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Archive for the ‘Race’ Category



More Charlottesville’s To Come – UNLESS!

Sep6

by: Rich Cohen on September 6th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

Condemning white supremacy in Charlottesville, Virginia or anywhere else is how we honor ourselves as human beings. We condemn it by naming it, speaking, mobilizing, demonstrating, legislating, educating against it, and by prosecuting hate crimes wherever they occur. However, unless we want to wake up at age 90 witnessing more of the same we must take a new and deeper look at this endless tension, anger, and hatred by too many whites toward too many non-white people.

 

I believe that material depravation and low self-esteem occurs before racism is triggered. To reverse racism we must understand that original distress. To ignore it is asking for more pain.

 

“Racism follows a feeling of unworthiness, of being socially, economically, and politically ‘victimized’… and of being a failure. Someone has to pay for such low feelings and self-perception. This means a need for scapegoats in order to feel superior and to exercise personal power over others. Racist people tend to feel insignificant, isolated, wronged and unloved and they remedy that feeling of exclusion by blaming (and hurting) someone else for it” This is meant to be more than empathetic! It is to understand the roots of racism in order to end it.

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Nazis, Jews, and African Americans at Charlottesville

Aug25

by: Jonathan Wiesen on August 25th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

On August 11 and 12thof this month, a cadre of white supremacists – made up of alt-rightists, Ku Klux Klan supporters, and ethnonationalists – converged on Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Lee commanded an army that fought to maintain the slave system. Like the confederate flag, his statue and those of other confederate leaders and slaveholders celebrate a history that is a source of collective grief and anguish to African Americans. The statues symbolize a living commitment to “the Old South,” a legacy of white rebellion against the North, and the extraordinary violence that accompanied white political, social, and economic control over the black population. Yet throughout the protest in Charlottesville, the white supremacists spent little time calling for a return to a segregated South or chanting anti-black slogans. Instead, they indulged in vulgar anti-Jewish invective. Swastikas were on prominent display, protesters chanted Nazi slogans like “Blood and Soil,” and they held signs that read “the Jews are Satan’s children,” and “Jews will not replace us.” Make no mistake: these were the watchwords of the rally.

While the ubiquity of Nazi sloganeering in Charlottesville may seem surprising to some, this was hardly the first time that a defense of the confederate legacy found expression in Jew-hatred. During the organization’s revival in the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan made African-Americans and Jews the objects of their fury. It was common during that decade and beyond to explain the origins of the moniker KKK by its targets: “Koons, Kikes, and Katholics”. African Americans who challenged entrenched racial, economic, and political hierarchies throughout the South were often met with white violence and terror. But fears of black power often went hand-in-hand with the claim that African Americans lacked the capacities to act on their own. Instead, they were cast as the dupes of Jewish conspirators who exerted outsized political and economic influence. This claim undergirded all sorts of theories in the early decades of the twentieth century: that Jews were a kind of “fifth column” within black political organizing, whether in the Communist Party, the NAACP, or what anti-Semites derisively called the “Jew Deal.” On the other side of the Atlantic, Nazis developed their own internally contradictory theories of African American-Jewish relations. In the 1930s and 1940s, Nazis assiduously studied the model of Jim Crow segregation, which they simultaneously admired from afar and linked to Jewish power structures. In their convoluted reasoning, segregation was at once a defensible white response to the threat of racial intermixing and growing black self-assertionandthe result of trickery by a powerful Jewish “plutocracy” that had used their considerable wealth to repress African-Americans. The Jews, according to one Nazi political cartoon from the 1930s, even took special pleasure in consuming images of lynching. The cumulative effect of such theories was to cast Jews as the secret, clandestine agents behind both white dominationandblack protest.

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Oh Crap! I’m Triggered Again, Part One

Aug20

by: on August 20th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

Holding steady when the ground is moving is normally part of my stock-in-trade.People often ask me for something to help put their own fears into perspective. Usually I am willing and able to oblige. Mostly I try my best to see the bigger picture, and mostly that effort pays off.

But not now. I was staying more or less centered until a few days ago when something caught me off-guard. In the middle of a conference call, I got a text message carrying information that turned out not to be true, that the Barcelona terrorist who mowed down 13 lives like grass had been heading for a kosher restaurant on Las Ramblas, hard by the assassin’s abandoned car. It was an intense activation, hard to control despite my wish to hold to decorum, despite the fact that everyone on the call had been talking about their fears for their own communities’ and others, their responses to the nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville and the havoc they wreaked. When I rang off, a bit of research led me to conclude that the location of the car was likely a coincidence, that even though ISIS hates Jews, the attack did not target us directly.

