I have a lot of plans for the rest of my week, before the second wave of COVID-19 traps me at home again. Attending the rally next to the Tel Aviv Consulate supporting “Black Lives Matter/Burn Shit to the Ground” is not one of them. Admittedly, I’m not very woke. Moving to Israel is the most cultural thing I’ve done in the last 30 years by several orders of magnitude. However, I do like being Black. In fact, I enjoy the kind of passive Black Pride that my ex-husband has about being Polish-Romanian.
It’s something that I have the privilege, if you will, of enjoying because my life hasn’t been very hard… or at least what difficulties I’ve had are more due to my own poor life choices, rather than the color of my skin. Until I converted to Judaism I didn’t even consciously think about my race as a negative on personal terms, because it let me get away with saying a lot of things that White people can’t.
Or rather, that White people couldn’t until now. My friends, bless their hearts, are fairly caring. More caring than me, on average. So, obviously, they were horrified by the sight of George Floyd lying motionless under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. Point blank, no one should have to worry about ending up dead over a misdemeanor (or most felonies, for that matter). It was equal parts heartwarming and cynically amusing at first to hear the majority culture beat their chests because of the death of a man that most would have taken pains to avoid (although with attempts at discretion) while he was alive.
But then the burning started. It’s hard to turn on a dime and go from criticizing the system to speaking out against a popular (in the “of the people” sense) uprising. Plus, the rioting started in a blue city in a blue state, due to the actions of an officer who had been dealt several “get out of jail” cards by Senator Amy Klobuchar, a potential Joe Biden vice-presidential pick, while she had served as prosecutor of Hennepin County, where George Floyd met his unfortunate end. Now, faced with the results of her “tough on crime” attitude, she admitted to MSNBC that “If George Floyd’s death has any legacy — because he will never be brought back — it should be systematic change to our criminal justice system.”
Nice timing. Only two decades late, Amy. But at least we see what it takes to derail a political career. It’s not senility or possible sexual assault. Even as Biden challenged an interviewer’s authentic Black identity for daring to question automatically voting the Democratic ticket, leaders of the Black community rose to be his gospel choir. But don’t let a Black man die on camera in your hometown. Does the Senate have a dogcatcher? Because that’s about all Senator Klobuchar can aspire to in the near future.
As the looting ramped up, my friends posted helpful sentiments calling on people to “understand” where the rioters were coming from. How could someone fault them for letting their emotions get out of control after so much mistreatment? Ah… the sweet, sweet smell of White privilege with a chaser of naiveté. No matter how angry you are, burning down your own neighborhood is a losing cause. Back in the 60s, MLK Jr. once said “Every time a riot develops, it helps George Wallace.” And today’s George Wallaces are watching the chaos and disorder sweeping America and rubbing their hands with glee.
How bad can these riots be for Black America? Let’s see. Public and private property is being destroyed. Many of the affected cities are already struggling financially and will have a hard time replacing community resources. Business owners may not receive adequate compensation to rebuild, especially after weeks of being closed or operating at a fraction of their normal volume. The sympathy of the general public is drying up as protestors switch from pointing out police brutality to attacking officers who are doing their job of protecting citizens from violence. And so far, social distancing seems to be an afterthought for most of the rioters. So, we can expect a surge in COVID-19 infections, throwing back the recovery time frame.
Thank you, White people, for standing up for Black lives. Now, if you could sit back down and work on pushing things that matter, like improving the education and job prospects in inner cities or dealing with your unintentional racism. I’d like to try an experiment. If you support the protests in the States, take a minute to complete Harvard’s Race Implicit Association Test. You may be surprised by your automatic preferences against Black people. And once you admit that to yourself, maybe you’ll take concrete steps to overcome it. Because it’s not White people dying for Black solidarity.