Three Jews, two opinions

This is an intra-community type post about the NYC Women’s events Jan. 19, 2019: a Women’s March Inc. “Unity Rally” downtown and the Women’s March Alliance march uptown. It’s also only one side of an argument among three people. Two of them being white-presenting middle-aged Ashkenazi Jewish men, and one of them being me (white-presenting middle-aged Ashkenazi Jewish woman). They both thought that 1) organizer Tamika Mallory’s support for/failure to rebuke Louis Farrakhan was evidence of unacceptable anti-semitism, and 2) the fact that the Rally organization also supports BDS and criticizes Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is more such evidence — and there therefore participating in the Unity Rally is tolerating intolerance. One even said I was excusing bigotry and on the wrong side of history. I argued a different point. I won’t include their words without their permission (which I won’t seek) but here are mine:

I’n going to the Unity Rally downtown. I disagree or at least hope they are not saying that the uptown event doesn’t care about women of color.
I do believe they are saying that the Alliance isn’t willing to put WOC forward as a priority.
It’s a question of degree, and I want to act more in solidarity across all cultures than to center my Jewishness as the most important criterion… but further, I *definitely* don’t want to prioritize uncritical support for the State of Israel as my deciding factor. I can show up as Jewish woman who has concerns about Israel’s policies/actions and anger about rising anti-semitism while also asserting that racism must end, white supremacy hurts everyone, and gender nonconforming people have an equal right to safety and dignity. Despite there being problematic leaders for both events, I felt the Rally better addressed those sentiments than the Alliance’s march. 

I also appreciated that the Rally listed all its participating groups while the Alliance’s march did not. AND there’s an organized Jewish coalition at the Rally, so our presence will be notable. I don’t know that’s true at the uptown march.

I weighed the factors and made a choice. Staying home didn’t feel like an option.

A lot of Jews are being extra critical of the Rally organizers, because Tamika Mallory repeatedly has chosen not to specifically denounce Louis Farrakhan, and because Linda Sarsour is openly pro-Palestinian and anti Israel policy. They are both complicated women with complicated views. I’m trying not to demand perfection and purity from people who are doing otherwise important work. And extrapolating out from these two women, I’m also putting a lot of effort into not telling black people how to respond to other black people, and not telling Muslim people how to feel about things that affect Muslims and Arabs.

It is very awkward, and your concerns are mine/ours too. (But it is also typical NYC, there’s always something else happening, and maybe not so bad to have options.)

Paradigm shifts are messy, radicalism is messy, social justice tectonic shifts are messy. It’s our “the ’60s” — it was awkward and messy then too. Literally exactly the same issues the nation was struggling with, here we are again, and so it’s going to be a struggle again. The conversations and the discord are necessary. It’s unfortunate but true, so we make the best decisions we can at any given moment and go forward.

Letting one person’s failure to condemn another person’s poor opinion be a factor that determines whether I support a coalition of 50 organizations strikes me as either self-centered, short-sighted, or unreasonably demanding a perfect ideological purity. The right wing can be unified around a few core messages, but the left wing has to gain power by broad coalition and consensus… which means compromise. I am not ashamed to be a person who is willing to compromise. Farrakhan is just one character in a very large landscape; he has very little actual power, and his metaphoric power is only as strong as we imagine it to be. I will never be concerned about Farrakhan when we have Trump, Pence, DeVos, McConnell, and dozens of others of actually powerful people in actual positions of power who are actively fighting against me, and almost everyone I know. I don’t feel that I can blithely write off the valid daily concerns of my brothers and sisters outside the Jewish community just because my feelings are hurt by Nation of Islam propaganda, which holds no authority or power over any of us. At least NoI are open in their loathing, instead of hiding their desire for our genocide in fake love for Israel like the Christian Right. I don’t tolerate intolerance — I look at the bigger picture and recognize who are true enemies and who are just gadflies and then I act accordingly.

