A Jewish Issue is Arising in the George Floyd Aftermath
In the long list of truths article about George Floyd, there were a handful of truths related to the accusation and theme that silence equals tacit acceptance of police brutality. On its face, this is a poignant sentiment; if you see police brutality and don’t speak out about it, you are tacitly admitting it is ok. However, there is an unsaid accusation and it centers on the Jewish issue in America. If silence in the face of an obvious evil is acceptance of that evil, then what should Jews make of the “deafening silence” when they are beaten, singled out, and killed? This is the Jewish issue that is simply accepted by the overwhelming majority of Americans. But why is it accepted?
If you’re upset about black people making up 24% of those killed by police despite being only 13% of the population, are you also upset Jews are the victims in 12% of all hate crimes despite being only 2% of the population? Does it make you sick to your stomach to know Jews are victims of 59% of all religion-based hate crimes? Did you protest and excuse riots when two Jews, a police detective, and an Ecuadorian immigrant were killed because two people wanted to kill Jews? Were there riots and countrywide protests? How about when five Jews were stabbed at their rabbi’s house while celebrating Hanukkah? Did leagues, colleges, and high schools all send out brave and forceful social media posts condemning the killings? Or was there silence?
Yes, a bevy of people made the bold stand of temporarily changing their profile pictures when Jews were shot by a white supremacist in Pittsburgh. But there was a “deafening silence” in all those other instances. The stories stayed in the news for a day or two only to be forgotten (do you know the name of the man in the article’s picture? Do you know the extent of his injuries or life status post-attack?). The only difference was the white supremacist because everybody agrees white supremacy is a scourge that must be snuffed out. And yet, when the mayor of New York City singles out Jews for condemnation or has the NYPD out in full force to remind them of a curfew while allowing throngs of non-Jewish protestors to do what they like, did you make a peep or was changing a profile picture one time as much noise as you could muster?
This is what people mean when they rail against the dangers of media-driven narratives; you can get upset and all up in arms when the story fits your perspective, but when it doesn’t, you remain silent. How should Jewish people think about this very Jewish issue? Why is there a tacit acceptance of a very specific kind of antisemitism and condemnation of another?
The Jewish Issue and the Untold Media Narrative
If a white supremacist kills a bunch of Jews, then we’re all in this together. But not so much when the perpetrators aren’t as convenient to the narrative. Bring up the fact roughly a third of all arrests in antisemitic incidents in New York are black and the silence gets a little louder. Dive even deeper into the issue, and you will find “many… of the assailants in the incidents of harassment and assault in Brooklyn have been African-American.” What should Jews, who have loudly been speaking out about police brutality, do with that information?
What is the reason Jewish concerns are brushed aside when they mention and get angry every time the Reverend Jesse Jackson is on TV? You know, the same Jackon who referred to New York City as “Hymie-Town,” and claimed there was a Jewish conspiracy against his campaign? Is Jewish anger righteous when they see Al Sharpton praised on T.V. and given a primetime show on a news network? The same Al Sharpton who promoted a pogrom against the Jews in Crown Heights in 1991 and later was an advisor to President Obama.
Speaking of Barack Obama: People were rightfully appalled and condemned Trump for playing footsie with the alt-Right during the 2016 election campaign. But anybody that ever threw an accusation at Obama was called a racist and a conspiracy theorist for calling out his glad-handing and long, friendly history with antisemites. Was it racist to raise concerns about his attendance at Jeremiah Wright’s church for years? Wright has always been a raging antisemite, but Obama was fine listening to Wright’s gospel every Sunday until it was no longer politically expedient. And Wright is not some nobody; he is also great friends with Louis Farrakhan and gives blatantly antisemitic speeches on behalf of “Mr. Termite.”
So with all those concerns–sorry, conspiracy theories–about Obama, should we just believe it was a coincidence he turned out to be the worst president for Jews and the state of Israel for the last 40 years? The same way it was a coincidence a picture of him and Farrakhan never saw the light of day until after Obama was out of office. If you pointed out any of that, the response was silence, or you were accused of racism. And there is no way you can make the jump from “Trump emboldened white supremacists” to “so now black people are beating up Jews in NYC.” So are you going to remain silent or try to explain why it is ok for rioters to write “F*ck Jews” and “Free Palestine” on the walls of a Synagogue… as a means of protesting George Floyd’s death? Is the racism wrong, but the antisemitism ok? Or is the antisemitism from white supremacist worse than the antisemitism from others?
Is the Jewish issue of Antisemitism in America Really That Hard to Condemn?
That is the question on the mind of plenty of Jews, “are you still going to be silent for us as we scream and shout for you?” Unfortunately, Jews know the answer to this; history says “yes.” Blacks have been dealing with racism in America for 400+ years… Jews have been dealing with antisemitism for 2,500+ years… and while it is beautiful people are coming together to condemn police brutality and support the grieving black community, the number of times people came to the defense of Jews can be counted on one hand (worse, people like FDR are lauded as heroes even though he sent Jews to their deaths). So, you want to talk about a deafening silence? That is called the history of Judaism!
Unfortunately, Jews know better than to expect a reciprocation here. Jews can deal with their own Jewish issue and come to the defense of others in need and offer their support. It is what Jews do because we’ve got the experience (it is also why this remains one of the greatest Jewish history jokes of all time).
If you have read this thinking it is fostering divisiveness, please reconsider what you’ve read. This is not a call to stoke a divide, this is a call for unity. The deafening silence so many are (correctly) complaining about right now is not single faceted; there is plenty of dubious silence to go around. Yes, we should call out hate, evil, and injustice whenever we see it. But if we fail to do so whenever we see it, we are tacitly admitting and accepting certain hate, evil, and injustices.
So the question posed here is simply, “what silence are you ok with, and what are the evils you allow to occur?” When a white guy attacks a Muslim for being Muslim, be the first to shout. If a Jew gets beaten by a black guy, condemn it, and don’t shut up about it. And yes, scream and protest when a black guy gets killed by the police. You do not have to pick and choose one cause here, you can choose them all. And you should back all of them. However, if only one of these stokes your anger and your frustration while you stay silent for the others, well, apparently we now all agree you are a part of the problem. You made the rules, now live by them.