Friday, January 21, 2022
Monday, January 17, 2022
One of the recurrent themes of the "anti-CRT" push by conservative politicians and activists is that they are merely upholding the legacy of Martin Luther King. Liberals counter by pointing out that Republicans seem to think MLK's entire legacy consists of one line from one speech, and that Republicans only like him because he's conveniently dead. But no no!, they say, MLK is the beacon of what racial relations in America should be! He is the antithesis of CRT!
So here is my suggestion for compromise: in every state which is currently enacting a "CRT" ban, school boards should develop a course that is simply and entirely devoted to reading the collected works of MLK. They can read statements like this:
“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn.”
Whenever the issue of compensatory treatment for the Negro is raised, some of our friends recoil in horror. The Negro should be granted equality, they agree; but he should ask nothing more. On the surface, this appears reasonable, but it is not realistic. A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for the Negro.
First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."
The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and racism. The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.
“Again we have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifices. Capitalism was built on the exploitation of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor, both black and white, both here and abroad.”
There are many more besides. It is a rich corpus of work, after all, more than sufficient to support a semester's worth of study. Reading them all together, from the "I Have a Dream" speech to the "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" to the "Three Evils" speech could spark such interesting discussions and give a more thorough foundation to the ideas and ideology of a man whom -- liberals and conservatives agree -- is one of America's great heroes.
You want to ban "divisive concepts"? I dare Republicans to try and ban the "Collected Works of MLK" class as "divisive".
Like most Jews, I imagine, I'm still in a semi-state of shock about what happened in Colleyville, Texas yesterday. Part of that shock is precisely because I am not shocked. Things such as this happening -- well, it's not constantly in the forefront of my mind, but it's never far from the background either. The most important feeling is gratitude that all of the hostages emerged without injury, and gratitude to all of those who worked feverishly to bring about that outcome.
Beyond that, my thoughts are more ... scattered. On a personal level, my wife and I have just started house-hunting, and one element we're considering is whether we want to live in a "Jewish neighborhood". Portland is like many medium-to-large American cities that are not New York, Washington, or Los Angeles, in that there is certainly a well-established Jewish community here, but not a particularly large one. In effect, that means "a Jewish neighborhood" is really "the Jewish neighborhood" -- Hillsdale. There are Jews elsewhere in the city and suburbs, of course, but Hillsdale seems like the only area which is notably Jewish in the way that I grew up in Bethesda (think of the role St. Louis Park plays in the Twin Cities).
Of course, Colleyville, Texas isn't exactly what springs to mind as a Jewish hub either. Which gives a bit of gallows-humor silver lining to the week's events -- while there are advantages and disadvantages to living in a heavily Jewish area, Colleyville underscores that antisemitic terrorism can happen anywhere, so as a factor to consider in where I should plant roots it's pretty much a wash. What a reassuring thought.
On a more socio-political level, well, first things first -- I'll repeat what I said after the attack on a synagogue by a White supremacist in Germany in 2019 (and it disgusts me that I can appeal to precedent on this subject): if our response to White supremacist violence against Jews is not to call for expulsion of White people, or shutdown of White immigration, or restrictions on White civil rights, then the same holds true for Muslims. Ultimately, the key battle line that divided this terrorist from his victims was not Muslim versus Jew, or East versus West. It was between those who are willing to terrorize innocents and destroy families for ideological gain, and those whose politics are about safeguarding families and caring for their neighborhoods. And in that battle, anyone who uses this horror to stir up Islamophobia or any other form of hatred is fundamentally on the side of the terrorist.
Also in the realm of the obvious: it was already a disgrace that Deborah Lipstadt hadn't sailed through confirmation to occupy the role of antisemitism envoy, and I do not want to hear a word about "opposing antisemitism" from any Republican who has blocked her nomination. She should have been confirmed yesterday, and barring that she absolutely must be confirmed tomorrow.
- This was an antisemitic attack, and I am flabbergasted that some people are trying to describe it in any other terms. Yes, it appears true that the attacker's immediate political motive was not something as direct as "I hate Jews" -- it was to secure the release of Aafia Siddiqui from prison. But anyone whose understanding of antisemitism is limited to that narrow horizon needs to wake up. The attacker did not choose a synagogue by throwing darts; he chose it because he believed the fundamentally antisemitic conspiracy theory that "the Jews" were in a position to control American policy with respect to the war on terror (it must be said that this sort of antisemitism is something that he appears to share with Dr. Siddiqui). And, conspiracy theory aside, the conscious decision to target Jews in their house of worship for whatever purpose evinces a conscious disregard for Jewish humanity and equal standing that could and should only be characterized as antisemitism.
- Already, we have seen in some quarters of the Jewish world disdain or even hatred directed at this congregation and this Rabbi because they are Reform Jews with avowedly liberal politics. This is not the first time these murmurs have been overheard, and with each passing year they grow louder. It is not something we can ignore for much longer, and it links up to other ways in which liberal Jews are constantly treated as second-class citizens within the Jewish world (whether at the Western Wall or in organizations like the Conference).
- Likewise, there is a direct line between the rhetoric presenting synagogues as the "enemy" who must not be "collaborated" with, and incidents like these. The former is not excusable political hyperbole, it is not an opportunity to engage in elaborate theoretical justifications and hem-hawing. It has stakes, and it has consequences, and incidents like this are among those consequences. I saw many people lauding the Rabbi of this synagogue for his strong commitment to interfaith work, a commitment which showcases the strength of solidarity and communal bonds. And they are right to do so -- but that work and that solidarity and those bonds of kinship are exactly what some people are trying to eliminate under the guise of anti-normalization.
- The Rabbi of this congregation was direct in giving credit to prior outreach and training with local law enforcement and groups like the ADL, which gave him and his congregation the tools they needed to survive this incident. These connections and these trainings keep Jews alive. It is one thing to envision other mechanisms for keeping Jews safe. It is quite another to act as if the only reason Jews have these connections and trainings is because we are eager comrades of the carceral state, and to point to these linkages as proof of our "complicity" in evil.
- The media is terrible at talking about antisemitism, because it doesn't know much about antisemitism. In fairness, this is not something unique to either the media or the subject of antisemitism -- most people don't know much about most things. But there is a tendency by many to believe that of course antisemitism is understood and covered fairly and comprehensively, and it isn't true -- a fact that is a commonality, not a divergence, from the travails endured by other communities facing other issues.