This troubling story from New York City is worthy of reflection and discussion. While violence is never an appropriate response to provocative behavior, being so insular and paranoid that you can’t return a friendly greeting is at best rude, at worst, as this incident proves, it can be deemed as highly condescending and offensive. I certainly DO NOT condone the behavior of the young African-American man in this story but there also no doubt in my mind that the behavior of the kippah clad Jewish man, intended or not, communicated a very negative message that set this mini-riot off.
(Reprinted from JTA)
N.Y. teen charged with hate crime in subway arrest that led to melee
(JTA) — The arrest of a New York teenager for harassing a kippah-clad Jewish man on a subway led to a melee that was shown on YouTube.
Stephan Stowe, 17, was charged on eight counts, including aggravated harassment as a hate crime, in the April 15 incident in Brooklyn.
According to a Daily News report three days after the incident, Stowe and a group of friends approached the Jewish man and greeted him with the traditional Muslim greeting “Assalamu Alaikum.” When the Jewish man did not respond, Stowe said the two were cousins. The Jewish man said they were not and called on Stowe to leave him alone.
Stowe responded with ethnic slurs; the Jewish man took Stowe’s photo with a cell phone.
“I am going to kill you right now,” Stowe said as he took the phone and deleted the photo. “They should have killed all of you,” he added, apparently referring to the Holocaust.
Police attempted to detain Stowe at the Eastern Parkway stop when onlookers attempted to intervene. One of the onlookers, Sheniqua Joseph, 22, was arrested for attempting to obstruct the arrest of Stowe.
A bystander filmed the melee on a cell phone and uploaded it to YouTube.