Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

The goal is to end racism, not to find people to blame

In high school, one day, a long time ago, our history teacher announced the subject of his lecture. He said: “First, we’re going to end the Jews, and then we will …” From before the weekend, there was a little bit left to teach about the Jews, and then he wanted to go to the next subject.

A sigh of horror went out from my non-Jewish fellow students. I was the only Jew in the class, and I didn’t have to say anything. And so, I didn’t get hurt. But the teacher looked around the classroom, wondering what had upset everyone. He had no idea. No one told him, so he never found out. But he was an ex Jesuit Priest so he should have been extra careful with his words. Yet, clearly, he meant nothing by it.

This I remembered when I read that an Israeli soccer commentator in a life broadcast had said about a Panamanian player who, in his estimation, had missed a chance: “Let him go home.” He’s from Panama. “Let him go eat bananas. I would deport him immediately, if it was up to me.”

For those who don’t know, this player looks as dark as if he’s from the middle of Africa. And a racist stereotype of Africans is that they would be monkeys more than human, and so ‘eat bananas’ sounds really racist. If he would said it about a player from Niger, it certainly would’ve been racist.

However, Panama annually exports about 18.5 million boxes of bananas. Bananas are for Panama what tulip bulbs are for Holland. So, maybe, if he had talked about Jordi Cruyff, who missed a chance (impossible), he could have said: “Go home. Go eat tulip bulbs.” Not knowing that the starving Dutch ate just that at the end of the Nazi occupation. No ill intent.

Now, we should not trivialize racist remarks and jokes. They are not only an important part of racism but also a fast vehicle transporting it to everywhere and everyone. And ‘Sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt …’ is untrue. However, we should also not be so tense that we shout at any (potentially) innocent remark: “Racist.”

Reminds me of the guy in Tsarist Russia, brought before a judge. “You are accused of calling the Tsar a donkey.” “No,” the terrified guy pleaded, “I wasn’t talking about the Tsar.” “Nonsense,” the judge said, “Everybody knows that when you call someone a donkey, you must mean the Tsar.”

“Everybody knows that when you tell an African-heritage guy to eat bananas that you mean, he’s a monkey.” And that is what this commentator has said in the past when he was accused of racism. Something like: “If you think that what I said was racist, you’re a racist.”

Now, how to solve this? You don’t want to let such a racist remark go unpunished or even exist while on the air and anywhere. But you also don’t want to attack someone who really said or meant nothing racist.

My solution: It is a mistake to think that there are good and bad guys and we need to stand up against the bad guys. Especially, we White people must focus on what we want to accomplish, to uproot racism. As we say in soccer in Dutch: “Play the ball, not the player.” The goal (pardon the pun) is to end racism and to get as many White people to join as possible.

So, the reporter should apologize for dubious language and take upon himself some serious openly work against racism to show everyone that he’s on the good side of the issue. And to teach young sports fans. We need him. We can’t discard anyone in the fight for a racism-free world.

Let us round off pinpointing some of the general ideas behind the above. They are especially important with racism, but also with other troubles.

  • Focus on solutions (hopeful high expectation, liberation), rather than on the very real infuriating problems (injustice, (lack of) fighting injustice).
  • Be principled and clear, but not too heavy-handed and extreme.
  • Be brief, rather than trying to communicate complete manifestos.
  • Try win over almost everyone to join, instead of aiming to stand out and appoint select ones as ‘proper,’ while trashing ‘the others.’
About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500th blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * NEW: To see other blog posts by him, his overspill blog you can reach by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture at the head of every post. There you may find precursors to later TOI blog posts, addition or corrections of published TOI blog posts, blog posts the TOI will not carry, and some thoughts that are too short to be a TOI blog post. Also, the TOI only allows for one blog post per blogger per 24 hours. Sometimes, he has more to say than that. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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