The truth behind what led to an assault at an Italian restaurant in Manhattan last Thursday depends on who’s telling the story.
It could just be another case of people behaving badly amid the stresses of the New Normal. But it may also point to something more serious: the potential that Gotham’s harsh vaccine mandates are going to compound already-febrile racial tensions.
The event took place at Carmine’s on the Upper West Side. Footage apparently shows three female black patrons beating up an Asian hostess. The victim says it was an unprovoked crime, stemming from the fact that one of the men seeking to join the three women at their table had been denied entry over his failure to provide proof of vaccination.
The trio who allegedly committed the assault had already provided their cards. As the argument unfolded, the women left their table to join the two or three men. The manager intervened, however, and the party was being led inside when something set off the three women; they began hitting the hostess with closed fists.
The accused claim the hostess used racial epithets, including the N-word; the hostess denies it.
Predictably, the Black Lives Matter movement is threatening to demonstrate outside the restaurant. The alleged assailants are interested in making this a story about racial bias. But even if that’s self-serving cant, there is no avoiding the potential for racial conflict created by the Big Apple’s vaccine-pass regime.
Some dispute the right of the state to force people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus by banning them from entering public places like restaurants, bars, sports stadiums, theaters and concert halls. Yet vaccines are clearly beneficial, and people should be encouraged to get the shots.
The problem is that national vaccination rates show a serious racial divide, with African Americans being the least likely to get the jabs of any racial or ethnic group. The reasons for that may have to do with the skepticism about government — a not entirely unjustified aversion, given that blacks in the United States faced centuries of oppression, including legal discrimination within living memory.
The result, however, is that if the vax mandates are seriously enforced, they will undoubtedly produce a disparate racial impact, hurting blacks especially.
In other contexts, liberals treat even the hint of a disparate outcome as the return of Jim Crow. That, for example, was how Democrats, including President Joe Biden, characterized perfectly sane voter-integrity laws enacted in Georgia, Texas and elsewhere. This, even though there’s no real proof that voter-integrity measures hurt African Americans and even though the vast majorities of Americans, including blacks, support them.
But vax mandates can’t help but have a disparate racial impact that could effectively ban as many as 40 percent of all blacks from the public square. Such an outcome would raise the real specter of Jim Crow — not in intent, but inescapable effect.
Whatever the truth behind the brawl at Carmine’s, it’s time for New York liberals to recognize that their zeal for mandates is creating a collision between two competing values. On the one hand, Democrats have embraced draconian governmental restrictions, regardless of their connection to science, because they have come to see the pandemic as a partisan proxy fight with Anti-Science Republicans.
But by embracing aggressive vax mandates, they are also setting themselves up for a fight with a Black Lives Matter. BLM usually peddles spurious nonsense about, say, policing. But in this case, claims about disparate impact are unanswerable, while the risk of ugly racial explosions is dangerously high.
The last year has shown that many on the left value the perception of their safety over their own freedom, let alone those of others. If liberals push ahead with a total safetyist regime, regardless of the consequences, they will reap the social whirlwind, including within their own constituencies.
That’s liberals’ choice to make. They occupy the commanding heights. But at the very least, they should be honest about one thing: They are about to exclude a large portion of African-Americans from public life in blue cities.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS.org