A councilman in Virginia has come under fire after saying that Chinese businesses don’t need aid for COVID-19.
In a work session on June 2, Paul Riddick, who represents Ward 4 in the Norfolk City Council, said that COVID-19 aid would serve Black-owned businesses better, since their Chinese counterparts “don’t need any money.”
Riddick’s comment came in response to Jared Chalk, Norfolk’s Interim Director of Development, who had been talking about how the city can help establishments that might face language barriers when applying for aid.
“As we were doing our outreach calls, there was a business in Chesapeake, a Chinese restaurant that was targeted,” Chalk said, according to WAVY. “We had our staff meeting and we decided that day, we were going to call every Chinese restaurant in Norfolk, and make sure that they know that we’re here to help them.”
Riddick, who is African American, claimed that he had seen Chinese restaurants “making a dime” selling crabs and other food. He proposed that the aid be given to Black restaurants instead.
“Jared was talking about calling every Chinese restaurant in Norfolk? Chinese [restaurants] don’t need any money,” the councilman said. “They’re making money hand over fist, and they always have been. They don’t hire Blacks, and they don’t give anything back to the community.”
Councilman Tommy Smigiel took offense and shared his own observation on the issue.
“Mr. Riddick, I’m really upset with your comments that you made about Chinese families. I don’t know if those were your intentions,” Smigiel said. “I have two Chinese students whose parents own Chinese restaurants in Norfolk that had to shut down their business because of comments our president made, and the racial threats they received at their restaurants.”
However, Riddick reiterated that Black businesses in the city are being neglected.
“And you wonder why blacks burn down these cities. It’s because we are in a position to help and we don’t do anything, and this is what happens in Norfolk. We don’t do anything to help the small Black business.”
Smigiel then asked Riddick to be careful about “putting down” any culture during this time. Riddick eventually softened and apologized for his remarks, but maintained that Chinese businesses don’t need money.
“I apologize if it sounds like that. It sounds racist, and as I think about it, it probably did sound racist,” he said.
Riddick went on to explain his remarks further in an interview with 13News Now. He denied prejudice and argued that his stance came from his own experience growing up in the city.
“It has nothing to do with prejudice. It only has to do with one thing, is that Chinese have made a lot of money enough at any majority of that money they’ve made off of Black folks.”
The councilman believes that Chinese businesses do not struggle amid the COVID-19 crisis.
When asked what he thought of the ones that closed, he replied, “They made a lot of money in the past and they don’t get hurt.”
Riddick has since been blasted on Twitter by users who labeled him as a racist.
“You are a racist a**hole. Racism isn’t just exclusively affecting Black people so wake the fuck up you imbecile. You’re just as terrible as the orange fool in the White House,” one commented.
Lordy, Councilman Paul Riddick. No he didn’t. 🤦🏾♀️
— Bee👩🏽🏫🐝 (@VA_Slim_757) June 4, 2020
@PaulRiddick don’t get mad when these Chinese restaurants rebuild with their own money and succeed. Oh wait, you’re already mad at them for succeeding…
— Seasoned Chicken (@mike89374691) June 5, 2020
@PaulRiddick You are a racist asshole. Racism isn’t just exclusively affecting black people so wake the fuck up you imbecile. You’re just as terrible as the orange fool in the White House.
— Trollcifer_Eveningstar (@TrollciferE) June 5, 2020
@KennyAlexander This type of covert racism and ignorance is no longer tolerated in today’s world. Councilman Paul Riddick should step down immediately and not finish his term until 2022. #racist #racism https://t.co/wfxCUlj6CS
— 💤 (@orijinolz) June 5, 2020
Councilman Paul Riddick (Ward 4) in Norfolk, Virginia how are you a council man with thoughts like this? That’s like saying restaurants shouldn’t make foods that blacks like because they will make lots of money from themhttps://t.co/wMy2XzDt4V
— Joe V (@joeVevenflow) June 5, 2020