Ashamed, I apologized to my colleagues for spreading false information, then gave myself a talking-to. Oh, crap! I’m triggered again, and not only that, but right now I am super-susceptible to recurrence.

I borrowed the title of this series from a shrink who offered it as a way to call in the awareness and acknowledgement that start to diffuse reactivity. You know what I mean by reactivity? I’m talking about that rush of terror or fury or both that overwhelms brain and body when something pokes its finger into an old wound, flooding the inner world with elicited memory, elicited pain.

Do you want to know why I was so easily and massively triggered by a stray rumor?Let me suggest four readings. First: Eric Ward’s important essay “Skin In The Game: How Antisemitism Animates White Nationalism.” This piece was written by a non-Jewish African American who has studied and worked against white supremacist movements for many years. He exposes in detail how “antisemitism forms the theoretical core of White nationalism,” how it is the cornerstone of their racist ideology, and how this is often neither understood nor believed despite ample evidence.

I read Ward’s piece when it was first posted to Political Research Associates’ site at the end of June, six weeks before white nationalists marched in Charlottesville, VA, chanting “Jews will not replace us,” inspiring one of their number to use his automobile as a weapon, murdering Heather Heyer and injuring others,.

When you’re done with “Skin in The Game,” read “Jewish Fear, Love, & Solidarity in the Wake of Charlottesville” by Jonah S. Boyarin, published on the Jewschool site a few days after the events in Charlottesville. Among many other closely observed depictions of fear, love, and solidarity, Boyarin writes:

Jewish fear is the recurring silence from non-Jews about the explicitly, particularly antisemitic language and behavior of the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. It is seeing, with rare exceptions, only Jewish friends of mine posting on social media when Jewish cemeteries are vandalized or when the Boston Holocaust memorial was destroyed this week for the second time this summer.

Jewish fear is if we bring up our struggle to non-Jewish comrades, we will be gaslighted and shamed into silence, because structural antisemitism functions by portraying us as conspiratorially, greedily powerful despite our repeated vulnerability to structural, white Christian male violence.

Third, read Michael Chabon’s and Ayelet Waldman’s “Open Letter to our Fellow Jews,” enacting our tradition and imperative to rebuke injustice within our community:

Among all the bleak and violent truths that found confirmation or came slouching into view amid the torchlight of Charlottesville is this: Any Jew, anywhere, who does not act to oppose President Donald Trump and his administration acts in favor of anti-Semitism; any Jew who does not condemn the President, directly and by name, for his racism, white supremacism, intolerance and Jew hatred, condones all of those things.

Finally, if you have the bandwidth for one more, read Danica Bornstein’s account of struggling to reconcile two identities, the provisional social category of whiteness and her lived experience as a Jew:

What I’m trying to say here is that the privilege that accrues during the good times is very much real, and I am not denying or hiding that. It is also true that the privilege is provisional, and can be revoked, and becomes the very thing that is used against us when the shoe finally drops.

It overwhelms me trying to explain this history and how both of these things live inside my body: the very real privilege but also the very real and repeated experiences of expulsion, scapegoating, genocide, and terror. I talk about the part that is easier, but then I end up feeling very alone.

None of these writers is identical to each other in approach, style, content, or the way they position themselves in the story, but they are all telling parts of a meta-story that has shaped my experience.

In the context of this big story of Jews in the USA, when I tell myself, “Oh crap! I’m triggered again,” I am reminding myself that despite the intense feelings I’m experiencing, I’m not truly in it alone. I’m reminding myself that I’m not alone despite the fact that so many of my colleagues on the U.S. left are quite happy to hang a label reading “white” around my neck and never hear another word about why that might not sum up the experience of disbelonging for a first-generation American whose earliest memories were explanations in halting English of why I had so few living ancestors and so little knowledge of those who had survived, and of being chased home by Catholic kids when they got to the part in catechism about Jews killing Jesus, and whose recent memories are crowded with experiences of being an acceptable target, a handy “buffer group” for multiple racial categories.

I’m reminding myself that even if I am once again attacked from both right and left for having the audacity to take the space to tell this story and the willingness to risk this self-exposure, I am not alone.

And why must I remind myself so insistently of this truth? The trajectory of all traumatic activation is the same. The person who is triggered is propelled toward extreme isolation, often into an intolerable loneliness that obscures or precludes the actual antidote to white nationalism: connection, reciprocity, collaboration, respect, generosity across lines of difference.

