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From the archives: Leaders debate role of racism in massacre

This story was originally published in Newsday on Dec. 9, 1993.

Community leaders across the metropolitan area said Tuesday's shooting spree by a man police said was enraged by racism should be viewed as the act of an irrational man and not escalate racial tensions among blacks, whites and Asians.

"I stayed up half the night praying that this was not a black man," said the Rev. Clinton Boone, president of the Nassau Council of Black Clergy. "We are doing all we can to put down racial bias. This can make racial conditions worse. But people should be aware that this was a
horrible act of a sick man. "

Asian-American community leaders said they did not view the shooting to be representative of racial tensions between blacks and Asians.

Nonetheless they are concerned.

"This incident seems to suggest that it's aberrant behavior," said Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "But it comes in the context of a climate where Asians are targeted as victims of crime orattacks that are racially motivated. So there's definitely cause for concern. "

Some leaders questioned whether racism was even the motivation, since the gunman also felt conservative blacks and a number of civil rights leaders were racist.

"I don't know what was in the man's mind. But I don't think the police can say from a few notes that he was out to kill whites," said Louise Simpson, president of the Long Island NAACP. "Before we label him, investigate it. I resent the Nassau County executive fanning the flames of racism by calling the man an animal. He should be pulling us together. This frightened me too. "

Billy McCall, deputy director of the Nassau County Economic Opportunity Commission, said, "This man is sick and his sickness is a result of the society he lives in.

I have a problem with labeling it as racism because he talked about black folks. I don't think this will be
used as a division between races. We will watch it. We won't tolerate any kind of retribution. Otherwise, this kind of thing will continue. "

Rabbi David Nesenoff of the Oyster Bay Jewish Center, said, however, "This man is a racist, and to say he is crazy is ignoring that racism is a problem. "

"A lot of people are sick and tired of what's going on today - the blatant racism," said Gerald Shirland, 46, of North Babylon. "There are other ways of handling it."

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