Politically Incorrect Tragedies in Black and White
It's an irony that Michael Powell's story in Sunday's Metro section, "In a City's Vast Memory, Tragedies Not Kept Vivid May Fade to a Glimmer," does its part to help keep one politically incorrect "hate crime" just a "glimmer" "in a city's vast memory."
While Powell describes in flowery language the murder of Yusef Hawkins in 1989 by a gang of whites in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, his story altogether ignored the 1991 murder of a rabbinical student, Yankel Rosenbaum, by a black crowd in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights.
"In a city this vast, a handful of terrible events acquire the power of parable and mark neighborhoods for decades. The 1964 death of Kitty Genovese, a lone woman tracked and stabbed by a killer on a leafy Kew Gardens street while her neighbors averted their eyes and failed to call the police, became a national symbol of urban anomie. In Bensonhurst in 1989, 16-year-old Yusef Hawkins was shot and killed for the mistake of being black in a white neighborhood. In death he came to personify a city's undigested racial rage and a black community's search for justice....Drive southeast now toward Avenue X in Gravesend, Brooklyn. There's a subway railyard and salt air that wafts from the Atlantic Ocean, which lies somewhere beyond the Coney Island public housing towers. On June 22, 1982, just after midnight, Willie Turks, a black transit worker, stopped here after work for a bagel and a beer. A gang of 15 to 20 Italian-American men shouted racial insults and beat him to death. It was the first of three race-tinged murders in white ethnic enclaves during the 1980s. In 1986 a white mob in Howard Beach, Queens, chased Michael Griffith to his death on the Belt Parkway, and Mr. Hawkins died in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, in 1989."
One looks in vain for even a mention ofthe notorious Crown Heights killing, one that happened in another Brooklyn neighborhood just two years later.