I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about the idea of white supremacy. It’s not just because a fucking fascist is occupying the white house (although, that’s a thing) but specifically the ways in which white supremacy and white privilege play out within our Jewish community.
Here’s the real deal. White Jews benefit from white supremacy. When my friend Yehuda was surrounded, harassed and nearly assaulted for carrying Torah scrolls in Brooklyn, NY it’s because of white supremacy. When my friend KB is stopped and searched trying to enter shul on Shabbat morning (whilst a kippah sits is atop his head) it’s because of white supremacy. When I’m at a wedding of a friend and someone comments, “you knew all the words in the prayer, I saw!” it’s because of white supremacy. White supremacy means that Jews who look like Yehuda, KB and I are looked at with suspicion simply for existing in Jewish spaces in our black skin.
Some might say that Charlottesville or Pittsburgh or any other violent act is white supremacy and they would be right. And I’m not talking about that. I’m not talking about the extreme ways in which we see it played out in the news or in our communities in atrocious ways. I’m talking about the subtleties that white privilege has afforded a large portion of our Jewish communities. I’m talking about how the ability to blend and assimilate with white skin into white society means that you think added security in your shul is necessary to keep your community safe. It’s when you claim to be welcoming by quoting the Torah trope “We were once strangers” thus viewing Jews who are People of Color are the “strangers” rather than your brothers and sisters.
If we mean to do the work of tikkun olam, the work of fighting racism and social injustices both within and outside of our Jewish communities we need to truly examine the ways in which some Jews not only benefit but perpetuate white supremacy.