Despite my white skin and blue eyes, as a Jew I’ve always had a complicated relationship with my whiteness. This is true now more than ever. My people have suffered at the hands of xenophobes and bigots for as long as we’ve been around. My great-grandparents survived the pogroms of Europe only to arrive in the US and be told they’re not welcome here. They were denied jobs, housing and basic human decency. They were relegated in ghettos here to match the ones they left behind in Europe. They did not (and I still do not) enjoy many of the privileges that white Christian Americans have been afforded. But they stayed and here I am.
Meanwhile, anti-semitism is so baked into our current society that people often don’t know they’re doing it. As a result I’ve suffered micro-aggressions at the hands of friends, acquaintances, coworkers, employers, teachers, retail workers, and so on. Often these people are also sexist, racist, homophobic, ableist etc. I’ve also watched people commit violence and yell terrifying things against Jews and Judaism. Not to mention the scores of anti-semitic websites, blogs and online communities.
In addition, I’ve felt awkward in a number of social justice spaces as they often conflate anti-zionism with anti-semitism. Personally, I have complex feelings about Israel, and know a number of Jews who do also, as well as a large number of Jews who are actually pro-Palestine. But no matter one’s opinion on the state of Israel, (even the actions being carried out in the name of Israel) it should be obvious that is wrong to preach anti-semitism as a valid aspect of progressive values. Despite this, I’ve encountered anti-semitism in otherwise progressive spaces.
And this was in the before time.
Our president elect was supported by vocal anti-semites, tweeted anti-semitic content and used dog whistle code words at his rallies. In the wake of his election, swastikas have begun to pop up all over the country, even in liberal areas such as Philadelphia and here in New York City. This, to put it mildly, is terrifying.
THAT BEING SAID I recognize my privilege. I look like a white person as much as anyone else of European ancestry. I’m not followed around stores, I’m not “randomly” stopped by police on account of my race nor have I been turned down for housing or similar services because of my race, no one has lessened my hard work by assuming I got where I am because of affirmative action, I don’t fear for my life just by walking down the street, and so on (this list barely scratches the surface of my privilege, but I’m trying to be brief).
I am scared. I am in danger. But I’m also not among the most vulnerable and I know I have to fight for those who are.
This new world is bad for everyone who’s not straight, cis, white, able bodied, Christian and male. We must all band together. We must protect their bodies and amplify their voices. We must listen to what they need and do what we can to help them. We must do it for no other reason than it is right and it is just, but it’s also the only way to save ourselves.
I know I must use my relative privilege to protect and fight for others who have less. If you’re white, especially if you’re white and Jewish, you must do everything you can to fight back.