He was a racial reconciler
Not long after the persecution and murder of Yusef Hawkins, a black teenager, by a white mob in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, Mr. Dinkins was elected and a white jogger was beaten and raped in Central Park, resulting in the sentencing of five blacks and blacks Latino teenagers who were later exonerated.
It was a time of great racial struggle in New York City and Mr Dinkins called for unity.
Stacy Lynch, the daughter of Bill Lynch, Mr. Dinkins’ chief strategist, said her father talked many times about how difficult it was to lead with this message of reconciliation.
“They had whole neighborhoods in the city that didn’t believe in his beautiful mosaic,” said Ms. Lynch, now an aide to Mr. de Blasio. “The expectation that one person could solve all of this was unrealistic. He was trying to create a space where people could work on it. “
But he also struggled to respond to racist violence in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn after a car in a rabbi’s motorcade killed a black boy – an episode that defined his mayor’s office.
Patrick Gaspard, president of the Open Society Foundations, who served as senior advisor to Mr. Dinkins, remembered being a young man who was constantly angry about the racial injustice he encountered. But Mr Dinkins, who was also outraged by racial injustices, took a different approach.
Mr Gaspard, who referred to Mr Dinkins as “the political Jackie Robinson,” recalled a St. Patrick’s Day parade where the crowd hurled beer cans along with racist nicknames at the mayor. When he was brought to his car, Mr. Dinkins almost hit a beer can. Mr. Gaspard saw a hint of anger on Mr. Dinkin’s face.
“I saw him take a deep breath, sit down and wave to the crowd,” said Mr. Gaspard. “I know what he was going to say and what answer he was going to give back, but he wouldn’t devalue himself or the office.”