Helen Tran’s feature about the why Wal-Mart opening in Chinatown is a threat to Chinese Americans drew comments ranging from support of the international corporation to fear for locally owned shops. The debate even turned into a discussion of Asian Americans — and readers were not afraid to disagree.
Tran’s primary concern with a Wal-Mart opening in Chinatown is that it would contribute to the loss of identity and culture for the Asian community — both those who live in the area, as well as people like her who live in the San Gabriel Valley but have roots downtown.
Some readers don’t believe a Wal-Mart will change that. “A neighborhood doesn't give me an identity,” wrote TC. “I and we as group of people give a neighborhood identity. I see no reason why Wal-Mart couldn't co-exist within Chinatown.”
Others disagree, fearful of what a Wal-Mart will mean for local businesses and consumers. “I know that small businesses in Chinatown will be unable to compete against Walmart,” wrote Drew. “If Walmart moves in, these small businesses and the jobs will disappear and so will Chinatown."
A few readers felt it was not in their place to decide whether the area needs a Wal-Mart or not — especially since the San Gabriel Valley already has plenty of shopping options. “Wal-Mart is not something I would go out of my way to defend, but I kind of want to hear what Chinatown residents think,” wrote Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou (an Alhambra Source community contributor). “Why say to Chinatown residents, well, it's alright that we've got Walmarts, Targets, Vons, Starbucks, but that's not for you? I mean, maybe it isn't for them, but they can be the ones decide that.”
While most responded to the story with a yay or nay to Walmart, some readers brought race into the discussion. “The Chinese home country made the items but now you don't want them to compete with you?? Live with it!!” wrote Tommy Wilson-O’Brien. “Those of us who were born and raised in the USA have watched millions of jobs leave this country and go to China… MILLIONS… and now you're crying foul??”
On the Facebook group "I Grew Up in Alhambra" a debate spun out from the story about not only Wal-Mart, but also Asian influence on the San Gabriel Valley. “It's our land and business's that have been taken over by a culture that largely doesn't want to blend into the surrounding culture,” said Garry Varga. “I resent that our culture has been bought out from under us by people who will never understand what it's like to grow up with what we had as children…. They didn't integrate, they invaded with cash in hand and took over.”
“Gary, Asians of all kinds were discriminated against for years much like all other minority groups in America,” responded Hortencia Brown. “Give them time to adjust and don't expect anyone from any country to drop everything they are to fit into your idea of what ‘American’ is. Anyway the original subject was what's wrong with Wal-Mart grocery store in Chinatown, not racism.”