If you are Jewish, it’s likely that you spent last week in despair and absolute confusion. You probably watched the extreme-right white supremacists march and chant, “Jews will not replace us!” among other things and, once again, felt the wrath of discrimination.
You probably became even more angry when some in the media purposely misreported that the gathering chanted, “You will not replace us!” instead to purposely diminish the fact that “Jews will not replace us” was what was actually being said.
Those who think people just “misheard” the chants truly need to get out of their ignorant bubbles. If you, like this author, lived in Skokie, IL in the late 1970s, it probably brought terrifying memories back of the proposed Nazi March (which the HuffPost clearly describes), when many children feared the worst and even (irrationally) thought they would be taken to concentration camps.
Then, you go on social media and find out that you’re not a victim; you are to be blamed for the events in Charlottesville since you are lumped in with all white people. You are told that you can’t tell minorities how to feel about the Nazi propaganda (even if you are one of their main targets) because you need to “check your privilege.” It’s exhausting, depressing, and, most importantly, just plain ignorant. Many Jews are once again wondering when they stopped being a minority in the United States, despite decades of discrimination and oppression.
To be sure, the lines between Jewish and whiteness have always been blurred, especially in recent years. It’s true that despite having to overcome major obstacles in the United States and abroad, being Caucasian (although there are Jews of color) has benefited Jews in this country. And most Jews don’t fit the stereotypical image of Jewish people, so they are given the benefit of the doubt in many situations—at least at first.
However, as The Atlantic explains, being Jewish in America is like being put in between a rock and a hard place. The extreme right considers Jews to be an impure and morally reprehensible offshoot of whites, while the extreme left considers Jews as part of the white supremacist establishment that wants to dominate and repress people of color.
White or not, Jewish people are still hated, and no amount of “tolerance” or “diversity” training has changed that. This author particularly learned this while teaching in Costa Mesa and Glendale CA, where anti-Semitism not only went unpunished, but it was widely encouraged. You would think that left-leaning institutions would be more tolerant, but this hasn’t been the case for Jewish people over the past 20 years. Just 30 years ago, it was more likely that Jews were the biggest target of the far right, who told them that they “killed Jesus.”
College campuses, which once attempted to protect students from discrimination, have become the bastion of anti-Semitism. As pointed out by the Washington Post, anti-Semitic incidents at college campuses have significantly risen since 2015. Some specific incidents include a note on a bathroom wall expressing how Zionists should be sent to the “gas chamber” (UC Berkeley), a swastika and anti-Semitic slur on a whiteboard possibly coming from actual college professors (Perdue University), a Jewish student being physically attacked and told to “leave school, you Jew” (Brooklyn College), and many others.
While many anti-Semitic events that have taken place on college campuses have been produced by the left, Jewish students have been targeted by right-wing white supremacist and “white power” groups as well. While Jewish students have been fighting back, they are not given the support other marginalized groups are given. When these students graduate, they’re likely to experience a lot more anti-Semitism, especially — as Time points out — if they are part of the LGBT community.
One could argue all they want about where anti-Semitism comes from in America these days. One can attempt to list all the recent anti-Semitic events that have taken place in America, but the list is too gigantic to fit in a notebook or even a USB drive. However, the Oppression Olympics won’t get Jews anywhere. But recognizing Jewish people as a minority, realizing the diversity within their community, and protecting their rights would certainly be a step in the right direction.
To many, the events in Charlottesville this past weekend might mean that we’ve regressed as a nation, especially since such a powerful hate group was able to spread such a horrid message and make such a huge impact. To many Jews, it’s also a reminder of regression in that society still fails to protect them and even flatly denies their continued oppression. How can we flatly call out neo-Nazi’s without barely mentioning their hate towards Jewish people? How can we pick and choose which minority group gets to feel “repressed” or not? As a country, we can do a lot better than this.
[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]