Sarsour feels the treatment of Palestinians is a humanitarian crisis. She’s consistent there, and that’s the position of Women’s March Inc and much of the Left. I don’t have a problem with criticism of Israel’s government and its policies, just as I don’t have a problem with criticism of America’s government and its policies. There’s a lot worth criticizing.

Tamika Mallory does not define the movement, nor does she define the philosophies of the dozens of other groups involved in the event today. She refuses to rebuke Farrakhan, OK. Her opinion and his opinion are not meaningful to me. If either one of them gets elected to a position of legislative or administrative authority…. heck, even if they just campaign for such a role, get back to me in my opinions and actions will be different.

Today’s action was not in support of Tamika Mallory or Linda Sarsour, and it was not a BDS rally. These things were part of a whole. I am just not going to put my personal opinion as being more important than the concerns of many other kinds of people who are actively being persecuted by powerful people. I am in a position where I can deemphasize my personal concerns and instead act in support of others with less leverage. We have anti-semites in office in this country that I’m far more concerned about. When there are true threats to human safety all around me, I am just not going to be distracted by anger at activists who I don’t agree with 100%.

[comparison of Farrakhan to David Duke invoked] Okay, the way that Farrakhan and Duke are different is that I do not know what Farrakhan has done for black people, but I do know what Duke has done for white people. What Duke does is uphold white supremacy at the expense of everyone else. What Farrakhan does is try to repair some of the damage people like David Duke have done. Farrakhan is not an active threat to me or other Jews. David Duke is an active threat to thousands of people. Farrakhan’s followers are not out here murdering Jews. David Duke’s followers are out here murdering both Jews and black people. If Tamika Mallory knows something that Farrakhan has done that is positive for black people, she has weighed that against what is negative that he has done for Jewish people. David Duke has done nothing positive for anyone except those who are already at the pinnacle of power. I do not see them as comparable except in a superficial way of hate speech, which I do not enjoy, but I see the threats as definitely distinctively different and therefore I do not have the same opinion about both of them.

[How can a leader say one form of bigotry is abhorrent but another form she will tolerate?] I am far more concerned with the talking out of both sides of their mouth that is being done by the evangelical right which is taking over the judiciary and driving the White House, and currently the Senate. Those are people who can say that they love Israel while actively hating Jewish people. End Times theology has far more power in this country than the Nation of Islam.

Considering one form of bigotry is tolerable and another as not, is because the conditions surrounding them are complicated and non-identical. It’s also something that literally every single one of us does all the time. I am not a fan of hers, and therefore I share in the criticism of her beliefs and her role. I just don’t choose to conflate the full organization and the event today with her personally.

I am very aware we have intercultural problems in New York, and I’m concerned for my safety and for other Jews on a daily basis. I am not blithely writing off anti-semitism here, nor violence, nor every kind of rhetoric.

“You believe one form of bigotry is tolerable?” — No I do not, but I am saying that I can understand how someone can hold multiple opinions that are sometimes in conflict. It’s a core tenet of intersectionality, and a human failing. I can’t separate my experiences as a woman from my concerns as a Jewish person or from my American POV. But I can prioritize and act accordingly. I believe others do too.

I am not here to support Mallory. I wouldn’t be sorry if she stepped away from leadership. I am OK with saying her relationship with Farrakhan is not sufficiently important to me that I would boycott anything she’s part of leading. Right now, it’s important to me that I am listening to and supporting people who are less powerful, some of whom disagree with me or who may be angry at people who look like me. It’s uncomfortable but I am not letting my personal perspective keep my view narrow.

I’m also frustrated by how a lot of us on the left demanding ideological purity (a variable and moving target) from our leaders. It is destructive to our progress as we squabble and the Right gets more concentrated and gains more power. Evangelicals hold their nose and vote for those who will turn around and execute their agenda, no matter how disgusting and flawed they are. Like DJT is a Christian now, hahahaha OK. But Lefties would rather stay home than vote for someone imperfectly aligned with their ideals. I think that’s a problem too.

