FOR THE COLOR OF HIS SKIN: The Murder of Yusuf Hawkins and the Trial of Bensonhurst by John DeSantis

FOR THE COLOR OF HIS SKIN: The Murder of Yusuf Hawkins and the Trial of Bensonhurst

Email this review


When black teenager Yusuf Hawkins was fatally shot on a Brooklyn street one steamy August evening in 1989, his death sent tremors rumbling through New York City. Hawkins and three friends had been attacked by a group of about 30 neighborhood youths in what was clearly a race-related incident. Here, DeSantis, who covered the story for UPI and The Washington Post, presents an engrossing account of the crime, its impact on the black and white communities, and the political and judicial maneuverings that marked the case. Hawkins and his friends were in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, a blue-collar enclave known for its volatile racial climate, to check out a used car for sale. What they were unaware of was that the area had been seething with tension ever since Gina Feliciano, a young neighborhood troublemaker and drug addict, had spread the word that she had invited a group of black and Hispanic friends to her birthday party and that her guests were going ""to kick some white ass."" Armed with baseball bats, golf clubs, and at least one gun, white Bensonhurst teenagers prepared to protect their turf. Spotting the four blacks, they intercepted them and, after a brief altercation, shots rang out and Hawkins fell to the sidewalk, two bullets in his chest, a half-eaten candy bar in one band. In recounting the ensuing events--a roundup of suspects, demonstrations and counterdemonstrations, the trials of the principal participants--DeSantis finds little to praise in any of the figures involved. From the Rev. Al Sharpton, eager to restore his image after the disastrous Tawana Brawley case, to Brooklyn D.A. Elizabeth Holtzman, seemingly more intent on her race for the post of city comptroller than in putting together a viable case, the principals became mired in political manipulation. DeSantis handles the tangled skein of his story adroitly, shading in the background with telling details. A fast-paced tale, frightening in its implications.

Pub Date: Nov. 18th, 1991
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Pharos--dist. by St. Martin's