The internet is a dangerous place to make controversial statements. Especially when you're a prominent restaurateur.
Last week David Koch, the man behind downtown Minneapolis restaurant and lounge Seven Steakhouse & Sushi, was getting his Facebook on when he came across a post from local nonprofit staffer Wintana Melekin. The Neighborhoods Organizing for Change worker was voicing her exasperation over the Charleston, S.C., shootings. Melekin, who is black, implored her pale-skinned peers to have difficult conversations about racism with their white friends and relatives.
Throwing caution to the wind, Koch, a white guy whose restaurant and club employs many black people and has a large black clientele, was compelled to chime in. His post got off to a rocky start when he called Melekin “Young lady” — which reads scolding, whether he meant it or not — and asserted that he knows more about the topic than she does.
Without providing much context, Koch mentions that his first wife shot herself and died years after they divorced and that his second wife is black. He then writes with grammatical abandon that “when I look at your comments it says I'm sorry to say ignorant as the white person that went into the church and killed those people.”
In the since-deleted post, captured by the Thug in Pastels blog, Koch tells Melekin not to generalize about people, again reiterating he feels his knowledge is superior to hers. Blowing past any “Dude! Don't go there!” signs, Koch asserts that “black on black crime [and] black on black killing is much greater than black on white or white on black killing.”
Predictably, the boo birds hit the comment section. One called his remarks a “condescending rant,” while another woman wrote that she planned to boycott his restaurant. Koch tried to clarify his words, attesting that he's “NOT attacking anyone but the media” and didn't call Melekin ignorant (though he kinda did), but rather that the “world we live in" is ignorant.
“...I'm one of the strongest supporters of the black community. How does this young lady generalize white people and talk about all white people and their whiteness we all need to educate each other on race hatred,” he writes.
Messages for Koch were not returned, and an NOC spokeswoman said Melekin likely would not comment. Shortly after we spoke with the NOC rep, the Facebook thread was removed from Melekin's public timeline, though in one reply she wrote, "I was so angry. I just wrote a million replies that I didn't post. I just sent him a fb message saying that's offensive & I'd like to sit and talk in person.”
It's unclear if the face-to-face convo ever went down. But it's probably safe to say awkwardly written Facebook banter won't end racism.
Send news tips to Michael Rietmulder.