The rules for determining the hierarchy for the intersectionality coalition are complicated, or at least they can be. They can be so challenging at times that even members of the alliance can get confused about what is the most “woke.” Case in point, recently a group of “homeless advocates” in San Francisco decided to express their displeasure with a local sushi restaurant.
Izakaya Sushi, located in the Castro district of San Francisco, long known as a “safe space” for members of the LGBTQ community, was called to the carpet by Coalition on Homelessness for the high crime of putting “Pride” ahead of the homeless. The issue is that the restaurant decided to place a large rock in a Zen garden nook located in the front of the restaurant. The stone, painted with the “gay pride” rainbow, is taking up valuable space that the Coalition on Homelessness folks believe should be available for transients to set up camp.
The Coalition on Homelessness used Twitter and their own outlet, Street Sheet, to attempt to shame the purveyors of raw fish into submission. The Coalition accused Izakaya Sushi of hating the homeless while virtue signaling in order to boost its faux-progressive credentials. Clearly, for the sufficiently “Woke,” this is unacceptable and must be remedied.
Rhonda Richards, the beverage director, and bar manager for Izakaya Sushi responded to the accusations in a piece by Madeline Wells on SFGate saying that the staff (which is nearly 100% LGBTQ) voted to paint the rock to show support for the community. And that there is another “safe space” in the entryway of the restaurant that homeless people are free to use as shelter.
TJ Johnston, a reporter for Street Sheet and the person who first took outrage about the rock public, was not satisfied with the response from the staff. Making his case that the rock should be removed, Johnson said, “Even though it may not have been intended as such, it has the effect of being hostile architecture.” He added, “It can still conceivably prevent somebody from sheltering themselves from pouring rain.”
Despite Johnson’s continued opposition to the Rainbow rock things seem to have smoothed over between the Coalition on Homelessness and the restaurant. The Coalition deleted the original tweet and posted a message saying “Y’all, we made a mistake! While rocks are a common part of anti-homeless architecture, this particular rock is NOT. It’s a Japanese garden. Izakaya Sushi is a valued member of the community and is supportive of its homeless neighbors. We apologize & offer deep appreciation to the staff.”
So, what happened? A commonsense moment of clarity, realizing that “Sometimes a rock is just a rock.” A gentle reminder from the SJW types that the LGBTQ protected status among the “woke” is not to be challenged. Whatever it was that lead to the change of tone from CoH, you can bet it had little to do with respect for the business owner.
It may very well be the case that things have gotten so bad in San Francisco that no one there even notices anymore that having so many homeless that they have started building make-shift rafts to move out onto the Bay literally and to necessitate the need for a “poop” app is not normal for an American city. Putting that to the side, for now, I’m sure that the idea that a business owner has a right to make their establishment as appealing to customers as possible doesn’t enter the minds of the “woke folk.” The notion that “homeless people camped out around a business of any kind can be off-putting” is undoubted as foreign to the modern San Franciscan as a Martian landscape would be for most people. It is incredible what people can get accustomed to, especially when a political doctrine blinds those people from the reality that surrounds them.
It would appear that the Coalition on Homelessness has made a move from homeless advocates to advocates for homelessness. It is one thing to work to protect the homeless while pressuring politicians to enact policies that will reduce homelessness. It is something entirely different to direct your energies to remove barriers to homelessness. The focus, instead of being on the root causes of the problem, seems to be on how to make it easier to be homeless in San Francisco.
While some will say that TJ Johnston was looking to provide compassion, his posts, as is often the case with virtue signaling outrage, misses how genuine compassion would look. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t question Johnson’s intentions, but sympathy for the homeless is hollow without a quest for solutions. Solutions to issues like this can only come from honesty about the policies that have led to this crisis on the streets of what was once one of the most beautiful cities in this country. And while the answers to this problem may be unclear to some, there are a couple of clear things. There are no solutions to homelessness to be achieved by attacking a local business owner, and nothing can be solved by moving a rock (which it doesn’t look like is going to happen anyway) that would only make space for one maybe two people to occupy while they remain without a place (other than the streets) to go.