Councilwoman links ‘knockout game’ to Jewish-black community tensions

Councilwoman-elect Laurie Cumbo will represent Crown Heights when she takes office next month.
Via Facebook

An incoming city councilwoman is being criticized after she blamed some recent “knockout game” attacks on the tension between black and Jewish communities in her neighborhood.

Councilwoman-elect Laurie Cumbo, who will represent Crown Heights when she takes office next month, posted a letter on her Facebook page earlier this week saying that she believes some black constituents fear that they will be pushed out of the neighborhood by the growing Jewish community.

“My comments regarding my thoughts on the origin of the [Knockout Game] came from a place of wanting to get to the heart of the matter, as uncomfortable as that might be for many,” she wrote.

Cumbo went on to say that after meeting thousands of Jewish and African-American/Caribbean residents in her district, it came to her attention that the relationship between the two communities is “not as good as it is currently perceived to be by the leadership.”

She said she expressed her concerns at a community forum for local leaders last month.

“At the meeting, I shared that 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,” she wrote in the 1,200-word letter posted on Facebook.

Cumbo said these sentiments “could 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.”

She continued, “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.”

Some leaders were quick to express their disagreement. Assemblyman Dov Hikind wrote in a letter to Cumbo that he believes her comments were counterproductive.

“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,” he said.

“Identifying members of the community as ‘Jewish landlords’ is a stereotype with profound negative connotations,” he added.


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