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Councilwoman Blames 'Knockout' Attacks on Tension Between Blacks and Jews

Posted by on Dec. 4, 2013 at 6:56 PM
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Councilwoman Blames 'Knockout' Attacks on Tension Between Blacks and Jews

Sonja Sharp

By Sonja Sharp on December 4, 2013 12:10pm | Updated 2 hrs ago

Laurie Cumbo
Laurie Cumbo was elected to the City Council representing Crown Heights.

Facebook/Laurie Cumbo

CROWN HEIGHTS — The alleged "knockout" attacks on Jewish residents of Crown Heights may stem from ongoing racial tension between the neighborhood's black and Jewish communities, a newly-elected Brooklyn politician said.

Councilwoman-elect Laurie Cumbo, who was elected to represent Crown Heights starting in January, released an open letter Tuesday saying that many of her black constituents told her they feel threatened by the growth of the neighborhood's Jewish community — and she fears the tension could be spiking the recent violence.

"Many African American/Caribbean residents expressed a genuine concern that as the Jewish community continues to grow, they would be pushed out by their Jewish landlords or by Jewish families looking to purchase homes," Cumbo wrote in the 1,200-word letter, which was emailed to supporters and posted on her Facebook page.

"I respect and appreciate the Jewish community’s family values and unity that has led to strong political, economic and cultural gains. While I personally regard this level of tenacity, I also recognize that for others, the accomplishments of the Jewish community triggers feelings of resentment, and a sense that Jewish success is not also their success."

She added that these sentiments among black Crown Heights residents "offer possible insight as to how young African American/Caribbean teens could conceivably commit a 'hate crime' against a community that they know very little about."

But Rabbi Chanina Sperlin, a longtime Crown Heights community leader who stood alongside Cumbo at a press conference condemning the knockout attacks last month, said Cumbo's letter completely missed the mark. 

"I saw her letter. I told her I totally disagree," Sperlin said. "I think she has a lot to learn in this community....she’s coming in on such a left foot, and she didn't even step into the City Council yet."

Sperlin added that Cumbo's claim that African Americans and Caribbean Americans were unfairly feeling the brunt of the real-estate crunch ignored the pressures equally faced by their Jewish neighbors.

"I don’t know where the wild dream is coming from that Jewish people want to kick African Americans out of their houses...but it’s definitely not coming from the Jewish community," the rabbi said.

Crown Heights Youth Collective President Richard Greene, who has spent his career working closely with neighborhood teens, said he, too, felt Cumbo had jumped to conclusions about the recent attacks. 

"I would definitely disagree with that — I think we’re going much better now than we’ve ever been before and I see us continuing that way," Greene said. "What is happening is some undisciplined folks who are the exception and not the rule. Whether it’s Crown Heights or Brownsville, it’s the exception and not the rule."

New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind also weighed in, writing in a letter to Cumbo on his blog that he was "dismayed" by the councilwoman-elect's letter. 

"Expressing, as you have, a sympathy for those who hold the success of the Jewish community in contempt — as a success 'not their own' — almost rings as an apology for those who are committing violent crimes as a response to their resentment," Hikind wrote Wednesday.

"As you state later in your letter, if one person attacks another, regardless of the motivation, there is no justification for such an action." 

As of last week, the NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force was investigating at least seven attacks in Crown Heights, Midwood and Borough Park as possible anti-Semitic bias crimes, while police try to determine whether the attacks are connected to the violent street game in which teens attempt to knock unsuspecting victims unconscious with a single punch. The attacks include a 19-year-old Hasidic man who was punched in the face on Kingston Avenue near Crown Street by a group of eight teens on Nov. 10 and a 78-year-old woman who was hit over the head in Midwood on Nov. 9.

In her letter, Cumbo characterized the attacks as part of a breakdown in relations between African-American and Caribbean-American residents and the Lubavitch Hasidim, who have lived together in sometimes-uneasy proximity for decades.

The most notorious clash between the groups took place during the Crown Heights Riots in August 1991, when a 7-year-old black boy was hit and killed by a Hasidic driver as part of a funeral procession for a Lubavitcher rebbe, setting off four days of violence.

"The African American/Carribbean/Jewish community had come a long way since the Crown Heights Riots over twenty years ago," Cumbo said, adding that she met with a local rabbi at a community meeting last month to discuss educating the neighborhood's youth about their history "in order to prevent it from spiraling out of control."

"Today, most young people are not even aware that the Crown Heights Riots even happened," she added.

"I believe that it is critical for our communities, and especially for our young people, to gain a greater understanding of one another so that we can learn more about each other’s challenges and triumphs despite religious and cultural differences," Cumbo wrote. "When I assume office in January, I will be working with local leaders to plan a series of events that will bring our young people together."

The councilwoman-elect said that while there is never any justification for violence, "In many ways governmental neglect, outside uncontrolled influences and failed leadership have led to the breakdown that so many young people of color are currently facing.

"We should never blame a victim, or try to explain away any wrongdoing... Yet, since the issue of race has been unfortunately been introduced into the conversation about the current epidemic, I pray that I can assist in bringing my Jewish and African-American/Caribbean constituents to a far better relationship and understanding."

She also slammed the media for raising alarm over assaults on Jewish victims while failing to communicate outrage against violence in the black community.

"As the media has recently focused our attention on the 'Knock Out Game,' I am challenged with the reality that a 66 year old grandfather was shot and killed earlier this week while dropping off money in Fort Greene’s Walt Whitman Houses to help a family pay for Thanksgiving dinner," Cumbo wrote.

"There was no public outcry or calls for swift legal action for this loss of life or for the dozens of others that were killed in the public housing developments this year in the District."

