Twenty years ago, in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, a car being driven by a Hasidic Jew named Yosef Lifsh accidentally hit and killed a young Caribbean-American boy named Gavin Cato. As a way of memorializing young Gavin's tragic passing, the neighborhood's Caribbean-American and African-American populations launched three days of commemorative riots. Buildings and cars were torched, Jews were harassed and beaten, and a young rabbinical student who had nothing to do with Gavin's death was savagely murdered. (His killer, now free, still doesn't feel all that bad about stabbing Yankel Rosenbaum to death while shouting "get the Jew!")
Anyway, since an arbitrary number of years has now passed since the riots, we're apparently supposed to talk about them again. Which, under normal circumstances, would be fine.
Here's why it's not:
1) Nobody's actually talking about what happened. The theme of ethnic misunderstanding-cum-ethnic superunderstanding that predominates all Crown Heights Memorial Riot Conversations is the sort of kumbaya fare that, while establishing the premise for some great Disney sports movies, has nothing to do with the Crown Heights riots. The real, far less sexy, far more third rail-y triggers were as obvious then as they are now: herd mentality, xenophobia, antisemitism, and Al Sharpton. Which brings me to the next problem.
2) Al Sharpton. As Crown Heights burned, the MSNBC host and sometime reverend delivered a eulogy at Gavin Cato's funeral helpfully reminding the assembled masses that the Jews were responsible for Gavin's death. (Er, sorry, the "diamond dealers.") Despite this and other "gaffes," Marc Schneier, the serial adulterer and sometime rabbi, invited Mr. Sharpton to speak at his Hampton Synagogue panel discussion,
3) We shouldn't be memorializing riots anyway. Gavin Cato and Yankel Rosenbaum deserve better.