It felt so familiar, the scenes of an Asian person walking down the street when someone runs up behind them and knocks them to the ground. The same thing had been happening nearly every day to Jews in New York. Just as with the Jews, what was happening to Asian Americans was mostly ignored. So, I was glad when I saw CNN start to give it some serious attention, even before the Asian Spa shooting. Once that happened, the hate Asian Americans had been facing really came to the forefront. Finally, the unheard were being heard.
As the conversation went on, it turned to the rise of hate this county has been seeing against other minorities, just one was left out, Jews. I was watching as an Asian American reporter was getting chocked up about finally being seen and I broke down in tears. When will we finally be seen?
CNN announced it will be doing a special about this, “Afraid: Fear in America’s Communities of Color”. Jews will not be in there, because we are not considered a community of color. It doesn’t matter that all people with Middle Eastern origins come in every hue of the human rainbow. An Arab, Iranian, Syrian, or any other non-Jewish person from the Middle East, can be lighter than many Jews but are still considered a person of color, while Jews that aren’t dark enough to be considered African American are viewed as, and expected to identify as, white.
This is especially hard to swallow since “white” is defined as “European descent”. While Jews lived in Europe, they were not considered European, they were considered foreign. They were forced to live in ghettos, banned from many professions, subject to expulsions, pogroms, and mass murder. Even now, antisemitism is growing in Europe as well as America. Yet we are expected to identify as our oppressors. No other minority group is being forced to do that.
I worry that this will never change, we will never be included in the community of minority groups. When I bring this up, many other Jews tell me I shouldn’t, because “it makes us look bad” or “this isn’t the right time”. But the right time never comes. We have got to stop being afraid to stand up against all the hate (not just from the white supremacists) until we do, we will never be seen. We’ve been exceptionally good about following Rabbi Hillel when he said, “if I am not for others, what am I? But have forgotten the first part, “if I am not for myself, who will be for me?