MLK Day is a hard one for me. It slides right into February, Black History Month, which is another hard time . It’s especially hard in the Jewish community because it feels, as a black Jew, that Jewish folks are all of a sudden hyper aware of the “need” to talk about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And never on his own, never the parts of his message that were more Black Power! and less koombaya. And NEVER, EVER without talking about Rabbi Heschel.
It has been my experience that after MLK Shabbats and Black History Month highlights we, as Jews, go back to the business of vague attempts at diversity, all the while second guessing and giving side eye to me and other Jews of Color while we try to pray. Here’s the thing that (white) Jews don’t want to hear - You perpetuate white supremacy. When you question that sentence you’ve perpetuated white supremacy. When you feel angry because I said it (and keep saying it) that’s your white supremacy. Unless you are actively engaging in antiracist work, unless you are constantly questioning why there aren’t more JOCs in your Jewish spaces, on the Boards of organizations, in leadership positions you are perpetuating white supremacy - and attending an MLK Day Shabbat ain’t gonna fix it. You’re white, honey. Deal with it. (points for folks who get that reference).
There are a few exceptions to the rule. Repair the World, for instance, has hired me on as a consultant for the last few years to help them with their resources and publications like Lilith Magazine has paid me to write about this problem and ways to help bring diversity and inclusion to the forefront of our institutions. We still have much work to do, but I applaud these two institutions, in particular, for doing the work.