Issue 1: City council of Alexandria, Virginia, approves a permit for a new barbecue restaurant.
Issue 2: The restaurant will have an open-air, gas grille.
Did you see the potential violation? No? Well, you’re just not thinking like a lawyer — or, at the very least, you’re not thinking like an insane person. The Alexandria Gazette Packet reports:
Del Ray Attorney Ed Ablard is challenging the restaurant as a violation of his civil rights. Because the gas-fueled smoker will release particulate matter into the air, his suit charges, his civil rights will be violated.
Is a white man claiming that a barbecue joint is somehow racist towards white people? No, it’s way more crazy than that…
Ablard is challenging the restaurant on grounds that it will have a discriminatory effect on black people:
He charges that the restaurant will “provide a clubhouse for conservative persons to gather to drink until late hours and thereby form a barrier against the encroachment of persons of color …”
Correct me if I’m wrong, but “conservative persons” is not tantamount to “only white people.” Right? Is the argument that black conservative persons will feel barred from visiting the restaurant? Or is the argument that the barbecue will be so bad that no self-respecting black man would want to eat there?
And not to think like a lawyer or anything, but as long as we’re talking about protected classes, how does this white guy have standing to bring this claim? Like I said, there’s all kinds of weirdness here:
Ablard, a white man who is representing himself in the case, is a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Alexandria Society for the Preservation of Black History…
“Plaintiff believes … that he is representative of a class of persons who are persons with colored skin, persons whose ancestry stems from the importation of slaves and free emigration to the United States … ” the complaint explains.
Okay, if you ignore for a second that this guy is nuts, there’s a nice little point here about race in America. Really, who is “white”? What defines “white”? If you take our common ancestry far back enough, we’re all from Africa; we’re all a little bit black. So where’s the tipping point? One-eighth, as it was in antebellum America? What if you’re of recent African ancestry, but you’re really light-skinned? What if you can pass? At some point the racial distinctions we make really break down.
Even if Ablard could confuse us as to his race, he’s being very forthright about his crazy. Which is total. If crazy were a color, Ablard would own the naming rights. To paraphrase Muhammad Ali, “ain’t no air particulates ever called a white man the n-word.”
Breathing: A Civil Right? [Alexandria Gazette Packet]