Feminist Philosophers

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And now for the rest of the story… November 5, 2012

Filed under: intersectionality,race — annejjacobson @ 2:37 pm

You’ve probably heard the story: mon and children trapped in a car filling with water. Mon tries to get them to safety, but a wave sweeps the little boys away. Residents nearby refuse any help, even just phoning 911.

An important fact is now reported. She is black; the neighbors white.

Police on Thursday said two brothers, ages 2 and 4, who were swept away Monday night when waves of water crashed into an SUV driven by their mother in Staten Island were found dead.

Glenda Moore left her Staten Island home with two children and was driving to a family member’s house in Brooklyn when her car became submerged underwater. She freed her two kids from their car seats but rushing waves of water swept the kids away from her arms.

“It went over their heads… She had them in her arms, and a wave came and swept them out of her arms,” the mother’s aunt told the NY Daily News.

Local Staten Island newspapers have reported the mother unsuccessfully tried to get help from neighbors but the New York Daily News is reporting another side of the story:

According to the sister, a dripping-wet Moore banged on doors looking for help in the middle of the hurricane, but couldn’t find anyone willing to help her.

“They answered the door and said, ‘I don’t know you. I’m not going to help you,’” said the sister. “My sister’s like 5-foot-3, 130 pounds. She looks like a little girl. She’s going to come to you and you’re going to slam the door in her face and say, ‘I don’t know you, I can’t help you’?’”

Moore spent the night huddled on a doorstep as the hurricane’s assault continued. At daybreak, her sister said, the desperate mother walked until she found a police car and related her heart-breaking story…

 

18 Responses to “And now for the rest of the story…”

  1. philodaria Says:

    This is so unbelievably horrific, infuriating, and heartbreaking.

  2. supernaut Says:

    There was a thread on 4chan about this (not going to link). I know there’s always a lot of trolling/lulz in anything posted there, but if that’s any indication of the way some white people think in the US, that country has some serious problems.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    This is not an uncommon reaction to emergencies, independently of considerations of race. Recall the case of Kitty Genovese.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Where in the article linked (or other relevant article) does it mention the race of the neighbors? I couldn’t find it anywhere, but that just might be a result of less than careful reading.

    Still terrible, but perhaps not racist-terrible (like anon-7:14 points out).

  5. annejjacobson Says:

    I saw some of the residents caught on camera. There were white. One man, who had refused to open his door to her, said he didn’t have any obligation to help, because he is not a social worker. She was asking people to call 911; no one did.

    There’s a lot in the press about at least early on a rising sense of community and helping out. But not here, it seems.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Aren’t there now pretty good reasons to be suspicious of the portrayal of the Kitty Genovese case as an example of bystander effect (e.g. in the 2007 paper by Manning, Levine and Collins)?

  7. annejjacobson Says:

    Anonymous, I am very surprised by the article you cite, which says there’s no evidence there were 37/8 witnesses. Here’s an account in the NY Times of the days shortly after the murder, with cops interviewving witnesses:

    On My Mind; The Way She Died

    By A. M. ROSENTHAL
    She died on the street, near her house in Queens, stabbed to death in the early morning of March 13, 1964. It wasn’t much of a story; an editor in the New York Times newsroom held up a thumb and forefinger, meaning keep it short.

    Four paragraphs appeared, written by a young police reporter. Even in the newsroom they were barely noticed. But two weeks later Catherine Genovese’s name became known around the world.

    For 30 years now, the half-hour before she died of her wounds has been studied in classes from grade school to universities, dissected in graduate seminars and related in church sermons, all in the search for some meaning.

    A few days after the murder, I had lunch with Police Commissioner Michael Joseph Murphy. I was metropolitan editor of The Times then and we had talked occasionally about public apathy toward crime.

    That day, at Emil’s, near City Hall, he told me a story that made him shake his head. We checked it out, and on March 17 a story by Martin Gansberg appeared on the front page. It began:

    “For more than half an hour, 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a women in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.

    “Twice the sound of their voices and the glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each time he returned, sought her out and stabbed her again. Not one person telephoned the police during the assault; one witness called after the woman was dead.”

    If any of the 38 witnesses had called during the first attack, the police said, Catherine Genovese, 28 years old, might have been saved.

    When reporters talked to the witnesses, some said they did not want to get involved. One man said he was tired. Most, asked why they had done nothing, just said, “I don’t know.”

