Pinkberry co-founder Young Lee was convicted of allegedly assaulting a homeless man with a tire iron. Young is being held without bail as he awaits sentencing because the judge deemed him a “significant threat to the community.” One wonders how a dapper, wealthy man with a penchant for sporting bow ties to court could be seen as dangerous in a country with some of the highest percentages of gun ownership in the world. This could be considered as isolated of an incident as me going to the gym once a year, and yet, Young brutally beat a defenseless transient for the minor transgression of showing his fiance a sexually suggestive tattoo. That’s pretty high up on the douchey behavior scale—somewhere between pushing a blind person into traffic and giving a waiter a $1 tip at a fancy restaurant.
Incidents of violent behavior from wealthy individuals have been in the news lately. Chris Brown entered rehab after a variety of anti-social acts, most famously the attack perpetrated on his then-girlfriend, Rihanna. Celebrities such as Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, and Mel Gibson have all been accused of domestic violence in the course of their careers. Even more troubling is the recent rise in beatings within the homeless community. A survey conducted by the Task Force For Ending Homelessness found that 44 percent of homeless women and 34 percent of homeless men have been victims of violence. The trend was recently pushed further into the spotlight because of a recent LA Weekly story about a downtown Los Angeles CrossFit gym's owner posting Facebook photos mocking a homeless person. In the photos, workout freaks pose with a passed out homeless person. Granted, posing with a transient doesn’t quite measure up to cracking someone with a tire iron, but it does make it clear that many people in America don’t value the lives of those who live on the street.
As income inequality grows in this country, it begs the question of whether or not there is a fundamental disrespect for the less fortunate. The man Young attacked, Donald Bolding, suffered a broken arm and a litany of cuts and bruises after the incident in June of 2011. Donald’s tattoo depicted stick figures of a man and a woman engaging in sexual intercourse. The focus of the story has been on Young’s connection to Pinkberry, the frozen yogurt chain that rose to prominence in the mid-2000s, and his illegal ownership of several firearms. Little has been said about Donald—save for his infamous tattoo.
This fascination with wealthy bad boys belies a greater societal concern. These incidents ofAmerican Psycho style sociopathic behavior illustrate the lack of regard and concern society has for its lower classes. Donald represents a forgotten segment of the population that has very few advocates. As a transient, Donald's options are very limited. If he is successful in his lawsuit against Young, he’ll likely receive a financial windfall he has no capacity to manage. Young’s behavior proves that just because someone one has money doesn’t make him or her a good human being.
In Los Angeles especially, the poor are seen as an unfortunate visual blight, as inescapable of a natural urban blemish as cracked sidewalks and rush hour traffic. While citizens of the city shrug their shoulders at the sight of a man sleeping under a freeway overpass, the LAPD are shooting transients for brandishing sticks. Even if Young gets the full seven year sentence suggested by the law, he’ll still come out of jail with a certain amount of societal cache. Current Pinkberry CEO Ron Graves told Inc. magazine, “Young is very creative. He's a designer, and there's always a fine line with creative brilliance. Super, super creative people kind of live on the edge, right?” If being a wealthy creative person gives one a ready-made excuse for hitting a poor person with a tire iron, then I am clearly missing a serious opportunity to be a total asshole. As long as the media treats people like Donald as virtually anonymous victims and the Youngs of the world as complicated geniuses, these sorts of events will remain common.