In Motherless Brooklyn, Lionel's boss and mentor Minna is killed because he knew a secret. We later find out that Minna and Billy, the owner of the Harlem jazz club, were planning on blackmailing Moses with this secret, and that's why both got killed. Later,

Lionel meets Moses, who reveals that he raped Laura's mother, one of his employees; Paul signed the birth certificate instead, but exposure of this secret threatened Moses. Lionel warns Moses to leave Laura alone or he will release the information.

Maybe I'm missing something, but all the evidence is just a birth certificate. There is no rape proof. Why would this threaten Moses in anyway? Is it because it's the 1950s and inter-racial relations are taboo? Or would it just cause a scandal, even without proof?

1 Answer 1


The existence of the relationship alone would have caused a scandal

Moses is a master manipulator of his political connections. He uses his relationships with powerful people to achieve his goals. And part of that support comes from powerful white people who either support or are indifferent to his utter disregard for the black minority his housing policies displace. His behaviour is, in essence, racist. And many of his supporters are either explicitly or implicitly racist too. Many are probably happy not just that his projects benefit the wealthy white people of the city but also that they hurt the poor blacks.

Given this background, his supporters might not be too happy that he had a lasting relationship with a black woman. The fact that this relationship may have started with a rape is irrelevant to this (his most racist supporters probably wouldn't even care about a rape of a black person). But they would care that he had a sustained relationship with a black person and that relationship resulted in a child.

And the evidence isn't just a birth certificate. Laura's existence counts as do the live witnesses of the birth and Laura's parentage. Paul (who is more than Moses's employee but also his brother) is also a witness. He has hidden this from several people by using a pseudonym, but if any of the facts emerge his true identity will be impossible to conceal and his part on the events will emerge.

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