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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Excuses for Anti-Semitism and Homophobia? Do They Add Up?

A comment came up on yesterday's blog and my response turned into its own blog post. It's from Joan, who is thoughtful and caring. And it says: "Those {the folks who  yelled anti-Semitic and homophobic remarks at a rally for Philando Castile} were outside agitators whose goal is to discredit BLM. They fired shots at the (sic) Jamar Clark rally's. They threw the first bricks at the 94 {Freeway, onto the heads of police officers}. BLM did not sponsor the mansion protests they were organic. Rashad Turner is a hero in my book and a good friend. The point of activism and he has had great success there, was a job fair for the first time ever at the state fair. The mayor just yesterday included money to add 3000 jobs in depressed areas of St Paul and is more committed to hiring from the neighborhoods. The district is now considering a social media policy for staff and students. The point of activism is to raise issues, create conversations around issue that are not being addressed or {are) being changed to{o} slowly. There is no place for anti semitism." (sic)

I thought about Joan's comments. And then, I realized that for me, they don't hold water. And the reason is, that if the situation were paralleled--that is to say, if this were to happen at a rally given by a Jewish organization, such excuses would never be accepted. 

Imagine, I said to Joan, that we're at a rally sponsored by the Anti Defamation League or B'nai Brith. The rally is to protest violence against Jews in, say, France. (Where there has been a lot of recent, horrendous attacks on Jewish targets and people are, justifiably, terrified.) 

Imagine that the rally involves an open mike, set up by the ADL, but then left alone--"because this is an organic event." Imagine that several of the speakers talk about evil Muslims--all Muslims--and denigrate black people, and put down gays and lesbians in the bargain. It's an open-mike, and these people spew hatred and the rally leaders say nothing, at the time or later. They don't step in and lay out rules of civility. They don't step up and say, "We don't accept hate of any kind." Later, they claim these people were outside activists trying to discredit the ADL. Would you give them a pass? 

I wouldn't. Nobody would. The press, the city, would erupt with outrage. Nobody would be talking about how the point is to raise the issue of anti-Semitism, or to create conversations about the rise in anti-Semitism in France. They'd be screaming about the bigotry spoken at the rally, spoken with the tacit approval (because silence denotes approval) of those who were in control of that mike and that rally. 

And that is as it should be. Somebody put that mike and that amp up there, and that person or group was responsible for what came out of those speakers. I'm not talking about those who threw bricks at the 94 Freeway, I'm not talking about Rashad Turner per se. I'm talking about the Black Lives Matter Activists who set up the mike and the amp. If we give whoever that was a blank check and we continue to support them without correction, we are choosing to support hatred. Anti-gay, anti-Jewish hatred. It's not enough to say, "Well, look at the wonderful results they're getting." Unless we stand up against hatred--everywhere, in every form--we are part of the problem. 

Then, there's the BLM umbrella organization, which just released a platform one plank of which was the demonization of Israel as "genocidal." We all know what genocide looks like. It looks like Turkey in 1915. It looks like slaughtered Tutsi piled in heaps. It looks like millions of stacked glasses outside a crematorium. 
In our family, we are fortunate to have photos of four of the children who died in the Holocaust. There were many more children in our family who "became smoke", as the family says. Photos were hard to keep when hundreds of thousands of you were being shoved into cattle cars or slaughtered in the forests. The children in the photos up on our wall were among the millions of Jews who were exterminated--and their faces look like those of my children. Calling Israel genocidal, speaking about Jews running the world, speaking about Jew landlords owning everything, speaking--as Mahmoud Abbas claimed (in Arabic, to his own people, to try to win an election) that "the Jews are poisoning our wells"--and yes, people at a Black Lives Matter rally claiming Jews are running black people out of businesses--these words can result in murdered children, as surely as Ugandan anti-gay laws can result in macheteed gay people, as surely as American systemic police racism results in murdered black men and women. This will be true until all of us--you, me, everybody--has the courage to speak out, just as we must cry out that Black lives matter. 

So, I look forward to hearing from BLM that Israel is not genocidal and that Jew-hatred is not allowed. And Joan, if Rashad is a dear friend and a hero, please speak to him about this issue. When we say no to hate, we have to say no to all hate. 

Thank you. 


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Thank you for a clear apology, Joan. I would ask for one last thing--that you yourself speak to him and anyone else that you encounter who expresses any kind of bigotry. We have to remember that bystanders carry far more power than those who are being attacked. This is true on the playground, and it's true in the grownup world. These uncomfortable conversations and moments pay off drastically. They make you a hero. Our world desperately needs this kind of heroes-- and it's something we all can do. We all can be heroes.

  3. And I am never offended by a civil exchange of ideas with people who listen and discuss things.

  4. Thank you, Marcia. Your response brought a big smile. We make change little by little, person by person. And we can do this.