'Whiteness': The New Evil
I was recently made aware of another social justice group with a very liberal view of racism. An issue of great interest to me. I listened to the diatribe carefully, and was disappointed with what boiled down to a rehash of progressive left group-think, buzz-words, and talking points. What really caught my attention was something I took as a warning – the group’s intention to extend their leadership impact into our Jewish community. It is my suggestion we vigorously resist these types of agendas, and I appreciate the opportunity to share my reasons why.
When I heard the phrases “Jews of Whiteness,” and “Jews of Color,” I took umbrage with these terms. I don’t think of myself as a Jew of Whiteness. This is Labeling (also known as Identity Politics) which creates divisiveness and hierarchy of power. Labeling in and of itself, is a divide and conquer technique, used to pit one group against the other. Making one group more important than the other, creates a competition which leads to victimization. Exactly what the progressive left agenda requires to succeed. By dividing us, their objective is to become more powerful.
I am blessed to have an adopted Ethiopian Jewish son. When I share that with people, some ask, “Is he black?” My response is, “I never noticed. He is a Jew.” If I ask him, “Describe yourself to me,” the first thing he will tell me is, “I am a Jew.” That simple. When I asked my son if he ever heard of, “Jews of Whiteness,” he asked, “What is that?” We couldn’t stop laughing. The Labeling of Jews of Whiteness and Jews of Color is creating the divisiveness and exclusivity that this social justice group perpetuates.
Throughout history, Jews were not persecuted because of their color. They were persecuted because they were “Jews.” Period. Yet, here we are dividing ourselves with the socialist group think that destroys the beauty of our cultural history. This is cultural self-destruction. We don’t need anyone else to destroy us when we can do it from within.
To prove color doesn’t matter is to better understand the history of the Ethiopian Jews (Beta Israel) and the persecution they suffered. From centuries of massacres, religious persecution, enslavement, no education, forced baptism, choosing suicide rather than conversion, being denied the right to own land, escaping from missionaries ending in starvation and death, under Fascist rule being forbidden to practice their Judaism and during the Communist Mengistu regime, Ethiopian Jews were persecuted, jailed and killed. Thousands died escaping into the Sudan desert from rebels shooting them or starvation. My adopted son’s father was put in jail for a year for helping his fellow Jews escape. Fascism, Communism, Socialism, never ends well for Jews.
Another way to prove color doesn’t matter is to look at the hateful anti-Semitic labels, Ethiopian non-Jews give to the Beta Israel. Derogatory and demeaning Labels like Buda, which means, “People who eat people and power of the evil eye.” And Falasha, which means:“Outsider.”
And lest we forget, “The festival of Purim commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman’s plot to destroy and annihilate all the Jews in a single day.” Were they Jews of Whiteness or Jews of Color? Did it matter?
As a Jew, I retain a healthy skepticism for any movement, vision, or agenda that is intellectually dishonest and not devoted to good intentions. How so you might ask? One of the techniques of Marxism is to create artificial alliances that serve to advance a core agenda – power. History tells us that once those alliances have achieved that intended outcome, those duped into cooperation or submission are quickly betrayed, abandoned, or extinguished.
This social justice group links the anti-Semitic vulnerabilities of Jews with “Whiteness” and “Privilege.” These issues are vague liberal paradigms meant to sting and paralyze rational people. The use of these guilt-ridden constructs are misleading and lacking in sensible conclusions.
More importantly, how we can effectively uplift one group by tearing down another (Labeling) escapes my sense of reason and fair play. History tells us that this kind of twisted language is the go-to sword of elitists, despots, and other social marauders.
The social justice warriors described the perilous times we live in today and how, “We continue to reach out to others who face even greater, and more immediate, external threats to their safety.” And lists in this order: “Immigrants, people of color, Jews, Muslims, ethnic Americans, anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, Whiteness and Privilege.” This diatribe places Jews and anti-Semitism in the middle of the list diminishing the dangers we face. And Jews and Muslims are placed together, even though the majority of hate crimes against Jews in other countries are by radicalized Muslims.
Do they not remember that 12 Jews were brutally murdered and others injured in US synagogues during 2018 and 2019? Five Jews were brutally slashed with a machete in New York and three others were killed at a kosher deli in New Jersey, all by radicalized anti-Semitic members of the black community. That hate crimes in the US against Jews are higher than any other ethnic group and are on the rise with 1,879 antisemitic incidences in 2018 and increasing in 2019. Do they not take pride in being Jewish?
In the end, my greatest personal resistance to the content and agenda of these misplaced social justice groups is their relentless message of victimization and brainwashing reserved for today’s progressive left movement.
I find great irony in fellow Jews attempting to nudge people of my faith into embracing victimization as a social change model. That concept is abhorrent to everything Judaism represents. We, perhaps more than any people in history, know it is only through courage, conviction, and constructive unity that people are uplifted. Those attempting to turn people into hostile sufferers versus positive achievers are severely misguided and dangerous.
I am heartbroken with the progressive left’s lack of civility and divisive rhetoric that separates, rather than unifies our people. Theirs is a mission we tend to ignore or minimize to our precious faith’s peril. I fear the loss of the enduring bond and shared vision that has been our greatest source of strength and means of survival are being undermined for political agendas.
Adrienne Skolnik is Chairman of the North Carolina Chapter of the Conference of Jewish Affairs.
Image credit: Pixabay public domain