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Archive for the ‘Race’ Category



From Apartheid to Trump

Nov21

by: Marisa Handler on November 21st, 2016 | Comments Off

Botha and Mandela holding each other's hands high in the air.

Photo by Damien du Toit: Creative Commons

In October of 1988, my family emigrated from apartheid South Africa to the U.S. It had taken my parents four years to secure sponsors and visas for us. At the time, P.W. Botha was President of South Africa; the man was an inveterate racist and leader of the National Party, which constructed the apartheid system. Botha was not budging in response to either sanctions or the anti-apartheid movement, and it looked like the country was headed for a bloody civil war. We considered ourselves fortunate to get out. I remember entering junior high school in the San Fernando Valley, stunned and delighted by the diversity that filled the hallways, by the fact that there were black teachers, counselors, and even politicians. In comparison to the society I grew up in, this country appeared a bastion of freedom and justice.

Trump is giving a speech with his daughter and American flags behind him.

Photo by Michael Vadon: Creative Commons

Twenty-eight years later, I am profoundly grateful for the life and opportunities this country has afforded me. So, on the Tuesday night of the election, I watched with shock as a man who is undeniably racist – not to mention misogynist and xenophobic – was democratically elected to the highest office in the country. No, he didn’t win the popular vote; and yes, the Electoral College is an obsolete system. Nonetheless, half the country voted for this man. Indeed, we are more divided than we knew.

And so like many of us, I am struggling to integrate what feels like dystopian fiction. For now, I am grieving and letting myself be stunned. I am caring for myself and those I love the best I can. And, I am reminding myself what I know in my bones to be true: that in order for genuine healing to come, the darkness must emerge. It must be seen, recognized, and understood before it can transform and deliver its gifts.

I know this from personal experience, and I know this also because I come from a country where the darkness was not hidden. The racism was overt, and grotesque. My eleven-year-old peers in Cape Town actually believed black people were less intelligent than white people. They thought it entirely appropriate that a black adult should address a white child as “little madam” or “little master.” In a sense, for the African National Congress and its allies, there was a clear enemy, and an obvious goal: apartheid was wrong, and it needed to end. And when it did in 1994, there was a collective process to hold perpetrators accountable and to work through the grief, anger, and guilt. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission wasn’t perfect, but it allowed the country to come together, to begin to forgive and move on. Things are far from rosy right now in the land of my birth – “Ha, you have your own Zuma now!” a South African commented on Facebook in the wake of Trump’s victory – but it is a thriving democracy, with a free press and a black government, which is worlds better than what it was.

Things haven’t been quite so clear here as they were in apartheid South Africa. For many, many years the darkness has been hidden, brushed aside, or denied altogether. After coming to the U.S., it took a few months for me to even see there was racism in this society; it took a few years to begin to understand that it was equally corrosive, perhaps actually more so for being hidden or denied.


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We Need a Revolution: Overcoming Fascism with a Movement of Love

Nov8

by: Martin Winiecki on November 8th, 2016 | Comments Off

November 9th, the day after the U.S. election, will be a peculiar anniversary. On this day in 1938, more than 1000 synagogues and 7000 Jewish businesses were burning all over Germany, set ablaze by Nazis. Going down in history as “Kristallnacht” or the “Night of Broken Glass,” this dreadful event marked the beginning of the Holocaust, resulting in six million Jews killed in less than seven years.

History reverberates in an eerie manner these days. In the United States, the anger and hatred that has long been boiling in millions of people has now found its political outlet.

No matter whether or not he will be elected president, Trump’s success has been unprecedented and overwhelming. His simple message resonates in large parts of American society, in people who have long felt betrayed, abused, and disenfranchised by an alienated ‘establishment.’ Trump wins against all reasoning of decency because he recklessly breaks what his supporters most despise: ‘political correctness.’ He understands how to play the emotional piano of the masses; he’s the ultimate caricature of a society teeming with universal corruption and sexual perversion.


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The Big, Orange Shofar

Oct10

by: Mike Rothbaum on October 10th, 2016 | Comments Off

Donald Trump shouting with an orange face.

