Newly elected New York City Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo has a theory on the reason behind the infamous knockout game: racial tension.
Cumbo wrote a letter on Tuesday in which she said fears over the growth of the Jewish community in Crown Heights, New York City could be contributing to the recent spike in seemingly random assaults.
From her letter:
"Many African American/Caribbean residents expressed a genuine concern that as the Jewish community continues to grow, they would be pushed out by their Jewish landlords or by Jewish families looking to purchase homes," Cumbo writes.
“I respect and appreciate the Jewish community’s family values and unity that has led to strong political, economic and cultural gains. While I personally regard this level of tenacity, I also recognize that for others, the accomplishments of the Jewish community triggers feelings of resentment, and a sense that Jewish success is not also their success."
Cumbo’s letter says these feelings of resentment can "offer possible insight as to how young African American/Caribbean teens could conceivably commit a 'hate crime' against a community that they know very little about."
Her letter also explicitly states that these sentiments from within the African American community are no excuse for committing crimes. The letter is only intended to raise awareness as to the motivation for the ‘knockouts’, not pardon them.
Regardless of the intentions of her letter, a number of leaders from the Community Heights Jewish community have come forward and publicly disagreed with Cumbo.
"I don’t know where the wild dream is coming from that Jewish people want to kick African Americans out of their houses...but it’s definitely not coming from the Jewish community," Rabbi Chanina Sperlin said. "I saw her letter. I told her I totally disagree,"
Evan Bernstein of the National Defamation League said Cumbo’s letter is not only false “but evokes a number of classic anti-Seimitic stereotypes.”
In the midst of the Knockout Game hysteria, a number of writers have come forward questioning the mere existence of the phenomenon. Slate writer Matthew Yglesias and Daily Beast writer Jamelle Bouie both note that random street assaults are nothing new, and don't indicate any new knockout craze sweeping across the nation.
“…the question isn’t whether these random assaults happen,” Bouie writes. “Of course they do. The question is whether this is a new dimension of urban crime, or a new name for an old phenomenon. Most of the evidence points to the latter.”