The White Privilege Conundrum

With the coronavirus pandemic raging all around us, our country still cannot seem to be able to focus on saving lives. It doesn’t matter that people are dying from an invisible killer, Black Americans are dying in greater percentages from the virus, but even more from hate. In a sad statement on our American society, we have a president who is encouraging violence with a deadly weapon against protestors who have the right to free speech.

I often have had arguments with my college age daughters about prejudice. They have been fortunate to be Jewish and not have experienced significant antisemitism. They know their history, they know the unspeakable hate that tried to destroy our people during the Holocaust, and on some occasions, they experienced antisemitism themselves. However, they have adhered to the belief that we live in a world of white privilege, and so we have benefited more than we have suffered.

Perhaps it’s generational, but I am coming around to agree with them. When I woke up this morning to see the continued rioting going on in Minneapolis, and then the rioting occurring in Louisville, Kentucky, I was shocked. As I continued to watch the news, I saw a CNN reporter being arrested while reporting in Minneapolis. He was asking the police where they wanted him to move. He was politely questioning why he was being arrested. He was Black. Literally, around the corner, a White CNN reporter had no problems. It was sickening to watch over 20 police officers surround this Black reporter as if he were a criminal himself. The police are supposed to be protecting us. All of us.

In America, we have an ingrained prejudice that goes back to the sordid history of slavery. It has been over 150 years since the end of the Civil War, and we still do not have equality. Jews have supported Blacks throughout the Civil Rights movement. Jews were killed trying to help Blacks in the South. But today, a White Jew can walk down the street without fear. Of course, that is a Jew who is not obviously Jewish, like a Hasid in Brooklyn, Monsey, or Jersey City. I’m not saying that antisemitism isn’t on the rise. It is. There have been more crimes against Jews in America this year, than any other in the last ten years. However, Black Americans have to be mindful of their every action simply due to the color of their skin.

I am often asked if I am Italian, Hispanic, or some other Mediterranean nationality. Although there are stereotypes of these ethnicities, they are not usually deadly. Being a Black American, means you have to be extra careful in how you hold yourself, where you go, and what your outward attitude appears to others. This week a White woman called the police on a Black man for asking her to leash her dog in a park which required dogs to be leashed. He wasn’t breaking the law, she was.

Our country, and essentially every country around the world is experiencing one of the worst pandemics of all time. Over 100,000 Americans have died from Covid-19. We need to be working together to combat this virus. We have to stop killing unarmed Black men when they are jogging, or walking, or wearing a hoodie. We need to find an answer to educating our society, so that people aren’t assumed to be guilty due to the color of their skin. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words in his “I have a dream”, speech have never been more important than today. His speech was over 50 years ago. How long will it take this country to learn that every person has the right to safety and security. We should all be lawfully protesting these tragic crimes against humanity. We need to be joined together in love not hate.

These are my personal opinions and do not represent those of any organization to which I belong.

About the Author
Stephanie Z. Bonder grew up a Jersey Girl in the beautiful Garden State of NJ. She developed her deep love for Israel when her father first started talking to her about Israel when she was a little girl and then took the family on a trip to Israel for her bat mitzvah. Her love for Israel continued in her college years, when she studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Stephanie recently retired from her career as a general studies teacher at Golda Och Academy, a Solomon Schechter Day School in West Orange, N.J. In her volunteer hours, she is part of a 5 generation life member family of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America. She currently is the National Chair of EVOLVE Hadassah: The Young Women's Network and a member of the National Board of Hadassah. Stephanie also works to educate adults on Jewish Peoplehood, Zionism and current events in Israel through her involvement with the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest.
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