From what I see, my story rhymes with much of the current state of things. The white nationalists gathering in Charlottesville, Boston, and many other places overwhelmingly share certain characteristics: pale skin, male gender, Christian heritage. None of these is intrinsically the generator of evil, but the giant chickens of power and domination their possessors have birthed have been marching home to roost for a long time, lusting to punish the rest of us for daring to live our freedom. In the face of this long march, so many people I know are displaying the signs of extreme reactivity grounded in trauma: believing the inner voice that says no one else can know my suffering, no one is truly on my side, I can’t trust anyone who fits different categories of race, religion, gender, orientation, even generation. So many are locked in just this combat with would-be allies: whose perspective matters? Who has earned the right to have a say? Who understands the urgency and seriousness of the threats? Who has the capacity or right to glimpse what it is to live inside my skin?

What do you do when elicited trauma pushes you into a dark corner? For me, many things can help in the moment. Music, a walk, or a distraction—anything that disrupts reactivity long enough to allow the fear chemicals to dissipate.

But you know what helps me the most? When compassion opens a door between my heart and another person’s; when neither of us needs to slot the other’s story into a hierarchy of oppressions, judging if it deserves equal dignity or goes on the dismissible pile. When we hear each others’ stories without turning away, when we open our arms to each other. When we join together to rebuke injustice and call in the beloved community.

I’ve been thinking about trauma a great deal over the past year because it is one of the subjects of my current book-in-progress. Even if it weren’t, I’d still be thinking about trauma today because laying fresh damage on the site of old wounds seems to be our national pastime. Every day, I have to remind myself to stay aware enough to say, “Oh crap! I’m triggered again,” because without that awareness, the past prevails.

When I am triggered, my capacity for rational thought is greatly diminished. This is bad news not only because of the immediate suffering it catalyzes, but because the thing that helps me most to release trauma-induced reactivity is staying aware that I am activated. Keeping part of my thinking mind free to be an observer allows me to begin distinguishing past from present. I begin to remember that the loud voice in my head—the one telling me I’m all alone in an uncaring world and they want to kill me—is not the voice of reality, the objective truth, but the over-amped voice of old pain.

My grip on my composure remains tenuous. In Shabbat services yesterday morning, we talked about the Torah portion for this week, Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17). A short way into the text, we read this exhortation about how to treat the conquered who worshipped false gods: “Tear down their altars, smash their pillars, put their sacred posts to the fire, and cut down the images of their gods, obliterating their name from that site.”

Aha, I thought, the Confederate statues! You get to a fresh start by wiping out the symbols of an abhorrent belief system. My mind reeled into the slam dance that’s been playing over and over on my inner soundtrack. But wait, that’s what ISIS leaders thought they were doing when they demolished the Bamyan Buddhas! (See this compendium of pictures and links for images of that and many more examples of monuments toppled). On the one hand crashes headlong into on the other hand. Both tumble into the mosh pit of my brain. I try to blink back the tears and steady my breathing, knowing that unless I can resolve this state of hyper-susceptibility, I will be cycling through that dance every day, perhaps every hour.

Coming next in the “Oh Crap! I’m Triggered” series: Free Speech Slamdance.

Odetta and Dr. John, “Please Send Me Someone to Love.”

Martin Luther King + 50: Toward a Year of Truth and Transformation

Mar30

by: Rabbi Arthur Waskow on March 30th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Fifty years ago, on April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King spoke his most profound and most prophetic sermon. At Riverside Church in New York City, with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel at his side, he addressed a group called Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam with a speech he entitled, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence.”

The public face of his speech was a strong denunciation of the U. S. government’s war in Vietnam. More than half the speech took up, case by case, aspects of the war that King argued were immoral U.S. actions – lethal to the Vietnamese and to American soldiers, destructive to the War on Poverty that had been President Johnson’s domestic program, and a violation of the best American values.


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Asleep in a Prison: Reflections on Pacific School of Religion’s “Borders and Identity” Lectures

Mar24

by: Paige Foreman on March 24th, 2017 | Comments Off

“Why, when God’s world is so big, did you fall asleep in a prison of all places?”

~Rumi

The day after attending Pacific School of Religion’s “Borders and Identity” 2017 Earl and Boswell lectures on March 17th in Berkeley, I swam from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco. The island and its infamous prison looked desolate and lonely surrounded by an iron sea and a gray sky. I shivered in my bathing suit on the deck of the boat that was approaching the island and stared wide-eyed at the 58-degree water I would have to dive into soon. Doubt crept into me like the cold – I was not sure I would make it across.

Alcatraz Island surrounded by the sea and clouds.

When it comes to immigration, America has confined itself in a prison. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas gave the keynote lecture the evening of March 17th. He is the founder and CEO of Define American, a nonprofit organization dedicated to sharing the stories of immigrants in order to elevate the conversation around immigration.


