Back in ye olden days, when I was a wee tyke in the 4th grade, I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I was a kike and unwelcome in my school. Two boys were very eloquent in their derision, explaining carefully that the only reason I was there was because the Nazis didn’t land on Long Island like they were supposed to, and that Hitler didn’t gas enough Jews
The two mental giants making these statements were 6th grade hoodlum wannabes. They shared a fine reputation for being left-back in the 5th grade. I can still see their faces coming way too close for comfort, and trying their best to scare me…which they did. And they had bad breath. They hammered home the point that I did not belong in their school because I wasn’t one of them; I had personally killed Jesus.
I told the teacher on playground patrol and she told me to just ignore them. So I did.
But the next day, the word KIKE was scrawled on the sidewalk in front of our house. This wasn’t reading about Eichmann and the gas chambers; this was right where I lived. Thus, my intro to anti-semitism. It would not be the last event.
I won’t recount the instances or the fear, frustration, anger, humiliation, and rage that I experienced with each incident. But the one thing that stuck with me most was the part about not belonging. That would come back again and again, like an unwelcome ear-worm.
The question was always the same: Do I belong here?
The last couple o’years, the question has evolved with a whole new sense of intersectionality. Now, there’s a new buzz word for you. Know what it means? I had to look it up just to make sure I fully understood it. Legal scholar and activist Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term in a paper for the University of Chicago Legal Forum in 1989. She wrote:
Because the intersectional experience is greater than the sum of racism and sexism, any analysis that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the particular manner in which Black women are subordinated.
That word was too good to leave alone. Intersectionality has taken on a life of its own. Merriam Webster now defines it as
the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.
I worry that we Jews are caught somewhere in the intersection.
I know I’m not alone in thinking this. There have been a number of recent articles and essays written about this strange place in which we find ourselves once again. If you’re not actively Jewish (and by actively, I mean identifying in some way, shape, or form as a Jew) you might have missed this part, but it includes you all the same:
- To right wing America, Jews are not white, we just control everything and we killed their savior; we are responsible for 9/11 and for the mosque murders in New Zealand.
- To Black America, we are white enough to be responsible for slave trade, segregation, racism, and colonialism while enjoying the fruits of white privilege.
- To left wing America, Jews are loyal to something other than America as we strive to maintain apartheid and racism in a country they like to call Palestine, a nation that never existed in history in the first place.
[Think I’m kidding? Try reading this: Harvard Will Provide More Than $2,000 Toward Israeli Apartheid Week. I doubt they’re gonna be talking about how the Sultan of Brunei just declared adulterers and homosexuals should be stoned to death, or that in Gaza, Hamas is shooting Palestinians protesting against their current government. Nah. Why let truth get in the way of a good genocide?]
Do we fit anywhere? No.
We have been marginalized in what is now the US from day one, beginning with Peter Stuyvesant in New Amsterdam who tried to turn 23 Jewish refugees from Recife, Brazil away in 1654. There have been moments of transcendence, when we were useful, but those were fairly rare. We were subjected to discrimination for a very long time. There were quotas and barriers for us in immigration, academia, industry, housing, and even medical treatment. We were and still are targeted by groups who want to “save” us by converting us to something else. And most recently, we are told we are not loyal Americans because many of us believe in the right of our indigenous homeland to exist as our homeland. (Do you think Americans with French ancestry ever worry about France’s right to exist? Or whether or not they are true Americans because they have French ancestry? Probably not.)
Oddly, we share something significant with the most marginalized group of all, the one no one ever wants to talk about. The one that was viciously removed from their lands, subjected to repeated attempts at genocide, denied freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution to every other American citizen but pointedly not to them. That one group with which we have the most in common is the Indigenous Peoples of North America. We share the experience of being herded into ghettos and reservations, of being murdered in our villages, of being told we are not really a part of the land where we currently live or the place from which we come. The Indigenous Peoples are not white. And neither, really, are we.
We’ve just managed to pass for a while.
Maybe for the last 70 years or so, but it’s not been that long. We are still The Other. We are still targeted but these days, it’s with hate mail, flyers on phone poles and public bulletin boards, and some pretty serious attempts at mass murder. Not just here…France is good for that, too. In fact, Great Britain does a fine job of presenting anti-semitism as the norm. As does our own media. Yup, we let the Jew-owned media whip the crowd into an anti-semitic frenzy.
White nationalists run for office, including Congress, all over this country and some of them even win. It’s easy enough to do. We legitimize their positions with elections, and then we wonder why hate crimes are on the rise?
It’s really easy to find a unifying blame to unite a disparate collective. The Germans did that astonishingly well in the 1930s; we know how that turned out. Just find a group everyone can agree to despise, then point to them, and say, “They did this to you.” Stand back and watch the vote tallies roll in.
Not everyone is going to ask, “is this true?” They’re going to believe whatever is conveniently spoon-fed to them…just like they believe Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are 3 Mexican countries. Most people won’t bother to look it up;. They will believe what they hear on TV news because once upon a time, TV news was a reasonably reliable source of information.
Look, anti-semitism isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, it’s ramping up. It’s becoming acceptable practice. Ignoring it is not the answer.
I don’t have a solution; I am but one more canary in the coal mine.