"Black Mischief"
Print Friendly and PDF

"Amity Shlaes feels helpless against the rising tide of anti-white  larceny and murder in New York"

The London Spectator, January 1, 1994

Posted On VDARE.com,

[VDare.com Note:See page images here. See John Derbyshire On The Ballistic Trajectory of Political Correctness  for more about this piece. Ms. Shlaes is specifically not responsible for the title and subtitle, which were written by Dominic Lawson, the editor of the Spectator - or the links, inserted by VDARE.com ]

Brooklyn Heights, New York

Winter is a merry time in Brooklyn Heights and this one has been particularly festive. The children of the Wall Street lawyers who live here spend afternoons building snowmen in each others’ gardens. The wives of the Wall Street lawyers come home from work around six o’clock and chat about property values with their neighbours as they hang elaborate wreaths on the bevelled glass of their brownstone doors. The Wall Street lawyers themselves arrive only around midnight, but bear in their pockets magnificent bonuses—golden shards of the merger bonanza and a runaway stock market. At last, the whole snowy neighbourhood seems to sigh, the bleak recession-time is over. Maybe, goes the thinking—perhaps in this New Year—things might get back to normal.

Might get back, that is, except for one little problem. The problem is one, that says to all tame urban inhabitants of 1990s America, and in particular to white inhabitants: you will soon be in the minority, and the official city—employees, courts, juries, laws—cannot protect you. Brooklyn Heights residents pride themselves on being bold city leaders, though, so they don’t talk about ‘fear’. They refer to their problem in code, and they call it ‘the subway’.

For Brooklyners, the subway is an unlovely and unavoidable necessity. Brooklyn Heights grew great because it is close to Wall Street, and some of the cupolar rooms of the nicest mansions of the biggest lawyers’ houses peer right out on to the Staten Island Ferry. Between Brooklyn and Wall Street, though, lies the soggy East River. There is a bridge over the river—the rickety Brooklyn Bridge—and there is a car tunnel, the clogged Brooklyn Battery. But, to cross that river, someone in the lawyers’ families—the husband, say, when he is in a hurry, the daughter, who has to get to her East Side girls’ school—has to descend into the Court Street entrance, face humanity and smell the urine, and ride the train.

 The subway, of course, has always been an adventure. First came the vandalism and graffiti, back in the 1970s, but that threat was quickly tamed by the view that converted it to art: make pictures on the wall, arid you will become famous like Keith Haring. Then came crack and necklace-snatching, so that riders took to turtle-necks, turning their engagement rings around and storing their Rolexes at home (this did a lot for the fashion among Wall Streeters of cheaper timepieces like the Swatch). Then came token-sucking, the disgusting sight of a man or woman bent down, lips pursed, to suck tokens out of the token deposit machine in order to buy themselves a token for a free ride.

Several recent events, though, have made it clear to Brooklynites that they are now facing a more threatening change. The splashiest example was Colin Ferguson’s murderous ride on the Long Island com commuter line, not because he killed six people—all countries have occasional wild gunmen—but because his manic hostility to whites is shared by many of the city’s non-madmen. It is hostility shared by the black teenagers who push white teenagers out of cars when they are trying to board a crowded train. It is shared by the (black) city employee behind the bullet-proof glass at the token booth, who looks at two simultaneous arrivals—one white, one black—and says to the black one with a pointed and gratified smile, 'You go first.’ The latest fright—at least before Colin Ferguson’s personal ethnic cleansing—came last month from Washington, when the Supreme Court declined to hear, let alone revoke, something known around here as ‘the McCummings case’.. In early 1984, a 71-year-oId named Jerome Sandusky was waiting for a train at Manhattan’s 96th Street stop. He was accosted by a mugger—Bernard McCummings—who held him in a choke-hold and tore at his pockets. Police arrived and stopped the crime, and Mr McCummings did a  bit of time.

That story, though. is not the McCummings case’. The McCummings case is Mr McCummings’ own crusade for ‘social justice’ in the modern sense of the term. It, happened that, in trying to stop the criminal, the police shot at him, and in trying to stop him, made him a paraplegic. So Mr McCummings turned around and sued the city for ‘excessive force’. An urban jury awarded him $4.3 million. Not excessive, Mr McCummings and his lawyer thought, for the loss of the use of his legs and a sex life. But a lot more than Mr Sandusky got, and a lot in the eyes of the urban taxpayer. The basis for the jury’s decision—and the judge’s advice to the jury—was item one in new-era law: a 1984 New York rule that said policemen may use guns solely as defensive weapons. In other words (McCummings’ lawyer’s), his award ‘was an affirmation that Bernard was wronged when they turned him into a paraplegic’ In other words, the Brooklyn riders whisper, the police down there at the neighbourhood’s subway stop can’t help you, because they can’t be like Clint Eastwood and yell, ‘Stop or I’ll shoot.’

