Rosedale, Queens 1975
March 27, 2022 10:44 AM   Subscribe

Urban Planning graduate student Sola Olasunda unearthed and tweeted a clip of white children racially abusing Black children from a nearby neighborhood in Queens, which went viral in the summer of 2019 (WPIX doc, 24min). The segment came from a 1976 Bill Moyers documentary (Vimeo, 58min) on Rosedale, where the arrival of a few Black families to the mostly white neighborhood had spurred racist violence and protests, including the 1974 New Years Eve bombing of the home of Ormistan and Glenda Spencer. In June 2020, the New York Times published interviews with many of the (Black) children from the video clip.

From the Moyers documentary, it is clear that the incident involving the children immediately followed an event where many of the white children's parents were counter-protesting a visit of local Black leaders to support the Spencers. The Black children were on a "bike hike" from neighboring Cambria Heights to McDonalds, when they went to investigate what they thought was a "parade".

The counter-protest was led by a KKK-inspired neighborhood group called "Return Our American Rights" (ROAR). The leaders of this group --- Joseph J. Soltiz, Michael Biggio, Joseph Ewald Jr, and Jerry Scala --- are featured in the documentary, describing the tactics they use to prevent Black homeowners in the neighborhood. Biggio was charged with bombing the Spencer home , but was acquitted by an all-white jury in 1975. He was then re-arrested for threatening a witness who testified against him, and again acquitted. Soltiz was charged with witness intimidation in relation to the bombing. The group and its members were charged in late 1975 by the US Department of Justice for violation of the Fair Housing Act and Civil Rights violations.
posted by pjenks (8 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
After the acquittals, the bombings continued.
posted by pjenks at 11:04 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


I’d be interested in hearing interviews from the white children. My hope is that they grew out of the racism they learned from their families.

…but then Trump is from Queens, so maybe not.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:22 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


The Rosedale of the 1970s was a predominantly white working-class neighborhood of about 25,000, home to civil service workers, police officers and firefighters of mainly Italian, Irish and Jewish descent.

This is the thing that gets me. A couple of generations back, these groups wouldn't have had "passing privilege" yet. Their grandparents and great-grandparents would have known what it was like to feel unwelcome, and yet they failed to teach any empathy to their descendants.

(Like, I really hate that this is true, but where I grew up it was only in my generation that people started thinking of Italian-Americans as "properly" white. And any hint that you might have Jewish ancestry would get you six helpings of side-eye. )
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:04 PM on March 27 [10 favorites]


This is the thing that gets me. A couple of generations back, these groups wouldn't have had "passing privilege" yet. Their grandparents and great-grandparents would have known what it was like to feel unwelcome, and yet they failed to teach any empathy to their descendants.

It's not that they failed to teach empathy - it's that the price of their "whiteness" was to become its enforcers.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:21 PM on March 27 [40 favorites]


You see a similar thing in Franco-American communities in New England. They were targets of the KKK in my grandparents’ generation and still discriminated against in the following generation, so it should be recent memory. But you still had/have some folks being super racist against eg. Somali immigrants to Lewiston, Maine.
posted by eviemath at 1:52 PM on March 27


In my Staten Island neighborhood circa 1985, a family down the block was rumored to be selling their house to a Black family. They received an anonymous note in their mailbox: if you close that sale,.your house will be burned to the ground.

They sold to someone else. It wasn't an idle threat.
posted by 1adam12 at 6:57 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


I’d be interested in hearing interviews from the white children.

I'm not. Why hear them say more of the same damn stuff other white people have been saying overandoverandoverandoverandoverandoverandoverandover?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:20 PM on March 27 [4 favorites]


Yes, by virtue of being in NYC doesn’t guarantee diversity. Breezy Point in Queens, a seaside town on the tip of the Rockaways, is notoriously hard to buy into. It has a homeowners association that requires half the house paid in cash and pretty much won’t sell to you if you’re not Irish.
posted by dr_dank at 7:12 AM on March 28 [2 favorites]


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