Nearly three weeks after a violent altercation broke out in a Brooklyn nail salon after a customer complained about a $5 eyebrow job, community members and public officials gathered on Tuesday night to protest the actions of the nail salon employees. Video showed nail salon employees using broomsticks to beat the customers, who included a grandmother and her two granddaughters.
State Senator Jess Hamilton said, "We are working with the Nail Salon Association and we spoke to the women who are protesting to have a meeting. We are setting up a meeting now to have a resolution, maybe more cultural sensitivity training for salon owners to make sure this doesn’t happen again."
On August 3, the three family members disputed the $5 charge for the botched eyebrow service at the Happy Red Apple nail salon on Nostrand Avenue. The argument escalated into nail salon workers attacking them, and video of the incident was shared on social media. According to a criminal complaint, one staffer, HuiYue Zheng, 32, was charged with misdemeanor assault for beating Christina Thomas in the back with the wooden stick, while Thomas, 21, was arrested for punching, slapping and dragging another salon worker across the floor.
"We need an apology from the owner and there needs to be more arrests in this incident," Hamilton added, according to PIX 11.
Assembly Member Diana Richardson also spoke and criticized the media for trying to "turn this thing into a race battle. It is very, very easy to turn minority communities against each other. It is easy to put black American people against Caribbean American people. It is easy to put African-American people against Asian America people. It is very easy, but you know what we all understand? We understand that the things we have in common are more substantials than the things we have that are different. At the end of the day, all of the day, our blood. And so we will not allow anybody to make this about race... It is about respect. It is about economics. It about cooperative economics. It is about raising our community to another level. It's about us exposing the system that does not allow for the loans of African-American businesses."
In another video, a statement from one of the granddaughters was read, noting that they did not refuse to pay their bill but simply did not want to be charged $5 for the bad eyebrow job:
In a Refinery29 article about the long history of black-Asian conflict in the United States, Tiffany Diane spoke to Milliann Kang, author and associate professor at the University of Massachusetts, who has researched Asian-owned nail salons:
“Race is certainly a factor, but it is not the only factor,” Kang, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, said in an interview. Kang’s research has focused on Asian-owned nail salons and their racially diverse customers. “Many nail salon workers are under pressure to work quickly and keep costs down, which does not create the best environment for building customer relations. The potential for tensions is heightened by the intimacy of the service, which involves direct physical contact, and the fact that many of the workers and owners are immigrants who do not speak the language or understand the culture of their customers.” In these scenarios, the tension is stoked by economic stress: the salon workers who often work for low wages under poor conditions, and the mostly working class clientele who cannot afford to waste money on subpar service.
Kang stressed the importance of putting these largely publicized conflicts in context. “I have observed hundreds of interactions in salons in this neighborhood that were very cordial and where workers and customers were very respectful and appreciative of each other,” she said.
The Happy Red Apple Nail Salon remains closed.