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A Response to “Overcoming Trump-ism” and More

Mar16

by: Gilbert Caldwell on March 16th, 2017 | Comments Off

Gilbert Caldwell of Asbury Park, New Jersey – a longtime Methodist pastor and activist in many progressive causes – offers a thoughtful and personal response to Rabbi Michael Lerner’s recent article on Tikkun.org, found at this link:

Overcoming Trump-ism

and to Rebecca Solnit’s article “Grounds for Hope” in the Winter 2017 issue of Tikkun Quarterly.

My re-reading of “Grounds For Hope” by Rebecca Solnit in the Winter 2017 issue of Tikkun has caused me to respond from a personal standpoint, as a clergyman in the United Methodist Church, and with reference to what Rabbi Lerner has written in his article “Overcoming Trump-ism.”

Solnit begins her article: “Your opponents would love to believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act, that you can’t win.” But, she writes; “Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away … hope is about the future, grounds for hope lie in the records and recollections of the past.”


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A Plea For Compassion

Mar12

by: Jeff Grande on March 12th, 2017 | 8 Comments »

Day after day, I wake up to one mind-numbingly tragic shooting incident after another, immediately followed by politicians and civic leaders giving their speeches. The give their inevitable soundbites, standing in front of makeshift flower-laden memorials, about stopping the epidemic of violence in America. They always talk about the need for better police training, more police officers, gun control, more prisons; in short, the rhetoric dances around the symptoms, tacitly avoiding any mention of the true root causes of these tragedies.

I stand with both American police officers and citizens who are victims of senseless brutality and killing. Each group also must contend with being part of a system that pits one group against the other, defining an agenda of division rather than the unity which must exist for our nation to truly solve these problems. Every time there is an incident of violence, we either blame one group or the other.

We talk symptoms.

Political and civic leaders don’t speak enough about the root causes that create the conditions for this violent behavior.


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A ‘Moment’ for our Movement: The Work of Creating a More Perfect Union in 2017

Mar10

by: Karin Swann-Rubenstein on March 10th, 2017 | Comments Off

Following the now-famed Women’s March on the day after President Trump’s inauguration, speculation mounted about whether we were seeing a real “movement” or simply a “moment” of reaction from an outraged electorate. Since that day, there’s been no dearth of citizens speaking up, in town halls, airports and on city streets. People who never imagined themselves “protesters” have seized the reins of citizenship suggesting that surely somethingisgalvanizing America. But the question is an important one,doesthis yet qualify as a movement?

Since my days as a student at UC Berkeley in the 1980s, the question of what makes a movement has always intrigued me. I noted the vast difference between the Iran-Contra protesters, characterized by fierceness and all-black garb and the masses, and 20 years prior, of tie-dyed youths who turned out for the summer of love. The Civil Rights movement was something different altogether, and ultimately the force that most powerfully redefined the politics and consciousness of our deeply divided country in the 1960s.

What strikes me most about what we see emerging today is that the vast majority of protests in recent weeks have taken place inreactionto President Trump’s initiatives, mobilized largely by a strong “anti-Trump” sentiment. Looking back at movements that have proven successful, however, I question whether this axis for organizing is enough?


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Humor From Tikkun

Mar10

by: David Tell, Tikkun Managing Editor and Chief Satirist on March 10th, 2017 | Comments Off

‘Changing the Channel’ on Trump

 

It’s been noted – and amply demonstrated – that Trump garners his awareness of the general national and world situation – its issues, problems, crises (and proposed solutions) and even of “fluff” – from his daily diet of cable “news.”

Reporting and observation have indicated that the president watches several hours of Fox and CNN virtually every morning, and his regular tweets (often expressing alarm, ire, contempt and so on regarding various pieces of information about events and people) frequently come within seconds of the broadcast about an item he is responding to.

It’s believed the recent Trump tweet (known now as “Treets”) accusing former President Obama of having wiretapped Trump Tower during the election campaign is one of many cases in point.


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Humor From Tikkun

Mar9

by: By David Tell, Tikkun Managing Editor and Chief Satirist on March 9th, 2017 | Comments Off

(Pre-)Deconstructing Trump’s Wall – Literally

 

In a phenomenon perversely inversely reminiscent of the collecting of pieces of the breached and demolished Berlin Wall in 1991, residents along both sides of the southern border of the U.S. have been making off with material slated for the construction of Trump’s much-touted barrier against Mexican migrants.

In this case, they’re making off with pieces of the the astronomically costly wall before it’s even built.

The activity has so frustrated construction workers and border agents that they have even used some of the same materials to throw brickbats at the thieves – “some of them good people,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement regional director Budd Tugly said he assumed.


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