koch.
I told him that our conversations have left me with the impression that he thinks being married to a black woman makes him an expert on racial stuff, even though he’s missed some of the lessons he should have learned from having a black wife and some black kids.
“No, no, I don’t think I’m an expert on anything. Here’s what I am an expert on: If we don’t keep calling each other out, we’re going to have more problems.” I think the man who claims, “Killing doesn’t have a color,” is uncomfortable talking about race, even though he has a large black clientele and staff.
“I have nothing but respect for the young lady,” said Koch.
Anybody offended by Koch’s usage of “young lady” should know that’s one of his phrases, for better or worse. He opened our phone call with “Young lady” and then sort of apologized. I told him the endearment could be interpreted as condescending. “It [isn’t] condescending and you know that,” he said. “’Cause you know me.”
Koch said part of the reason his Facebook lecture misfired was that he was dictating into his phone and the message was garbled by repeated incoming calls.
I kind of doubt the phone was the biggest problem with Koch’s Facebook screed, which began: “Young lady, I’m very sure I know more about this [subject]. White people are just scared and that is very sad. I have been married twice; my first wife committed suicide and killed herself 15 years after we were divorced. My second wife [Alexus Koch, who he said is the owner of Seven] is black.
“Don’t generalize people cuz you’re only going to make yourself look ignorant,” he continued. “I know more about this subject [than] you can begin to even talk about. I only want you to learn from this. I am NOT trying to condemn your comment [but] make you aware of what is going on in America. We are at a bad period in this country and don’t [buy] into it. I wish you the best young lady for you have much to learn and it’s clear to me you are very young with some very mislead [sic] opinions.”
City Pages’ Michael Rietmulder has cleverly described the restaurateur’s communication style as “grammatical abandon” — a phrase I plan on borrowing sometime soon.
“Listen, did it not say I apologize for my grammar?” said Koch, about the only time he came close to laughing at himself.
As for whether Koch has noticed an organized boycott as a result of Twitter’s #SevenSucks, he said, “People have their choice to do what they want.”
Koch’s Facebook posting has been removed — but not by him. “I didn’t take it down,” Koch said. “Probably somebody in my promotional team [did]. I have people who work for me who have access to my accounts.”
He should perhaps run his ruminations by his people before posting.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on FOX 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count. Attachments are not opened.