If you walk eight blocks from my office in Center City Philadelphia you reach Independence Hall, where in 1776 the Founding Fathers of the United States drafted the Declaration of Independence, and in 1787 they drafted the United States Constitution. If you walk eight blocks in the other direction you reach a Starbucks, where last month a witless employee called the police to evict two black men who were doing nothing other than sitting at a table waiting for a business associate. Despite the fact that Starbucks advertises itself as a place where people can come and hang for however long they wish, this employee decided that the black men were engaged in illegal loitering.
The incident sparked natural outrage. Faced with a public relations disaster, Starbucks management decided to close all 8,000 of its US stores on the afternoon of May 29 for racial sensitivity training. It reached out to four well-known civil rights organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, to develop that anti-bias training.
Then the sparks really began to fly. Tamika Mallory, who doubles as both a leader of the January 2017 Women’s March and also as a prime supporter of racist Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, blasted Starbucks for including the ADL in its anti-bias efforts. She accused the ADL of “constantly attacking black and brown people”. She then tweeted, “(w)e are talking about anti-bias training, which has mainly been happening to black people. The ADL sends U.S. police to Israel to learn their military practices. This is deeply troubling. Let’s not even talk [about] their attacks against .@blacklivesmatter.”
According to Mallory, because the US is allied with Israel, a Jewish group that has devoted itself to fighting discrimination cannot take part in anti-bias training for a multinational coffee company. This from a supporter of one of the most appalling racists in the country today.
Starbucks caved. They omitted ADL Chair Jonathan Greenblatt from their list of program developers. Since then, they have tried to quell the controversy by saying that the ADL will be involved in a long term effort, just not in this particular session. Few accept that explanation.
This is what our silence as Jews has wrought. Now, in order to be accepted as a supporter of civil rights, one must fall in line behind movements like “Black Lives Matter”, which published in its manifesto that it supports entirely the Palestinians against the “genocide” being perpetrated by Israel. Also, one must accept as a leader of the civil rights movement Farrakhan supporters like Mallory and anti-Zionists like Linda Sarsour.
It’s not as if we couldn’t see this coming. Little by little, Western intellectual thought has become dominated by progressivism, and progressivism has evolved into a series of identity-based positions from which no deviancy or discussion is tolerated. Instead of arguing against it, our Western media members, academics and writers have simply gone along. We now see the result.
To be part of the current “in crowd” means not only espousing a Palestinian State, it also means concluding that Israel’s actions constitute “genocide” and that Israel must accept Palestinian demands on their own terms. To some, it means that Israel should not exist at all.
At this point, the question is can this intolerant progressive train be stopped? The answer is yes, if for no other reason than eventually it will collapse on itself because of its internal contradictions. What we don’t know is how much damage will result in the interim.
Nobody can be so pure as to identify with all of the positions that constitute modern “progressivism”, and to have held all of those ideas throughout his/her lifetime. In just the last two weeks, one of the American media personalities most associated with progressivism in all its forms, Joy Ann Reid, was exposed as having written numerous homophobic blogs a decade ago. At first she apologized, then as more offensive texts came out she claimed she had been hacked. That claim is ludicrous on its face, but shows how unsparing the movement can be when faced with apostasy, even if the offenses occurred years ago.
At our country’s schools, free speech is now opposed by people who claim that the right of free expression is less valuable than the right of certain people to dictate what opinions can be heard. Is it possible that all of those protesting will feel the same way about every issue? What happens when they disagree? In Utah a white girl wore a traditional Chinese dress to her High School Prom and was vilified for “cultural appropriation”. What happens when any of the accusers goes to an Italian restaurant? Wasn’t pasta originally Chinese?
The culture war will be bloody, at least metaphorically. Having spent decades accumulating power, the modern progressive movement will not relinquish it quietly. Being out of favor, Israel will have a huge intellectual rear guard action to fight, and this from a country that never has been good at “Hasbarah”. From a Jewish perspective, we can either stand up for ourselves now or face a more hostile battlefield later. Given the brazenness of the Farrakhan supporters and the cowardice of Starbucks, it appears wise to stand up now, lest we end with nothing but the silence of the lambs.