Story On Neighborhood’s Newfound Diversity Once Again Exhumes The Last Long Hot Summer

Rev. Al Sharpton leading the first protest march over the death of Yusef Hawkins in Bensonhurst, 1989.

Last week, the Daily News featured Bensonhurst as part of a lead story for Best Places To Live In NY – an online version of their supplemental real estate magazine.

As with so many articles about our neighborhood geared toward a wider audience (in this case tri-state area home buyers), the piece leads with a 23-year rewind to 1989 and the Yusef Hawkins killing.

The explanation that “no, things have changed, it’s diverse now” while certainly ringing true, may become increasingly unnecessary in the next few years – simply because the young families of immigrants, out of towners, as well as native New Yorkers – i.e. potential buyers, increasingly have no idea what the Yusef Hawkins killing was.

Whether this is a good or bad thing remains unseen but it’s true. I’ve personally brought up the subject of the beating and shooting of a young black man from East New York named Yusef Hawkins to friends just a few years younger than myself who had no idea what I was talking about. (I’m in my early 30’s)

Little do they know that at the time, Hawkins’ racially-motivated murder by a gang of whites – as well as the subsequent antagonistic brand of activism displayed by a not yet ready for prime time Al Sharpton – sparked what could possibly be the last time the city’s melting pot was in danger of boiling over with racial tension.

And while it’s important to learn about the past, lest we be condemned to repeat its mistakes, I can’t help but feel a little jealous of the younger generation. Because ignorance, while not particularly edifying, can after all be bliss.

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