Spike Lee and other sentimental segregationists

But Lee, along with the rubes at the website Gawker running essays about the good old days in Bed-Stuy — when weed wafted through the morning air, white people stayed away and things were simple and true — is using complaints about newcomers as a backhanded way to lament the virtues of de-facto segregation, when people knew where they belonged, and where they might get chased out of.

I’m not sentimental for “our” streets and “their” streets, for the not-so-long-ago days when wearing a Celtics Jersey in Bed-Stuy might warrant a beat down — an example from “Do the Right Thing” that Lee wistfully referred to at Pratt. Or when Koreans were reviled for “stealing” the bodega business in black neighborhoods (also a subject of the film). Or when black kids got chased across the highway in Howard Beach.

Good old neighborhoods are only that if your group “belongs” in them. When I lived in Borough Park, Haredim would give me the evil eye, because, as a secular Jew, I was keeping the messiah from returning. On Coney Island Ave. last year, a sweet-shop counter guy took the time to tell me the truth about my devilish people. Even in Windsor Terrace, where I live now, a bushy-bearded Jewish guy with a Asian family (that’s me) might not have been very welcome 20 years ago in what was then a close-knit white Catholic neighborhood.

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