Hookah lounge ban unfair and baseless, but not remotely racist

Aug 11, 2015, 9:32 AM | Updated: 10:27 am
Jason Rantz says Seattle’s mayor has decided to propose a hookah lounge ban in a city that ha...
Jason Rantz says Seattle's mayor has decided to propose a hookah lounge ban in a city that has embraced the concept of microaggressions. (Creative Commons/Dakota Olsen)
(Creative Commons/Dakota Olsen)

Mayor Murray is in so much trouble! He decided to propose a hookah lounge ban in a city that has embraced – with his help – the concept of microaggressions. And now he’s the victim of the victimhood mentality he helped create.

When you embrace that concept, which is simply a comment or action, intentional or not, that is perceived as a slight (regardless of whether or not it’s an actual slight), and coddle political correctness and hypersensitivity, you have to be willing to accept the consequences of the society you helped shape. That is especially true in politics.

Last week, the mayor decided he was going to impose an across-the-board policy shutting every hookah bar lounge in Seattle.

“Far too many smoking lounges attract and sustain illegal, violent activity that has no place in our neighborhoods,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. “These establishments are unlawful businesses that continue to thumb their noses at the law. We will soon have additional authority to help us clamp down on operations that foster an environment that threatens public safety in our neighborhoods.”

Related: Microaggressions are an excuse to be offended, feel victimized

The violence he’s referring to are three homicides near hookah lounges in the last 18 months, six instances of shots being fired outside these lounges over eight months in 2013 and more than 100 fights in or around hookah lounges since 2012.

Now, if I’m being honest, this doesn’t sound especially threatening. I suppose that’s subjective, but it certainly doesn’t show that hookah lounges are causing the problems.

How many fights or violent incidents happen at or near bars? How many pick pockets happen around light rail stations? Should we close those? This hookah lounge assault seems both like a drastic measure, and one that doesn’t seem to address the root of the problems. You mean to tell me if you shut down hookah lounges, there will be no more homicides or fights in the area? Hardly. They’re not happening that frequently to begin with.

Now, I’m not the only one thinking this kind of action is pretty drastic. There was a piece in Seattle Met by Josh Kelety about how members of the East African community are pretty upset, believing this is an attack on the gathering spaces for Middle Eastern and East African residents. He writes:

Yesterday, a petition was posted by a Taki Alazadi (an Iraqi alumnus of the University of Washington) to protect local hookah bars. He’s collected more than 700 signatures so far. “Yeah, I understand that these kids are hanging around,” said Sahra Mohamoud, 28, a Somali community activist. “But they have nowhere to go. They’re kids that were troubled from such a young age, most of them have police run-ins. They come from broken homes.

And here come the claims of microaggressions!

“I don’t understand what the problem is with hookah lounges,” said one Ethiopian co-owner of the Aladdin Hookah Lounge to Seattle Met. “Most people who are using them [hookah lounges] are foreigners. It’s like discrimination,” he added. “Most of the hookah lounges are immigrant [owned]. They [the city] go after immigrants, and it’s not fair.”

And the quotes in this piece go on and on and on. There was even a protest on Monday at a Seattle City Council meeting.

“What the Mayor did was demonstrate that not only do black lives not matter to him, but black votes don’t matter to him either,” King County NAACP attorney James Bible said.

“We’re blaming all of this violence on hookah lounges, but I have yet to see one strand of evidence that connects that [violence to hookah lounges],” said Gerald Hankerson, president of the King County NAACP. “This is racist at its best.”

The truth is, the claims of discrimination and racism are baseless; I don’t think the mayor is purposefully going after East African businesses and residents. He’s not racist; he’s just clueless on this issue. I think he doesn’t know how to address crime in Seattle, so he committed himself to the first silly idea that he or his people came up with.

Related: Is Seattle’s mayor kowtowing to Sharia law?

And for what it’s worth: there is no real logic to this move by Murray. Seattle City Councilman Nick Licata appears to agree, writing on his Facebook page:

I just sent Mayor Murray a letter asking that he monitor hookah lounges for 60 days; not shut them down. No evidence has been presented to show that they are the source of violence. We do not want to repeat the biased enforcement that we saw over a decade ago in trying to close down hip hop venues because they were accused of being the source of violence.

If you have people who otherwise hang out in or near hookah lounges causing all these problems, they’re just going to move locations and hang out somewhere else. You haven’t done a single thing to find out why these people are committing these crimes. In fact, you’re not even arresting them.

So don’t expect any different results; maybe you can expect Murray to close the next business these kids hang out in?

But he begs for the kind of criticism from the hypersensitive community when he buys into the PC-notions of never offending anyone, even if you do it unintentionally.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
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Hookah lounge ban unfair and baseless, but not remotely racist