I am not in favor of any hate speech, least of all anti-semitic hate. I agree it can spark negative action. I’m more concerned about anti-semitism than I ever have been. That’s a clear point we can agree on. But the specific discussion here is very messy. I never said anti-Jewish speech or philosophy didn’t matter, I just said I decided it wasn’t my top priority in deciding where to spend my time and energy today, and that generally I don’t want my concerns about anti-semitism to rule the prism through which I view and hear other people’s opinions and experiences.

I’m working on being a better person, a Jew with a broader perspective, and a more effective ally for people with less power and privilege than me. It’s not easy, but compromise and coalition isn’t either.

I am taking a lot of cues from groups like JFREJ and Bend the Arc, who are actively cooperating with Jews of color and members of other cultures to end all racial bigotry and anti-semitism within and across our respective communities.

I didn’t come in here trying to talk anyone into anything, just sharing my choices and my thinking. When challenged, I have tried to explain my position, to be greeted with more challenges, and then further explanations, which then finally was told that I’m full of air, and contorting myself to accommodate hate, and turning a blind eye to bigotry — when it’s literally that I’m doing the opposite.

If Jews want to put your concerns as a Jew above all else, please, go right ahead. That benefits me, and thank you.

Thanks for the discussion. But I feel like I’m just repeating myself now for a disinterested audience, so I’ll bow out.

 

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The upside of Otherness

I really relate to this story out of small-town Alabama. I was a little more insulated in much-bigger Atlanta, and there were a lot more of us, but a lot of these interactions and feelings are extremely familiar. It’s a noble experiment, and good on Mr. Blumberg for offering and all the newbies for trying, but I don’t fault the Priddles for their decision either way.
 
It is very interesting to me that the focus centers on a couple who each converted in adulthood, though, and any children in the community are only mentioned indirectly. It’s quite a different POV than someone who was raised Jewish from birth would have, or who is/was experiencing childhood as a distinct cultural minority. It’s a valid POV of course, and their Jewish identity is clearly central to the couple’s lives, but this is more a specific personal profile than a broad representation of the experiment’s participants or Southern Jewishness generally.
The primary thing that I’m grateful for, after being raised by non-Southerners in a city that considers itself the most cosmopolitan of its region — yet is still quite Southern and Christian and racially self-conscious — is the eternal awareness of what it is to be Other. To know that beyond my control, my Otherness has been weaponized, even if never triggered… just to know that it’s always there. Although I was a mostly welcome guest, I was never really part of the dominant culture, not really ever to be “one of Us.” True Southerners made that clear to me from time to time, which is why contemporary anti-Semitism incidents may sadden but don’t shock me. I’ve never not been aware that it could pop up anytime, and be shown anywhere on a spectrum from misunderstanding to malice. I just consider myself lucky that my own experiences have only been awkward or uncomfortable or inconvenient, but not (yet) injurious.
 
I don’t know what it’s like to grow up in a “real” Southern town like Dothan, Alabama. I’m glad, honestly. I am sure that the farther one settles from a city’s natural diversity, the ignorance is more ingrained, the defensiveness digs deeper, the sense of separation is sustained. Cities are not immune, of course; it’s just harder to build a citadel in a complex society.
 
I made Atlanta my home while I was there, and I was happy until I grew restless, and it will always be my hometown, and I’ll always love it and many dear people who still live there.
 
I also recognize how lucky I am that I could leave to find a better fit. But whooo, y’all, it is weird to feel like an alien in your supposed home. And to be sure, we all know there are a lot of folks for whom that’s true: mentally, spiritually, physically, geographically, they have to search out their own place and their own true community. Some folks never do, or never can, or are never allowed to forget their Otherness, and that’s an unjust burden to bear. I am grateful that I understand that burden, even if mine is relatively light, because it helps me connect with other people — and not think of them as Other people.
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A sad walk to say goodbye and thanks

This “Organ Donor Walk of Respect” is such a meaningful gesture for a family that are themselves making such powerful gifts to fellow humans. The comments are also very moving, with many donors and recipients sharing their stories.