"We must all come together across religious and racial lines anytime someone in our community is attacked."

Cumbo said Wednesday that she's gotten a lot of feedback about her letter online, adding that it was primarily positive.

She added that "if these attacks are driven by hate crimes, we have to understand where that hate is coming from, we just have to understand it. We may be able to arrest the individuals that were involved, but how do we prevent it from happening again?"

by on Dec. 4, 2013 at 6:56 PM
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Replies (1-10):
lylalane7275
by Silver Member on Dec. 4, 2013 at 10:34 PM

Is she seriously try to justify these crimes? 

JanuaryBaby06
by on Dec. 4, 2013 at 11:05 PM

Hmmmmm.... IDK. I can almost see where she is coming from and in away understanding is important when it comes to preventing but.... IDK, something in this letter and her explanations didn't do it for me, it was too sympathic for thr those that wronged and not the people that were. People aren't helping their situations by playing the "knock out game" if anything it's going to make people drive move, go out in large groups more, continue to kill and/or allienate communities and avoid large groups of black youth. That needs to be explained to these kids. How do you expect to bring all these kids together when some are going to be afraid of being violently attacked because their families have fared better economically?

I live in Philly (which I mention often). Philly is mostly black... 20-25years ago it wasn't. If people started playing the knockout game on blacks to show their aggravation at how things where happening and the eventual spiral of housing equity in certain areas because of the quick and vapid white flight would she have spoke out for people to understand them? It wasn't long ago we had violent flash mobs (a few years ago, made up of all minorities) attacking whites and stores downtown, what were they afraid of losing then? There is a problem in certain community's that needs to be talked about and dealt with starting in these areas but until certain people can take accountability and not be all up in arms, nothing is going to get better. The worst areas here are ones with the highest populations of blacks and the better ones have the higher populations of whites.... how are people expected to not notice that? Does it make you racist if you read statistics? This game is becoming and will continue to become a giant race issue & is going to make people very afraid of minorities. These kids need to be taught that their are better ways to voice their frustrations & change is possible by playing the knock out game its just going to be more of the same and once caught these kids are going to follow the footsteps of many in their communities to a jail cell, once there the return rate is pretty high.

I do feel bad for them and something needs to change but pretending like they have valid excuses is not going to be the fix nor will it lead to one.

SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Dec. 5, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Oh, I'm pretty sure the Jewish people are always painfully aware of the Crown Heights Riot. 

And I'm pretty sure people can figure out the pattern of who is assaulting whom. It's pretty obvious - totally black and white....

Radarma
by Member on Dec. 5, 2013 at 9:47 AM
1 mom liked this

I just popped in to post this exact piece, thanks for posting it.

Amazing.

Radarma
by Member on Dec. 5, 2013 at 9:48 AM

Let's not ruin the lives of these kids who are just too young to understand.

angry

Billiejeens
by Ruby Member on Dec. 5, 2013 at 10:05 AM

 

Quoting JanuaryBaby06:

Hmmmmm.... IDK. I can almost see where she is coming from and in away understanding is important when it comes to preventing but.... IDK, something in this letter and her explanations didn't do it for me, it was too sympathic for thr those that wronged and not the people that were. People aren't helping their situations by playing the "knock out game" if anything it's going to make people drive move, go out in large groups more, continue to kill and/or allienate communities and avoid large groups of black youth. That needs to be explained to these kids. How do you expect to bring all these kids together when some are going to be afraid of being violently attacked because their families have fared better economically?

I live in Philly (which I mention often). Philly is mostly black... 20-25years ago it wasn't. If people started playing the knockout game on blacks to show their aggravation at how things where happening and the eventual spiral of housing equity in certain areas because of the quick and vapid white flight would she have spoke out for people to understand them? It wasn't long ago we had violent flash mobs (a few years ago, made up of all minorities) attacking whites and stores downtown, what were they afraid of losing then? There is a problem in certain community's that needs to be talked about and dealt with starting in these areas but until certain people can take accountability and not be all up in arms, nothing is going to get better. The worst areas here are ones with the highest populations of blacks and the better ones have the higher populations of whites.... how are people expected to not notice that? Does it make you racist if you read statistics? This game is becoming and will continue to become a giant race issue & is going to make people very afraid of minorities. These kids need to be taught that their are better ways to voice their frustrations & change is possible by playing the knock out game its just going to be more of the same and once caught these kids are going to follow the footsteps of many in their communities to a jail cell, once there the return rate is pretty high.

I do feel bad for them and something needs to change but pretending like they have valid excuses is not going to be the fix nor will it lead to one.

 Why?

Billiejeens
by Ruby Member on Dec. 5, 2013 at 10:07 AM

 Of Course

Quoting lylalane7275:

Is she seriously try to justify these crimes? 

 

IhartU
by Bronze Member on Dec. 5, 2013 at 10:10 AM

You'd think both groups who have been through SO much would just stop the damn bullshit and learn to live peacefully with each other.

jobseeker
by Bronze Member on Dec. 5, 2013 at 10:24 AM

Then by all means, let the knockout punches continue!  There is no need to teach young people how to live in a civil society!  We should ALL be allowed to give in to our most animalistic desires!


This by the way does not happen in my town.  We have conceled carry laws.  It happened once downtown, and the victim stumbled, and turned to face his attackers with his weapon pointed at them.


numbr1wmn
by Nikki on Dec. 5, 2013 at 10:35 AM

I am really getting sick of people using their race as a crutch. FFS this has nothing to do with Jewish or ANYONE being more sucessful.  Instead of blaming other people sucess and teaching their children right, why not teach your children correctly who are doing these acts of douchbags.

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