Laurie Cumbo's Jewish Problem...And Ours? Not Really.

Laurie Cumbo, Councilmember-elect for the 35th CD (Fort Greene, Crown Heights), threw herself into a cauldron of foolishness this week with her idiotic commentary playing share-the-blame for the recent spate of black-on-Jew “knockout game” attacks in Brooklyn.  

In case you missed it, Cumbo mused in a lengthy, ungrammatical open letter that black residents fear that “they would be pushed out by their Jewish landlords or by Jewish families looking to purchase homes.”  She also “recognized” that “the accomplishments of the Jewish community triggers (sic) feelings of resentment, and a sense that Jewish success is not also their success.”

Indeed…typically when one person accomplishes something, it is to them and not someone else that the credit belongs.  Laurie Cumbo appears to have gone beyond equality of opportunity and equality of outcome into equality of satisfaction. 

In any case, this isn’t the first time that the future councilmember has made invidious comparisons between what Jews and blacks have.  In a 2010 interview Cumbo complained to the Times that racism was preventing her from expanding her Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art (MoCADA), though in 2006 she was given $500,000 in public money to relocate from Bed-Stuy to Fort Greene.  She continued, 

I’m trying to figure out new ways to do what I want to do to grow the museum.  Because, it’s like black and white both in power won’t allow me. You have a Jewish children’s museum, but you don’t feel that there should be a black-centered museum? How do you think black children are going to feel compared to Jewish children when they grow up?

Cumbo never clarifies who it is that is trying to destroy her black-centered and publicly-funded museum in favor of the Jewish Children’s Museum, which actually runs programs for public school children (presumably black) from underserved areas, according to Council documents.  Moreover, there is an entirely separate Brooklyn Children’s Museum in Crown Heights, which has a multicultural, community-oriented curriculum.  The absurdity of imagining black children feeling shut out of the Jewish Children’s Museum (“Mommy, why isn’t MoCADA running more children’s programs?”) is Cumbo’s self-pity and resentment apotheosized.  

Laurie Cumbo likes to talk about gentrification, and her latest comments make clear that Jewish real-estate speculators are a prime enemy in her anti-gentrification outlook.  “Gentrification” is a term of art that essentially refers to white people moving into a neighborhood without many white people already.  Don’t believe that’s what it means?  How often does one read articles about the gentrification of Greenpoint versus the gentrification of Harlem or Bed-Stuy?  Gentrification equals bad diversity, and is basically a cudgel to aim at whites who live, like everyone else, where they can afford to.  

A common thread in anti-gentrification commentary is that the new residents aren’t friendly.  “They don’t say hello”: this comes up in every documentary or survey of residents “concerned” about gentrification.  To my mind, if that is the worst of it, then the longterm residents are getting a pretty good deal.  But not to CM-elect Cumbo, for whom such reticence means, literally, the end of the world.  In the comments section alongside a Times review of an exhibit at MoCADA critiquing gentrification in Brooklyn, Cumbo complains,

I think for many African/Caribbean Americans who often felt rejected in the workplace, our communities were a place where people felt “at home”, comfortable, welcomed or a place where you would be greeted walking down the block. I think the most immediate challenge that I have with the changes in the community is that the new people don’t even speak to you or look away as you say good morning or how are you. I mean how can you come into a new community and ignore the people that are there. I really don’t understand the thought process behind that. The act of ignoring the people in the community makes the idea of creating a community and working together impossible. My other larger concern is that the greed of others is going to destroy the entire earth.

Right...from people not saying hello to the destruction of the earth in one step.  Ah yes, the “greed of others”—always the greed or racism or lack of regard of “others,” which will destroy the earth.  Never one’s own.

Just to keep it going, here’s another lengthy comment from Laurie Cumbo in the Times:

I feel so challenged because I feel that those in positions of power to create change have not taken into consideration the importance of maintaining diversity. I went to the Brooklyn Flee at 1 Hanson Place on Saturday and I was amazed at how many of the vendors were white. Maybe about 90% probably more! The audience was about 95% white except for the security staff. I wondered as I walked through was this the new “ideal” look for Fort Greene. I wondered why would someone want such a monolithic feel to a shopping center when New York City is known for its diversity? When people of power recognize that true diversity on an economic, racial, gender, age etc. is what makes a community dynamic then we will really live out the benefits of what this country should be based on. Until then, we will continue to implode.

Is the Brooklyn Flea actually pursuing a program of racial exclusion?  Are they in fact screening their vendors by race?  If so, someone should call the Human Rights Commission and the Department of Justice.  Otherwise, what is she talking about?  

Let’s see how Laurie Cumbo’s colleagues in the Progressive Caucus respond to her blatantly anti-Semitic comments…should be an interesting test of where the Council is heading and what kind of leeway they will grant to stupidity disguised as social justice.