I talk about politics a lot but I’m also eager to take this opportunity to encourage organ donation. I’ve made sure my family knows I want to donate everything that doctors can use to save or prolong as many lives as possible after I’m gone and then cremate the rest. I believe that’s best for humanity and the environment.

I can only hope that someday, a medical team will be as kind to my next-of-kin as these fine people are to their donor families.

If you’d like to register as a donor, here’s a resource.

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Happy Coming Out Day 2018!

Happy Coming Out Day to all my friends and neighbors everywhere who live your true selves openly, bravely, and with love — today and every day. Your honesty makes the world more beautiful and welcoming for everyone around you, whether they recognize it or not. Every time you defy conformism and oppression to pursue your own freedom and happiness, you help make the trail safer and clearer for anyone a step behind you — while you support and honor all those who fought their way through the thicket before you. Thanks for showing the world exactly who YOU are so others can see and be who THEY are. I myself owe each of you a debt as I forge my own path, which continually weaves in and out of respectability and conventionality. It is thanks to you that I can enjoy my nontraditional, liberated, hedonistic and yes, *queer* life without apology and free of shame. 

I see you, I love you, I celebrate you, I embrace you, and I am grateful. ❤

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Reporting ‘sexual assault by a child’? Your racism is showing

CW: angry but nonviolent racial confrontation, gentrification, traumatized kids

This one is close to home, literally, as it happened very near the neighborhood I’ve lived in for about 10 years. Strident white lady immediately dubbed “Cornerstore Caroline” seems to call 911 because a 9yo boy touched her butt (unclear whether it was accidental or on purpose). As soon as the kids hear “cops” they are terrified. (Way to go, America!) Neighbors respond angrily and protectively.

Look, maybe the kid touched her. I doubt it was on purpose, but that’s possible. Even if the kid did touch her, this was a teachable moment, not a crime. This reaction was wrong even if the touch was intentional (and there’s *plenty* of room for doubt on that). Children do wrong and adults teach them to do better.

I once watched a 11- to 13-year old boy on my primary subway line touch a woman, subtly but definitely in an exploratory way. He did it once, and then, emboldened, he did it again. She did not notice. He looked up to see if anyone was watching and saw I definitely was. I looked at him *very* sternly, pointedly, with all the middle-aged-auntie silent thunder I could muster, and slowly shook my head. He got the message. I saw his guilt and shame. I hope he carries the memory of those feelings with him and it helps him have more restraint in the future.

I didn’t say a word, I didn’t embarrass or endanger him, and he learned. I didn’t fault him for being a child but I didn’t miss the opportunity to let him know he was doing wrong. This is “the village” raising a child. The cops, terror and trauma should have no part in it.

Whereas here, the reaction is totally off-base and unhinged. He’s 9! I don’t care if he ran up and grabbed both cheeks with both hands and made a honking noise, it’s still not “sexual assault by a child” against a full-grown woman — that does not exist. Seeing brown children as criminals is a symptom of racism. I’m sad for her, and angry for our community, that she has this view of her young neighbors.

Beyond the obvious racism, I question the general stability and authenticity of the woman making the call. After saying, without irony, that she was “sexually assaulted by a child” and then repeatedly acknowledging that she’s being videoed, she shouts out her phone number and full address, concludes with the weird “Goodbye 9-1-1 operator” and says “post that on Worldstar” — what?!?

This incident is real, the children’s and neighbors’ reactions are real, their taking offense is real. But was that call fake? Is this some kind of intentional action designed for attention? Am I playing in to someone’s propaganda? Not sure.

