An idealized “teen romance,” and how it ended

Today the New York Times has one of its creepily written, over-sentimentalized articles about two teens “in love.” In the Times’ world, whenever two teenagers have sexual relations, it’s because they’re “in love.” It’s part of the Times’ campaign to normalize pre-marital, extra-marital, and homosexual sex by covering over or taking out the sex; I’ve even seen the Times refer to sex between two teens as “puppy love.”

But here the sentimental treatment of teen sex has a more particular purpose. The relationship took place in 1975 in Staten Island between then 13 year old Susan Jacobson, who was white, and then 15 year old Dempsey Hawkins, who was black (or rather half black and half white). Susan got pregnant and had an abortion. Only at that point did her parents forbid the relationship. Susan told Dempsey she couldn’t see him any more, but apparently continued to see him. Then, on May 15, 1976, Susan disappeared. She was never found. The Times writer, Michael Wilson, waits until the last sentence to inform us that Dempsey Hawkins, now aged 51 and a New York State inmate, has just written a letter in which he confesses to having strangled Susan to death. No further facts are given. Wilson coyly tells us that the story will be continued next week. Dividing the article into two articles a week apart—which I’ve never seen the Times do before—is yet another method to lessen the impact of yet another black-on-white murder.

See the VFR discussion, “Why white women put themselves in great danger when they hook up with a black man.”

Here’s the Times article:

An Inmate’s Letter Recalls a Certain Summer


“I was in London for a moment,” the letter began. “Just long enough to learn how to walk and talk and gather a few memories before leaving for Staten Island, where I grew up. Grew up too fast in some respects but not fast enough to outgrow the adolescent flaws and shortcomings of character to which I would steadily succumb in a bad way.”

The letter sounded like something from another age, but in fact, it was written July 31, with the return address of Mount McGregor Correctional Facility in Wilton, N.Y. It was from a 51-year-old inmate named Dempsey Hawkins, and it told the story of a stitch of time 36 years ago, when the writer fell in love with a girl named Susan Jacobson.

“I was 15, Susan, 13, when we moved beyond a casual association and began a teenage romance in the spring of 1975,” Mr. Hawkins wrote. They were neighbors and moved in the same circles, but met in earnest during a game of baseball. “I got hit in the face by the backswing of Susan’s bat,” he wrote. “As I was up next, I was standing too close to home plate and inattentive the moment the swing came round.

“Hours later I assured her I was O.K. and joked with her. Continued to joke and laugh with Susan in the following days, and began talking with her on the telephone, her front porch and during walks around the neighborhood.”

She was white and he was black, the son of a white woman from England and a black man from Illinois who had met when his father was overseas with the United States Air Force. Mr. Hawkins described an almost idyllic existence: “I had come across Susan countless times, whether as teammates in whiffle-ball games played once the summer air turned aromatic from backyard barbecues or among a group sledding down the steep, icy street past snowmen sitting hatted, scarfed and smiling under winter moonlight.”

Susan’s parents were not thrilled with the courtship, warning the teens that “they were leaving themselves wide open for criticism because of the race problem,” her mother, Ellen Jacobson, said later. But no one stood in their way.

“I began attending church with Susan and her siblings on Sunday mornings as well as playing afternoon card games with them in their home,” Mr. Hawkins wrote. “Some Saturdays we’d bike ride to Clove Lakes Park and sit on a bench and talk while ducks spun languorously atop the water. Other days we’d visit a local pizza parlor to sit and chat with pizza and Pepsi on the table and the smell of fresh dough creating an evocative comfort.”

He dragged his friends to watch Susan play baseball, but eventually, they left him to go on his own.

“The snows of December arrived and I was genuinely infatuated with Susan,” he wrote. “School became an hourglass through which the sands of my anticipation gradually streamed until I was with Susan again at her dining room table playing Monopoly with her brothers and sisters amid a volley of giggles and chatter resonating with the undertone of ‘Welcome Back, Kotter’ on television in an adjacent room.”

But they did more than giggle and play board games that winter, and they were careless. In January 1976, Susan discovered she was pregnant. She had an abortion. Her parents told her she was not allowed to see Dempsey anymore. She told him as much, but they continued to see each other anyway, secretly.

Spring arrived. On a hot Saturday, May 15, Susan left her house and did not come home for dinner. Her family called the police, and friends and neighbors searched for her. Dempsey said he had no idea where she was, and he helped look for the girl he loved.

But they did not find her. Months passed; nothing. Her parents, increasingly distraught, even sought help from a psychic in New Jersey who gave them tips on where to look for Susan. Nothing.

It seemed no one knew what had become of a 14-year-old girl in a close-knit island neighborhood on that Saturday afternoon. It would be two years before the truth emerged: a truth that will be more fully explored in this space next Saturday.

But in 1976, one person did know what had happened: Susan’s boyfriend, Dempsey Hawkins.

“I strangled Susan,” he wrote in the letter, “and concealed her body in a metal barrel in a wooded area across from a Procter & Gamble factory on Staten Island.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 20, 2011 12:47 PM | Send

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