Disparity of Hate: When Antisemitism and Racism Aren’t Equal

The country, especially the Democratic party, was blindsided last week when Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook surfaced featuring a photo of a person in blackface next to a person in a KKK outfit on his personal page. Northam initially admitted to being one of those two people, though he hadn’t revealed which mask he was hiding behind. He’s since walked that admission back and now denies he was either of the people in the photo on his personal yearbook page. Other complications surfaced as a result of this revelation, including the fact that Northam’s campaign omitted photos of  his black Lieutenant Governor, Justin Fairfax, on campaign advertisements in certain parts of Virginia to appease a union, and that Northam’s nickname at the Virginia Military Institute was “Coonman.”

It appears that Northam has a racist past and present, and, justifiably, there are calls for Northam to resign from his position.  With Virginia’s history steeped in racism, Northam cannot serve as Governor of the Commonwealth in good faith, and especially not as a Democrat.

The many voices among Democrats calling for Northam to resign cite the hypocrisy that would exist if they were to give Northam a pass while calling out Donald Trump for his racism.  They’re exactly right.

The NAACP rightly issued a statement calling for Northam’s resignation, as did Planned Parenthood.

Why, then, did the NAACP and Planned Parenthood stay on as partners of the antisemitic Women’s March in 2019, even after numerous instances of the leadership’s antisemitism surfaced?  After Tamika Mallory, one of the Women’s March leaders who make up the Farrakhan Four, refused to condemn Louis Farrakhan on national television during her segment on The View, the NAACP and Planned Parenthood continued to stand by them.  These two organizations failed to issue statements of condemnation or demands that she resign.  In response to the ever-growing evidence of antisemitism among the Women’s March leaders, the silence of these two organizations serves as a statement.

Antisemitism and racism are two forms of hate that exist against people for how they were born.  These are two forms of hate that ultimately result in death for the objects of that hate.  Only two groups of people were massacred by gunmen at their houses of worship in the United States because of their ethnic background—Jews and black people.  The Mother Emanuel and Pittsburgh Synagogue massacres were almost identical in how they were carried out.  Both gunmen said hateful things about the ethnicity of the innocent people they were murdering as they murdered them, both gunmen had long histories of posting online screeds against the objects of their hate, and both men walked out of the carnage alive.  We remember Dylann Roof’s name; it’s seared into our brains.  I had to look up the name of the Pittsburgh shooter.  We barely hear Robert Bowers’s name.  We haven’t seen newscasts of Bowers’s courtroom pleas. Why? Why aren’t these two forms of hate being treated by Americans the same way?

I cried for the victims of both massacres.  I’m from Charleston.  The Mother Emanuel massacre happened about five miles from where I was living at the time and I was devastated when I got the call from a friend telling me to turn on the television.  My heart sank, and tears flowed.  I had the same reaction when I learned about Pittsburgh.  I had friends who lost people they loved and cared about in both tragedies.

As Jews, most of us are all too aware that the people who hate black people and would gun down nine people at a church because they were black would do the same to us given the opportunity.  But the converse isn’t always true.  Those who hate Jews aren’t necessarily people who also hate black people. Sometimes they are black people. Is antisemitism treated differently because it’s not always perpetrated by white supremacists?

Northam and the Women’s March antisemitism are two recent revelations and the reactions couldn’t be more different.  The disparity in these reactions is a microcosm of society at large.  If the NAACP and Planned Parenthood are standing up loudly to call on Ralph Northam to step down, then they should also disavow the Women’s March and stand up loudly to call on their leadership to step down.  Otherwise, they are hypocrites.

This also applies to Trump supporters who claim to be against antisemitism, many of whom have likely been gleefully applauding this post up to this point.  Trump singlehandedly issued an Executive Order to ban transgendered persons from our military.  The Unite the Right rally was a white nationalist rally.  It was organized by white nationalist, Jason Kessler.  The speakers were white nationalists.  The permit was applied for and granted to a white nationalist.  Convictions were handed down to white nationalist participants in that rally for murder, deadly assault against a black man, and the unlawful firing of a gun.  Committing your continued support to Trump, who claimed there were “fine people on both sides” when one side was literal white nationalists at a white nationalist rally, means your calls against antisemitism are irrelevant. Just as Farrakhan supporters have no ability to separate themselves from his antisemitism, Trump supporters have no ability to separate themselves from his racism.

Additionally, one’s classification as a persecuted minority does not provide you with a pass in being an accessory to hate.  If you’re a Jew calling out antisemitism or if you’re a black person calling out racism, your minority status does not give you authority to engage in or provide tacit acceptance of any other type of hatred.  Same goes for the Jews and liberals who turn a blind eye to antisemitism if that antisemitism happens to be perpetrated by another persecuted minority (you know who you are, and so does the world).

The NAACP cannot truly be an effective advocate for black civil rights when they refuse to condemn the antisemitism that is on display in the Women’s March.  Planned Parenthood cannot truly be an advocate against racism when they continue to partner with the antisemitic Women’s March.  Same goes for certain Democrats who are attempting to excuse Northam’s racism due to “youthful stupidity” and other lame attempts to justify keeping him in office.  Liberals cannot truly be effective arbiters of equality when they allow any form of hatred to flourish in their midst.  There’s a very real danger that Trump could win in 2020 with Democrats being so fractured and off message by allowing hate to fester and bloom from within.  There’s a reason Farrakhan’s “leadership” hasn’t resulted in a single advance for black equality.

Consistency is required for condemnation against hate levied against any minority, no matter who the source of that hate is. When you fail to speak up against all manifestations of hate, you’ve lost your agency to speak against the particular form of hate you claim to advocate against.

About the Author
Debbie Hall is a writer and activist living in the diaspora.
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