Racial Unease in New York City

David Dinkins, former New York mayor, once described the city as being a ‘gorgeous mosaic’ of differing people, which it is, but things have not always run so smoothly between the different ethnic groups. The main racial problems have arisen from a growing level of mistrust between New York’s African American population and other ethnic groups. A black man was sent running to his death and two others were beaten with bats by a gang of white youths in the well-publicized Howard Beach incident, which became national and international news.

Other ‘hate crimes’ or so-called ‘bias crimes’ occurred around this period and prompted city official to promise a crackdown on these incidents. Two particularly notable incidents arose from tensions between African Americans and Jews; when a black child was accidentally run down by a member of the Hasidic Jewish sect in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights in the summer of 1991, a rumor spread quickly that a Jewish ambulance crew had refused to treat the stricken black girl; there followed a spate of rioting that lasted several days, during which time an innocent Hasidic man was murdered by an angry mob.

New York’s police force has also come under the spotlight for racial prejudice, often using excessive physical force when dealing with New York’s black population in arrest situations. One of the most high profile cases involved the police shooting an unarmed black immigrant male, Amadou Diallo from West Africa, a total of 19 times and using up 41 rounds. The police testified in court that they thought Amadou was reaching for a gun when he brought out his wallet. The officer’s acquittal caused a general outrage in February 2000.

Even though these incidents are without a doubt tragic, they are relatively few when you consider millions of New Yorkers get on well with each other year after year, sharing the same streets and subways with no bother at all. Still some visitors refuse to explore certain ethnic areas, giving in to irrational fears and missing out on a lot of interesting culture.