According to police, Rich Chow, the owner of the Shell gas station convenience store on Parklane Road in Columbia, shot and killed Cyrus Carmack-Belton after accusing him of shoplifting.
Chow, 58, chased the boy from the store before shooting him in the back as he ran away. Chow’s son, who also chased after the boy before he was shot said Carmack-Belton was armed and deputies did recover a gun near his body, but authorities said that is no evidence to suggest Carmack-Belton pointed it at or threatened Rich Chow.
“It’s senseless, it doesn’t make sense,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said during a press conference Monday. “You have a family that’s grieving. We have a community that’s grieving over a 14-year-old who was shot.”
Cyrus Carmack-Belton’s brother told WIS that the family is completely devastated. “[He] was a good kid, very smart, and he did not deserve what happened to him, he said.
RCSD said that they have reviewed surveillance footage from the incident and found no evidence that the boy was shoplifting. His death was also ruled a homicide.
Naida Rutherford, the coroner in the case took to Twitter to dispel social media rumors that the boy was stealing when he was shot.
“I want to be very clear because I’ve seen lots of things on social media, said Rutherford. “Yes he was shot in the back, yes he was running away, no he did not shoplift anything from that store, I want to be very clear about that. The video footage that we have seen shows him picking some items up, not stealing them. Then he politely and quickly put the items back where he found them.”
Cyrus Carmack-Belton’s murder draws attention to the worst stereotypes among Black and Asian relations. It isn’t uncommon to see Asians running businesses in Black communities. From convenience stores to beauty supply stores, Asians have, for as long as I can remember, been an intricate part of the Black community when it comes to small businesses. But with their presence comes stereotypes perpetuated by both sides, which causes unnecessary tension and sometimes violence.
Asian convenience store owners follow young Black men around the store because they think they’re thieves or thugs. Juxtapose that idea with Black people’s perception that Asian store owners are rude and nasty to Black customers and you have a time bomb waiting to detonate. These stereotypes are often depicted and sometimes even parodied in our entertainment.
One of the most iconic scenes from the Hughes Brothers’ 1993 film Menace II Society shows how these stereotypes can quickly go wrong and end with someone losing their life.
The stereotypes were also parodied by Shawn and Marlon Wayans to show it’s ridiculous from both perspectives.
I showed you those two movie clips so you can understand perceptions from both sides, but all too often these instances escalate in real-life situations.
In 1991, a 15-year-old Black girl was shot and killed by a female Korean American store owner who believed the young girl was stealing. The Asian merchant was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, but would only spend five years on probation with 400 hours of community service. The sentence was regarded as too light, which only created more tensions within the community.
In 2021, a group of Black women beat up a Korean American merchant, which his son said was racially motivated. Before leaving the store one of the women allegedly said “Asian people shouldn’t sell Black people’s stuff.” They were eventually charged, one with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and the other with assault.
These stereotypes, just like any, are not ingrained in us as people, they have to be created. Some scholars point to white supremacy and racial hierarchy as the root of the problem.
While Black Americans (who are overwhelmingly Democratic) often have more liberal views on immigration reform, there is also existing research that indicates that Black people may feel economic competition with new immigrant communities that can manifest as broad anti-immigrant sentiment and racism.
Scholars also highlight that a lot of this competition is due to a racial hierarchy that has placed Black Americans at the bottom. When newcomers enter the country, they encounter a system that reserves the best for wealthy, white Americans, engendering resentment and zero-sum thinking among everyone else for whatever is left.
Whatever the cause, Black and Asian relations are not as bad as the media likes to claim. When cultures mix, it’s easier to focus on the differences than live in the commonality. Often we see our Asian brothers and sisters as a threat because that’s what white supremacy says that should be. But it’s just not the truth, we are all in this together.
Please keep Cyrus Carmack-Belton’s family in your thoughts and prayers.
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