White Jews Have A Duty To Stand With Muslims And People Of Color

Our current fears — which are new to some of us — are what many other people have been facing for generations.
People participate in an anti-hate rally on Nov. 20 at a Brooklyn park named in memory of late Beastie Boys band member Adam Yauch after it was defaced with swastikas.
People participate in an anti-hate rally on Nov. 20 at a Brooklyn park named in memory of late Beastie Boys band member Adam Yauch after it was defaced with swastikas.
Spencer Platt via Getty Images

There’s been a lot of (justified) outrage about anti-Semitism lately.

Over the past year, anti-Semitic tweeters have increasingly trolled journalists. Last week, Adam Yauch Park in New York City, named for a late Jewish member of the Beastie Boys, was defaced with swastikas. And on Monday, CNN hosted a TV news segment with a debate topic scrawled across the screen reading: “Alt-right founder questions if Jews are people.” Not to mention the countless other swastikas that have shown up across the country since the election.

All of this is appalling. But I take issue with our outrage ― or rather, not the outrage itself, but the selectivity of it. By all means, we should be photographing every swastika we come across and calling out the self-described “alt-right” as the neo-Nazi white nationalists they really are. The proximity of a man who has been accused of anti-Semitism to the highest office in the country is frightening. And anti-Semitism’s apparent resurgence among the American public harkens back to a darker time in history.

But what we must not do is act as though this hate is a sudden revelation, rather than simply a confirmation ― or an expansion, perhaps ― of the hate people of color, immigrants and Muslims have been at the receiving end of for generations.

The reality is, as a white Jew, I have the ultimate privilege when it comes to fearing hate: skin privilege. I can walk the streets and no one can identify me as “other,” no one can single me out for harassment ― which, needless to say, is not the case for black or brown people, or for Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab.

Perhaps Jews in places other than New York, or of an older generation, will call me privileged ― for as Jewish as my name might sound, and as stereotypical as I always thought my protruding nose was as a child ― I’ve never felt discriminated against. I’ve never felt unsafe or that opportunities weren’t handed to me because of my being Jewish. Not once.

I’ll admit, at times reading messages of hate in my Twitter mentions has burned ― the occasional troll’s particularly deplorable tweet (usually something mentioning ovens) has even brought me to tears.

But when I sent the screenshots of these anti-Semitic tweets to my family, and they reacted with such absolute outrage ― one of my cousins even bursting into tears herself ― I had to think: Where was your outrage when Trump called for Muslims to be banned, where were the tears when you read the stories of repeated police killings of black people?

The truth of the matter is: I feel safe. I feel physically safe the moment I step away from my computer screen. And that’s more than many can say.

So, white Jews, I would say this: Call out all of the anti-Semitism you see, but don’t wallow in it ― use your perhaps newly kindled understanding of just how much it burns to be treated as less than as a call to arms, to stand in solidarity with those who have been facing this hate for generations, and will continue to face it for the next four years and beyond. Use your skin privilege to first listen to people of color, and then educate yourself and other white people so people of color don’t have to do that tiresome work ― because let’s be honest, white people are the problem here.

Now they’ve come for us, and we’re demanding that everyone say something. But first they had come for them, and we didn’t say enough. So let’s say something now ― call out the hate our community is facing, but also vow not to stay silent when it comes to the hate people of color, immigrants and Muslims are facing now, and have been facing all along.

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