OPINION: Leaders need to speak with one voice against hate crimes in Brooklyn
In the atmosphere that has been created over the last two years throughout America, it is not surprising but it is nonetheless disturbing that the city has seen a spike in hate crimes. The anti-Chinese graffiti painted on several sites in Bensonhurst over the weekend is symptomatic of a disease that needs to be wiped out before it spreads.
On Monday, elected officials and community leaders strongly denounced the graffiti at a press conference led by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. A $1,000 reward was offered to anyone coming forth with information leading to the arrest of the vandals responsible for the racist graffiti.
Adams, who was joined by the United Chinese Association of Brooklyn, Assemblymember William Colton, Democratic District Leader Nancy Tong, political hopefuls Andrew Gounardes, Ross Barkan and Ethan Lustig-Elgrably, and representatives for Assemblymember Peter Abbate, state Sen. Marty Golden and Councilmember Justin Brannan and longtime Chinese-American resident Dr. Tim Law, who’s lived in the neighborhood for 50 years.
Dr. Law declared, “We will not be silenced. This is an assault on our community, what we stand for and what we represent. This is an attempt to degrade a community of people and create a level of terror.”
The leaders urged NYPD to treat the incident as a hate crime. Police have canvassed the neighborhood to see if any local merchants may have a video of the vandals. State Sen. Diane Savino said the vandalism “is a definition of a hate crime in the New York State Penal Code.” Then speaking directly to the vandal she said, “I want to remind him that the likelihood is he may only be a first or second generation American himself, as I am, as many of us are in this community.”
The strong response to the graffiti in Bensonhurst was fitting and showed a community united against racism. But another incident unfolding over the same time period in a different neighborhood shows racism continues to fester not far beneath the surface in at least parts of Brooklyn and Queens.
Following Pride festivities in Jackson Heights in June, two attackers spewed homophobic slurs at a gay school teacher before assaulting him. The attack prompted the NYPD to open a hate crime investigation.
On Friday night a melee broke out at the New Red Apple Nails salon on Nostrand Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn. A customer who had come in for a mani-pedi and to have her eyebrows done, decided the work on her eyebrows was “botched” and refused to pay. This resulted in shouting between the customer who is African-American and the employees of the salon who are Asian American.
The shouting turned into a riot with the employees using broom handles as a weapon. Police eventually arrested one African American woman and one Asian-American woman on assault charges. Parts of the melee were caught on video.
On Monday, predominantly African-American demonstrators marched from the New Red Apple Nails at 1426 Nostrand Ave. two blocks to the Beautiful Red Apple Nails at 1224 Nostrand Ave. where they trapped four employees inside.
Along with obscenities, the protestors chanted “no nails, no toes, these racist shops have got to go.” And one demonstrator shouted, “where is ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]?” implying that the salon’s Asian employees are undocumented immigrants.
The clear message of the demonstrators was that Asian-owned business were not welcome in “our neighborhood.”
The video of the melee has gone viral but there is not enough in it to say definitively if the violence was in any way justified. Since the violence resulted in to two arrests, we expect that question will be resolved by the DA or in court.
What we do find troubling is the racism that was voiced in Monday’s demonstration. The message was that Asian-American businesses are not going to be tolerated in this part of Brooklyn.
We don’t think for a moment that the demonstrators speak for the people of Flatbush. But we would like to see Adams and other elected officials make it clear they don’t.
Hopefully someone will explain to Monday’s virulently anti-Asian demonstrators that Asian Americans have played an important role in the economic rebirth of New York City. Nowhere is this more obvious than in nearby Flushing, Queens, where Chinese and Korean Americans have achieved remarkable success not just with restaurants, nail salons and other small businesses but in technology and manufacturing.
The diversity of this city is something to be cherished, not disdained. There is no city in America that better proves the foolishness of racism.
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