So let’s not say that this should go viral because of the woman’s actions — but let’s do look at how the neighbors authentically respond to this kind of white aggression (whether the call is staged or not). That’s a little bit of a silver lining. The times are changing because we’re changing the times.

Adding some dialogue with my smart and sensitive friend Mia, which I’ll do in alternating blocks for clarity:

As a POC pointed out on another thread, giving her the benefit of the doubt that she is “unwell” is something that we only do for White people. I’d like to share her words because she said it so well, and it really resonanted with me and made me rethink my response: “The media labels mass murders and rapists and all manner of White criminals as unwell as to not have them be accountable for their egregious actions that they made with sound minds.

It has since become a part of White America’s (and to some degree all American’s) thinking and vernacular, due to conditioning, to blame the bad deeds and criminals acts of White people on unwellness.

This fraudulent excuse, excusable condition, mitigating circumstance is not applied to PoC, not even the truly diagnosed mentally ill when they are murdered by police. These PoC are somehow accountable for their own deaths despite their mental illnesses; there is no mitigation.

Please be more mindful of your speech. She is NOT clearly unwell. We have zero evidence of that from this video. That’s a conditioned assumption.

Why don’t we assume she’s an evil, unkind, deplorable human being as would be applied to her by most Americans if she were a person of color with the same or similar behaviors.”

I replied:

I definitely agree with this point, and thanks for making it. It’s also only white men that are lone wolves even at the pack grows. Do you think that I similarly let her off the hook here? I did say I questioned her stability, but I never was willing to attribute her racism to mental health issues.
My bigger question was not whether she was influenced by racist conditioning (she is) or why she has that mentality but that her actions were so odd that I thought that it was some kind of stealth right wing baiting… like the the Planned Parenthood hoax, the “feminist” acid attacker, etc.
I’m pretty careful not to spread misinformation, so I didn’t want to share without that caution. If I do seem to be pulling the punch, I can make it clearer in the future that I am not willing to offer racists that excuse or shelter in the future.

You’re always extremely thoughtful in your words and I appreciate that. I think that questioning the veracity of this is super legit. I do think that bringing her stability into it at all is pulling a punch.

Aha ok. I’ll be clearer. I think someone can be unstable and act unhinged without being mentally ill. I meant it in the poor self-control and judgment way. I think everyone has had moments where anger or outrage floods their brains and they get cloudy thinking or act weirdly without being actually ill. The “touch” set off some kind of emotional reaction and racism escalated it, then despite a bit of self-awareness, she kept going. Clearly she has the kind of personality where she can’t back down easily. A more balanced (generally stable) person would not have gone so far.

I do appreciate the spotlight on the word choice though, and I’ll try to make sure I watch myself for ableism signals and contextualize if I feel I need to use them.

AND of course, might as well add: Lots of mentally ill people *do not* act out all the time… that’s another bit of ableism we (I as well) need to keep in mind and eliminate. Illness does not mean 24/7 unhealthy thoughts and behaviors, and most ill people are not dangerous to anyone.

All cogent points, especially the ableism. I propose also that discussing her lack of self-control also blunts the underlying cause of her actions, which is racism.I feel that’s really important because (for me) her actions are so shocking that it’s natural to try and wrap our brains around it, but it’s actually fairly simple.
The more I think about it, that simplicity is wrapped up in holding people accountable. I had never thought of it this way, because I like to understand people’s motivations and be nuanced in my thinking and discussions. However, I don’t want to focus so much on nuance that I unwittingly give anyone a pass – i want to do the most good in talking about these things, and I think that is best accomplished by being clear.

Hmmm ok I’ll think about that. This is not disagreement…

I think identifying causes is where it starts and unfucking our thinking is essential for change but actions are what we can sanction and censure as a society.
On the one hand, we want to transform society, but failing that, I also want to Make Racists Afraid Again. Like, if you’re going to hold on to your shitty thoughts and opinions, fine, but keep that shit in your head because we have a culture to progress here.

