Florin JACL, CAIR-Sacramento Valley Members Allege Racism, Denial of Service At Bishop, CA Bowling Alley During Manzanar Pilgrimage Weekend
May 19, 2015 4 Comments
The following is a letter sent by representatives of the Florin chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and the Council on American Islamic Relations – Sacramento Valley.
May 13, 2015
Mr. Thomas L. Flesia, Owner
Ms. Helen French, Manager
Ms. Trina Favel, Manager
Back Alley Bowling, Bar, and Grill
649 N. Main Street
Bishop, CA 93514
RE: Denial of Service at Back Alley Bowl in Bishop on April 25, 2015
Dear Mr. Flesia, Ms. French and Ms. Favel:
The Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee sponsored the Asian American and Muslim American young adult group [was] denied service by Back Alley Bowling, Bar, and Grill employees in Bishop on the night of Saturday, April 25, 2015. This discrimination in public accommodations deeply offended us and denied our civil rights.
The Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage is a ten-year project of the Florin Japanese American Citizens League (Florin JACL) and the Council on American Islamic Relations-Sacramento Valley (CAIR-SV). Since our group has faced similar racism and bigotry at Back Alley Bowl in the past, this is particularly egregious. Fundamental changes need to be made.
This mistreatment is an insult to the 1,500 people, especially those senior travelers in our group imprisoned during World War II, who come annually to the area to visit Manzanar National Historic Site. They come to learn about America’s World War II concentration camps, the lessons for today, and to stand up against such ignorance and discrimination targeting innocent people.
Our investigation of the circumstances that day shows the following. Our group of 15 Asian American and Muslim American young adults, plus some older members and senior citizens, was denied service at Back Alley Bowl on three occasions on the night of April 25, 2015. They conducted themselves in a civil, reasonable manner at all times, offering workable options to bowl, despite alleged computer problems and shutting down the business early though posted hours were until midnight.
About 9:45 PM, the night of Saturday, April 25th, a group of 8-10 Asian and Muslim Americans went to Back Alley Bowl to bowl. The “open” sign outside was lit and the establishment was operating. Three bowling alley lanes were open and lit with two of them occupied by a white family group. Some patrons were drinking at the bar and eating inside the restaurant.
When our group asked the young clerk if they could bowl he was flippant and rude. He claimed that the computer system was down and they couldn’t bowl. Though doubting a computer system could be down when people were still bowling, our group tried to find reasonable solutions. They asked that the computer be rebooted, offered to wait for a repair person to come, to use the vacant lane, wait for the family to finish, pay cash if the cash register was down, hang out buying food and beverages, or even just watch the family bowl. They were met with flimsy excuses, lies, a statement that the family had been bowling with the system down for the past three hours, and the clerk saying they were shutting down.
Our group left Back Alley Bowl, dissatisfied at this poor treatment, discussing how to get fairness, and talking to others in our group who were also upset at this discrimination. Some who had remained outside said another employee had walked to the lit “Open” sign and turned it off while the group was inside.
When a couple of other members of our group heard about this, they went into Back Alley Bowl and tried to go bowling. They too were refused.
As our group stood outside the bowling alley around 10:30 PM, talking about this, they saw several employees come outside including one taking out the trash. They politely asked to speak to the original male employee they had talked with previously. He came outside inappropriately carrying a three-foot long stick and continuously raised the stick above his shoulders while speaking to our group. He stated that the system had been frozen for the past three hours and that the “Yoda” computer technician lived 10-15 minutes away and it would be too late to have it fixed. Our group found that incredible since that meant the other party there had been bowling for over three hours. The male employee eventually let our group know that his manager was inside and they requested to speak with her.
When the woman manager came out around 10:35 PM, she repeated the claim that the computer system was down and said they were shutting down early (despite the 12 midnight posted hours). When asked if the group could come again the next day or get a discount, the manager claimed that she didn’t know if or when they would open up the bowling alley again. The manager said she was sorry that the group “did not get the response that you wanted.”
In contacting residents of Bishop and others sharing information over Yelp reviews, we learned of more instances of Back Alley Bowl discrimination, including people met with racist stares with which people of color are all too familiar. As mentioned before, our Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee had experienced this type of bigotry before at the bowling alley.
We do not see this as a matter of a computer being down, misunderstanding, perception, or employee confusion, though these may have played a part. It’s a matter of denying services in public facilities to people of color and religious minorities.
We are aware of the concerns of others in Bishop about this mistreatment. We have met many good people there who have welcomed our diverse group into their businesses. This concern is a hopeful sign that fundamental changes might still be made at Back Alley Bowl and that this black mark be removed from the city of Bishop.
We would like to arrange a meeting at a convenient location for us to discuss what might be done to prevent such actions from ever happening again.
Andy Noguchi, Chairperson
Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee
Twila Tomita, Co-Chair
Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee
Brandon Miyasaki, Youth Coordinator
Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee
Marielle Tsukamoto, Co-President
Maheen Ahmed, Programs Manager
Lucy Porras, Programs Manager
CAIR-San Francisco Bay Area
Brice Hamack, Esq.,
Northern California Civil Rights Coordinator
Danna Elneil, Operations Manager
Thaya and Jim Craig
Brenda Fong, Chinese American Council of Sacramento
Effie and Stephen Hanway
Dr. Satsuki Ina
Joshua Kaizuka, Esq.
Steve and Jennifer Kubo
Titus and Donna Komure Toyama
Stan and Christine Umeda
Bishop Chamber of Commerce
Bishop Paiute Tribe
Bishop Rotary Club
Inyo Register Newspaper
Manzanar National Historic Site Superintendent
National – Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)
National – JACL
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