 Another case in another of Brooklyn’s Heights neighbourhoods, in this instance the less smart Crown Heights, had an equally troubling resolution. Crown Heights is a neighbourhood of at least three communities: Orthodox Jews. Caribbean blacks and American blacks live in unfriendly peace there. (To get there its locals ride the 4 and 5 trains, which make stops in Brooklyn Heights.) One day two years ago, an orthodox Jew had a car accident and—must we spell it out?—unintentionally ran over and killed a black child. The black community rose up and within hours black youths had jumped on and knifed to death a visiting rabbinical student from Australia. The city’s lawyers found the bloody weapon and extracted an identification of his murderer from the dying man. The murderer, a teenager, also confessed on videotape. But a black-dominated jury on Brooklyn Heights Court Street, right over the heads of the lawyer commuters, freed the defendant, and afterwards went out for a celebratory dinner with civil rights lawyers and the freed gangster.  What, we say at our cocktail parties, does this mean about white life in Brooklyn Heights? ‘I haven’t read the paper since the McCummings thing,’ said one lady to me flatly. Others adjust their blinkers to take in only a bit more light. Mostly, citizens concentrate on the dos and don’ts of subway and home safety. A list of recent rules for survival, heard .and overheard at such parties in the past couple of years, goes something like this:

 ‘You must not wear a sheepskin -coat no matter how shabby.’ (A man in Rockaway was killed for his sheepskin before the eyes of his pregnant fiancée.)

'Your teenager must never carry a Jansport backpack.’ (The gangs that ride the trains favour that particular brand.)

'You must not walk home alone from the train late after work.’ (Gangs with guns target middle-aged men on foot; if they’re driving they lock them in their own car boot.) 

If only you can handle yourself right, the logic goes, you will be safe .Few people, though, mention the truth: if by some misfortune you happen to get mugged, the policeman standing at the Court Street subway stop cannot protect you. If by some misfortune you find yourself on trial at the Court House there, you may face a row of Brooklyn faces that look different from yours, and they may not give you a fair hearing:    Demography plays a role here. In a city that is becoming ever more diverse —ever more Asian, ever more black, ever more Hispanic—it is ever harder to find one’s white self before a white jury. The real issue, though, is not race. The statistics bear out the truism that minorities are the greatest victims of minority crimes in cities like New York. But demography has also wrought a turnover in America’s officials, lawyers, and judges, and those educated in a post-1968 era with a heavy civil rights’ focus most often find it more interesting to vote, judge and litigate on the side of the criminal.

When out-of-control American tort law, the kind that permits the size of Mr McCummings’s award, is backed up by city officials and a judiciary anxious to placate the politicised rage of a succession of minorities, the result is something more dangerous than a city with a simple crime problem. A fortnight ago in the capacious Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan, the black minister Louis Farrakhan drew cheers from his largely black audience when he mentioned the deeds of the subway killer, Colin Ferguson. The audience cheered again when the minister suggested that America’s new concern about crime was racism in disguise—that being ‘tough on criminals’ really meant being ‘tough on black people’.

New Yorkers, even before the commuter-car massacre, had elected a white, hard-on-crime prosecutor mayor. But Rudolph Giuliani, the new man, cannot himself control a New York establishment that busies itself defending ‘social victims’, or single-handedly reverse the Supreme Court or bring about legal reform. Meanwhile, the circle of physical liberty for Brooklyn Heights, or communities like  it, gets ever tinier. You will be safe on the subway, the mantra here once went, ‘if you don’t ride the train at night’. In the rough 1980s that became, ‘if you don’t ride the train in non-rush-hour times’. ‘If you don’t ride the ‘4’ or ‘5’ trains’ was the new rule after Crown Heights, or look, one could add, obviously Jewish. ‘If you don’t commute to Long Island’ is this month’s law, following the Ferguson murders. ‘If you walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, you can avoid the subway altogether,’ the Wall Street wives advised this winter. Then a girl was raped on the Manhattan-side entrance.  


 Amity Shlaes [was] editorial features editor of the Wall Street Journal.

Print Friendly and PDF