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Election SHENANIGANS in Georgia, y’all

This kind of thing chills me to the bone.

What’s happening at this minute with threats to Georgia voting rights is completely possible in any state. We already know similar suppression is happening in Alabama. This story is not very long, but it’s a must-read — another ailing coal-mine canary we must not ignore.

The GA Secretary of State is in charge of elections and voter registration, and is ALSO the Republican candidate for governor?!!? SHENANIGANS.

“[In what] Kemp calls voter roll maintenance and his opponents call voter roll purges, Kemp’s office has cancelled over 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012. Nearly 670,000 registrations were cancelled in 2017 alone.”
…”Georgia’s population is approximately 32 percent black, according to the U.S. Census, but the list of [53,000] voter registrations on hold with Kemp’s office is nearly 70 percent black.”

Democrats aren’t perfect but it’s only Republicans that create voter suppression and purge policies and call that “ensuring election integrity.” It’s straight-up Orwellian doubletalk and it’s terrifying, honestly. If they think they can’t win, they just brazenly cheat. They can, and they do, and they barely bother to disguise it. Simply denying the obvious is easier and just as effective. 

This moral bankruptcy is ethically indefensible and yet another proof that American representative democracy is a basically a fiction. Idealism is cute but what we have to do is FIGHT.

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What is White Feminism, in my own words (& the words of some nonwhite womanists)

I think we all know that Swifty is generally peak white feminism, but today no criticism from me on this, only praise — an Instagram post that results in 65K voter registrations only gets ups from me.

Then someone defensively asked what “white feminism” is, so this is what I said:

“White Feminism” is thinking/actions, usually by educated white women, that put the concerns of educated, white, middle-class and affluent women above the additional and separate concerns of women of color. It’s usually passive and tone-deaf, sometimes well-meaning but always ultimately unhelpful. It’s quite different from personal antipathy to people of color but it’s a symptom of overall culturally entrenched white supremacy.
Privilege blindness is well in play here: The struggles of non-white women just do not occur to the archetypal White Feminist, who is usually surprised to have her privilege checked and will get very, very defensive and either teary or angry in response.

Taylor definitely has done a range of this, repeatedly. Specifically, Taylor is well known to complain about misogyny or sexism on personal or systemic levels — but then disregard, insult or exploit women of color herself. There have been widely discussed critical responses to her music, especially her videos, and many of her speeches and actions (or more pointedly, her overwhelming inaction, at least until this big statement on Instagram). When called out, she gets really self-righteous and is either angry, teary, or defiant. It’s not cute. With this post, I’m trying to acknowledge that this public figure for one may have flaws/past mistakes but she’s definitely doing good here, but contextualizing that it’s a step forward for her.

Back to White Feminism broadly: More pervasively, and an issue that applies to more common people, 2nd and even 3rd wave feminist complaints about “discrimination in the workplace” center on details of office work and the corporate ladder but completely ignore the fact that women of color have always had to work outside their own homes, usually under poor conditions, for subsistence, and their hard labor usually directly benefits white women seeking proportionally larger financial gains.

It’s very hard for those of us who feel we’re working for justice to realize we also participate in oppression, both passively and actively, even when we’re not meaning to, and it’s a lot of work to unfuck ourselves. But the culture has put a zap on us all and each of us has to recognize and correct it first in ourselves and then in others.

The opposite of “White Feminism” is “intersectional feminism” because it’s more encompassing and intentional.

If anyone wants to read more, I like these pieces:
https://everydayfeminism.com/…/why-our-feminism-must…/
https://fairygodboss.com/articles/intersectional-feminism

Many Black women have rejected the label “feminist” because of the problems I outlined above and prefer “womanist” coined by Alice Walker. I’ll let them speak for themselves on why:
https://www.thoughtco.com/womanist-feminism-definition…
https://blavity.com/why-i-identify-as-a-womanist

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