    Later, some of the witnesses and their neighbors became angry. They told the reporters it was unfair how they kept writing about Austin Street, where Catherine Genovese died, and how they were giving the neighborhood a bad name, go away.

    Reporters then consulted “experts.” Mostly the answers were what you would expect — blahblah blah. A theologian said blahblah maybe the city was “depersonalized.” Then he said: “Don’t quote me.” That was the only funny thing that happened.

    The police arrested a man called Winston Moseley. He was convicted, and received a life sentence. He is in the Green Haven correctional institution in Dutchess County, New York.

    But how could it happen — 38 witnesses keeping silent while Catherine Genovese died? I get letters, some of them from children studying the Genovese case in fifth or sixth grade. A teacher wrote that her children wept when they heard the story.

    Sometimes I write to the children that maybe the fact that Catherine Genovese is remembered will mean that fewer people will turn away.

    That’s unctuous nonsense. It is difficult to say to the children — no, her death has not helped diminish apathy. But that is what I believe. In our city and country, there is more violence, more apathy toward it, not less.

    For a while after Catherine Genovese died, reporters came up with a string of “apathy” stories. Ten years ago, when we printed a story about neighbors doing nothing during a courtyard shooting, the reporter mentioned her name.

    But the thing is, “apathy” is not really news anymore. Every week, sometimes often in one week, somebody gets murdered before witnesses in our city — an execution on a drug corner, or death in a drive-by splatter of bullets.

    When I see the scene in my mind, I know that there must have been lots of witnesses — in the streets, or watching from windows.

    But the thought that they walked away or pulled their heads in does not startle me anymore. I take it for granted. If I were still an editor I would probably not bother to send reporters to search out witnesses, it seems so commonplace now, silent witness.

    These years, when I think of how excited we all got about the story of neighbors who refused to get involved while a woman was killed, and how everybody was startled that it could actually happen, that time seems very distant, almost naive.

    But how can you write that to children who cry at the memory of Catherine Genovese, and the manner of her dying?

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  8. annejjacobson Says:

    Here’s the original Gansberg article, which some people are now saing was part of a hoax:

    Thirty-Eight Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police
    New York Times
    Martin Gansberg
    March 27, 1964

          For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.

        Twice their chatter and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each time he returned, sought her out, and stabbed her again. Not one person telephoned the police during the assault; one witness called after the woman was dead.

        That was two weeks ago today.

        Still shocked is Assistant Chief Inspector Frederick M. Lussen, in charge of the borough’s detectives and a veteran of 25 years of homicide investigations. He can give a matter-of-fact recitation on many murders. But the Kew Gardens slaying baffles him–not because it is a murder, but because the “good people” failed to call the police.

        “As we have reconstructed the crime,” he said, “the assailant had three chances to kill this woman during a 35-minute period. He returned twice to complete the job. If we had been called when he first attacked, the woman might not be dead now.”

        This is what the police say happened at 3:20 A.M. in the staid, middle-class, tree-lined Austin Street area:

        Twenty-eight-year-old Catherine Genovese, who was called Kitty by almost everyone in the neighborhood, was returning home from her job as manager of a bar in Hollis. She parked her red Fiat in a lot adjacent to the Kew Gardens Long Island Railroad Station, facing Mowbray Place. Like many residents of the neighborhood, she had parked there day after day  since her arrival from Connecticut a year ago, although the railroad frowns on the practice.

        She turned off the lights of her car, locked the door, and started to walk the 100 feet to the entrance of her apartment  at 82-70 Austin Street, which is in a Tudor building, with  stores in the first floor and apartments on the second.

        The entrance to the apartment is in the rear of the building  because the front is rented to retail stores. At night the quiet
    neigborhood is shrouded in the slumbering darkness that  marks most residential areas.

        Miss Genovese noticed a man at the far end of the lot, near a  seven-story apartment house at 82-40 Austin Street. She  halted. Then, nervously, she headed up Austin Street toward  Lefferts Boulevard, where there is a call box to the 102nd Police Precinct in nearby Richmond Hill.

        She got as far as a street light in front of a bookstore before the man grabbed her. She screamed. Lights went on in the 10-story apartment house at 82-67 Austin Street, which faces the bookstore. Windows slid open and voices punctuated the early-morning stillness.

         Miss Genovese screamed: “Oh, my God, he stabbed me! Please help me! Please help me!”

