Christian privilege is real too (and it excludes Gal Gadot)

Dani Ishai Behan’s Yes, Ashkenazi Jews (Including Gal Gadot) are People of Color obviously touched a nerve within and beyond the Jewish community. I have no argument with Behan’s statement that “Jews are a historically persecuted and displaced Middle Eastern ethnicity indigenous to Israel, as well as one of the oldest and most continuous victims of European colonialism.” Genetics and history prove him right. I even agree with his conclusion “that the Jew is [again] being made the “other of others.”

But I also agree with those who claim that he is missing the point that the POC (People of Color) label is about white privilege. Yeah, Jews who can and do pass are privy to white privilege. White privilege is real.

Christian privilege is real too. In nations in which Christians comprise the majority, people whose physical appearance or dress makes them “look Jewish” or “look Muslim” or “look Sikh” are stereotyped and subjected to not-so-subtle discrimination.

The blow to self-esteem is particularly hurtful to non-Christian children who feel ashamed of being different or experience the denial of self and loved ones that comes with trying to pass. I hid in the coat closet during glee club rehearsal at Argonne Elementary School because the teacher insisted I sing a solo about Jesus Christ in front of my Holocaust survivor parents at the annual Christmas pageant. That was in the ultra-liberal, enlightened Baghdad by the Bay of 60s-era San Francisco. And I can’t even sing.

I too knew the shame that Children of Color felt when they searched hours of television programming for faces and lives that reflected their own. I also knew what it felt like to walk into any store in December and hear a soundtrack that sent me right back to that second grade coat closet.

I thank G-d that only because I moved to Israel, I spared my children the pain of hearing that soundtrack in the 80s and the 90s. Their generation’s only nod to PC – the occasional addition of the patronizing, a-religious, vapid, juvenile, and ubiquitous “I Had a Little Dreidel” – doesn’t hold a single Hanukkah candle to Ave Maria – much less eight.

Were I still a mother of young children, I would be dreading the invisible menorah stamped on my millennial offspring’s foreheads during the Trump administration’s American Christmas Yet-to-Come.

And if Gal Gadot decides to stay in the US, her children too will be forced to make the long march down the aisle of Bloomingdale’s to the strains of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.

Even if their mother wears a satin super-suit rather than a sheitel, Wonder Woman’s daughters may be subjected to the taunts of BDS supporters because she performed compulsory military duty in the army of a non-Christian state. The children of a Christian Wonder Woman who bombed a hospital in Afghanistan would never be held to the same scrutiny. She would be thanked for her service and hailed as a hero.

Of course none of the above compares to children being pulled over by a racist cop or shot in the street or jailed or denied a job because of the color of their skin. White entitlement is real, despicable, and horrific.

But make no mistake, my Jewishness is not a first-world problem. My blog Playing the Holocaust card barely warmed the iceberg of lost homes, wealth, property, education, and dignity that the Christian world took from my family. My parents and I suffered untold mental and physical abuse they were slaves in Christian Europe.

I worked in the Arab sector for most of my career here in Israel. I first heard about Aleppo from Arab men extolling Aleppo’s “beautiful blondes.” Would Hollywood cast one of those beautiful blondes as Wonder Woman if she insisted on wearing a burqa? I think not. Will white privilege help the Muslims among those blondes flee Aleppo if Trump’s draconian Muslim ban is enacted? Not at all. But Christian privilege might. As a 2G (child of Holocaust survivors), I assure you that it has dawned on fair and dark Muslims in Syria that passing as Christians could help them flee to the United States.

My blue-eyed mother was the only dark-haired member of her own family. Color didn’t spare my grandparents and my uncles and aunt from the ovens. Christianity would have.

And I can’t help but think that more would have been done for the now mute little girl in Mosul I saw on television this morning, who hid under her dead mother’s hijab for two days if she was Christian.

The alt-right would love to drive a wedge between Jews and POC. Those bottom-feeding slugs are White AND Christian Supremacists. The Jihadists would also love to incite POC against Jews in a ploy to gain power by declaring a fictitious “them” and “us”. Jews are their first target but not their last. They are Muslim Supremacists.

Genetically, we are all the children of the real Wonder Woman, our African mother, Mitochondrial Eve. Let’s not let the forces of evil divide and conquer us. Let’s not squabble over who has it worse. Let’s do our Mother and mothers proud.

About the Author
Varda Spiegel was Nurse-Director of the Bedouin Mobile Unit of the Negev, later serving as Maternal-Child Health Director for the Ministry of Health Jerusalem District. I am the author of Hershele and the Chicken Skates, was the English Web Content Manager for the Israel Museum and have translated from Hebrew to English for Haaretz and the ANU Museum of the Jewish People. I'm a grandmother, mother, and beachbum.
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