         From one of the upper windows in the apartment house, a man called down: “Let that girl alone!”

        The assailant looked up at him, shrugged, and walked down Austin Street toward a white sedan parked a short distance
      away. Miss Genovese struggled to her feet.

         Lights went out. The killer returned to Miss Genovese, now trying to make her way around the side of the building by the
      parking lot to get to her apartment. The assailant stabbed her again.

        “I’m dying!” she shrieked. “I’m dying!”

        Windows were opened again, and lights went on in many apartments. The assailant got into his car and drove away. Miss Genovese staggered to her feet. A city bus, 0-10, the Lefferts Boulevard line to Kennedy International Airport, passed. It was 3:35 A.M.

        The assailant returned. By then, Miss Genovese had crawled to the back of the building, where the freshly painted brown
      doors to the apartment house held out hope for safety. The killer tried the first door; she wasn’t there. At the second door, 82-62 Austin Street, he saw her slumped on the floor at  the foot of the stairs. He stabbed her a third time–fatally.

        It was 3:50 by the time the police received their first call, from a man who was a neighbor of Miss Genovese. In two minutes they were at the scene. The neighbor, a 70-year-old woman, and another woman were the only persons on the street. Nobody else came forward.

        The man explained that he had called the police after much deliberation. He had phoned a friend in Nassau County for  advice and then he had crossed the roof of the building to the  apartment of the elderly woman to get her to make the call.

      “I didn’t want to get involved,” he sheepishly told police.

        Six days later, the police arrested Winston Moseley, a 29-year-old business machine operator, and charged him with homicide. Moseley had no previous record. He is married, has two children and owns a home at 133-19 Sutter Avenue, South Ozone Park, Queens. On Wednesday, a court committed him to Kings County Hospital for psychiatric observation.

        When questioned by the police, Moseley also said he had slain Mrs. Annie May Johnson, 24, of 146-12 133d Avenue, Jamaica, on Feb. 29 and Barbara Kralik, 15, of 174-17 140th Avenue, Springfield Gardens, last July. In  the Kralik case, the police are holding Alvin L. Mitchell, who is said to have confessed to that slaying.

        The police stressed how simple it would have been to have gotten in touch with them. “A phone call,” said one  of the detectives, “would have done it.” The police may  be reached by dialing “0” for operator or SPring 7-3100.

        Today witnesses  from the   neighborhood, which is  made up of one-family  homes in the $35,000 to $60,000  range with the exception of the two  apartment houses near  the railroad  station, find it difficult to explain why  they didn’t call the police.

        A housewife, knowingly if quite casually, said, “We thought it was a lovers’ quarrel.” A husband and wife both said, “Frankly, we were afraid.” They seemed aware of the fact that events might have been different. A distraught woman, wiping her hands in her apron, said, “I didn’t want my husband to get involved.”

        One couple, now willing to talk about that night, said they heard the first screams. The husband looked thoughtfully at the bookstore where the killer first grabbed Miss Genovese.

        “We went to the window to see what was happening,” he  said, “but the light from our bedroom made it difficult to see the street.” The wife, still apprehensive, added: “I put out the light and we were able to see better.”

        Asked why they hadn’t called the police, she shrugged and replied: “I don’t know.”

        A man peeked out from a slight opening in the doorway to his  apartment and rattled off an  account of the killer’s second attack. Why hadn’t he called the police at the time? “I was tired,” he said without emotion. “I went back to bed.”

        It was 4:25 A.M. when the ambulance arrived to take the  body of Miss Genovese. It drove off. “Then,” a solemn police detective said, “the people came out.”
     
     

    The above reported events are true and took place on March 14, 1964.

     

  9. ali Says:

    this story reminds of a recent blog post i was tempted to comment on, but my thoughts had been reflected by others – is it racist to say you wouldnt date someone who is african american? (yes, it is – it is an essentialist statement, and in any case, doesnt need to be said. there are so many reasons not to date an individual other than their skin colour, unless you are at least latently racist).

    in an emergency one would normally spring to action unless ideological obstructions to that action exist – racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, etc. in this case, racism would seem an appropriate call judging from the information provided. excuses like ‘i dont want to get involved’ or ‘its dangerous’ are covers when the lives of young children are at stake. the simplicity of making a phone call? hell, any reasonable and principled person without their own dependents in the home would have rushed down those streets to help search.

    so, when are people going to start calling this kind of intolerance and hate what they are? however mild or hidden they seem to be, they are percolating at the surface of society and manifest in ways not much different to the more vigorous forms of the jim crow laws and kkk.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    annjjacobson: I think the article I cited was bringing in to question the contents of the news reports you refer to, and the statements of the police officers given in them (though people calling it a hoax rather than just lousy journalism and police overstatement is perhaps too strong). I’ve found an accessible link to the article here: http://www.grignoux.be/dossiers/288/pdf/manning_et_alii.pdf
    There are of course independent studies that support the bystander effect, so the claim isn’t that things like this don’t happen, just that the Kitty Genovese case is probably not such an extreme example of it as it has been made out to be.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    (Also, I completely acknowledge that what the article claims could be false – I just thought it was worth mentioning.)

  12. Shardae Says:

    This is heartbreaking. What the hell is wrong with people? I’m white and wouldn’t think twice about helping someone regardless of race, sex, age, whatever. I’ve always thought Americans were helpful and uber friendly… Perhaps not all of them! Wow. I’d like to argue that those people should be held responsible in some way… It’s sick. And even if race isn’t a factor (I’m not American and really have no idea about how bad race relations are over there) this is still utterly, utterly horrible. If race was the reason why they didn’t help then, really, I think that society needs to have a good long look at itself.

  13. Matt Says:

    in an emergency one would normally spring to action unless ideological obstructions to that action exist

    I’m not sure I believe this, in general. I think that a much more common reaction in an emergency is to do nothing, regardless of the reason, or to do as little as possible, unless someone else starts first and shames those doing nothing into action. People often think that they (and other good people) will help in most cases, but I think that it’s more likely that the “helpers” (at least those who start) are exceptions, even when the help needed or asked for is pretty small. (I wish I felt confident that I was an exception, but I don’t.) My father was a police officer for 30+ years, and I have talked with him about cases like this (not this one- I’ve just heard of it) and he says that his consistent experience is that people “springing into action” is very rare, regardless of the race of the people. Race may make help less likely, and might have played a role here- I can’t say with any certainty- but I think the default for most people is “don’t help” in the large majority of cases.

  14. ali Says:

    thanks for your view matt. i guess my experience is less relevant than your fathers, given the cultural difference – here, race and general disinterest would have its effect under some conditions and in some areas. however, under extreme/emergency conditions we seem to have people leaping to the aid of perfect strangers in all manner of ways. one couldnt count the number or diversity of such incidences during the wild fires, floods and hurricanes that knocked the east of australia over a 2 to 3 year period.

    i’m loath to see people referring to readily to a psychological effect (or overly individualising the phenomena). if its a cultural thing, as it seems, then it is something to reflect on at a community level.

  15. [...] the desperate mother walked until she found a police car and related her heart-breaking story. (source, [...]

  16. annejjacobson Says:

    I think there are details that are important, particularly the fact that she was banging on people’s doors. And that no one would even call 911.

    The bystander effect is suppose to be about what happens when there’s a group of on-lookers; this case was much more one on one.

  17. Stacey Goguen Says:

    Even if this is related to the bystander effect, I don’t think we can sweep aside the issue of race. Race greatly effects who are and are not our neighbors, and I would think that the bystander effect is different for people we consider “strangers” than for people we know or think of as “neighbors.”

    So if race influences who we immediately peg as strangers and neighbors (and thus who we are more likely to help), then race has added to this tragedy.

    Or it could be the other way around (sorta). Maybe part of the reason we help our neighbors more than strangers is in part because many of our neighborhoods are racially segregated (or not greatly integrated.) So even if it’s that the people would have only been willing to help those they knew by name in the neighborhood, race can still be playing a role (though on a broader scale.)

    Either way, to lose your loved ones and to even consider the possibility, “If I were another race, would this have happened?” is….I don’t even know. Beyond heartbreaking.

  18. Doc Fox Says:

    Not quite the same as the Genovese case because the Bystander effect happens more often when we aren’t singled out to do something as the people who heard her knocking were. I’m still surprised by how little attention the Belle Isle Bridge incident (Deletha Word) gets in the media. The woman was black, her attacker was white (as were many of the bystanders). But, had they stood up to the attacker they risked harm. The people that refused to help Glenda Moore don’t have that defense. *Trigger for extreme violence. http://www.scribd.com/doc/22419915/The-Hidden-Brain-by-Shankar-Vedantam-sneak-preview


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