If Donald Trump’s campaign was hoping for strong support from American Jews, they are surely disappointed. Trump’s support among Jewish voters is at an historically low 19%. There is an active website with contributions from rabbis and Jewish leaders called jewsagainsttrump.com. The Jewish social justice organization Bend the Arc has shared a satirical video of Jewish grandparents threatening to haunt their offspring if they vote for Trump. Rabbis, normally fearful of running afoul of congregants and IRS regulations, are openly considering speaking against the man on the High Holidays.

For many Jews, the choice is obvious. Trump’s use of xenophobic language about Latinos plays to white America’s basest instincts. His record of slurs against women he finds unattractive is shameful; and his boasting about assaulting women he does find attractive even more so. He all but bragged at the first Presidential debate about his record of shady business ethics. His proposals for a “shutdown” of immigration from Muslim nations calls to mind the religious bigotry that has plagued Jewish communities over the centuries. And there is, of course, the stereotypical Jew-hatred Trump himself shared in a room of Jews, during a meeting with the Republican Jewish Coalition, in which he referred to Jews as deal “negotiators” and claimed we would not support him “because I don’t want your money.”

For Jews, of course, this isn’t just election time. It’s also the Yamim Noraim, the awesome days in which we are invited to confront our own failings and shortcomings. A key part of that process is the sounding of the shofar. The cry of the shofar is designed to wake us up from our ethical slumber, an alarm clock of the conscience.

So while it may make us feel good, or even smug, to say that we’re better than Mr. Trump, to do so would miss the point of this time of year. Our reaction to Trump’s candidacy, instead, is an invitation to look at our own actions, as individuals and in Jewish community. What if we saw him not just as a man who evokes hatred and fear, but as a walking talking wake-up call, a big orange shofar reminding us to get our own houses in order? Consider the following:

  • Racism and xenophobia. Most Jews are rightly outraged by Trump’s shocking comments about Mexicans, and his support of racist stop-and-frisk policing initiatives. But what is our record as Jews? Do we respect and honor the 1-in-5 Jews in our communities who are Jews of color? Do we actively support Jews of color taking leadership positions? Do Ashkenazi Jews say “we Jews” when we really mean “white Jews?” Do we ensure our publicity materials and school textbooks feature Jews of color? If we are employers and landlords, do we give fair consideration to people of color as employees and renters? Do we challenge a criminal justice system that unfairly and disproportionately targets people of color?
  • Sexism and misogyny. Trump’s comments about women are despicable. But they reflect a culture that too often judges women’s worth by their appearance. How do we challenge that culture? Do we pressure Jewish women to “look pretty” so they can “find a husband?” Do we challenge gender roles that shut women out of our most cherished Jewish rituals? Do we raise up young girls to be scholars? Do our congregations consider women as rabbinical candidates? Do we challenge congregants who say they could “never pray with a woman rabbi,” or who judge the women who do serve as rabbis on the basis of their hair and clothes?
  • Business Ethics. Trump made jaw-dropping comments boasting how it was “smart business” not to pay contractors and skirt his tax obligations. How do we fare on that score? Do we see paying workers and supporting the public good as the mitzvot that they are? Do we take seriously the volumes of Jewish learning regarding business ethics, or subordinate those teachings to “more important” mitzvot like kashrut and Shabbat observance? Do we see supporting civil society and keeping “honest scales” as the holy obligations that they are?
  • Islamophobia.  While we’re right to challenge Jew-hatred and ensure our safety and the safety of our children, do we do what we can to make sure that doesn’t slide into bigotry? Do we criticize Muslim Jew-hatred and give a pass to the Jew-hatred that comes from our Christian neighbors? Have we made the effort to meet the Muslims who live in our towns, go to our schools, work in our offices?
  • Jew-hatred. Trump’s snide remarks about Jewish “negotiators” were rightly condemned. But how many times have we heard the same language used within the walls of our own homes and communities? Do we make the easy joke about Jews being cheap? When we hear our kids make these kinds of jokes, do we challenge our children to love themselves and take pride in their remarkable heritage of learning, personal and social ethics, and tzedakah?

One last thought. Donald Trump is, sadly, not the only one to make regrettable comments during this election season. While it pales in comparison to Trump’s despicable record, it was nonetheless disappointing that Hillary Clinton labeled half of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables.” Racism, homophobia, and xenophobia are, indeed, deplorable. But there is a difference between labeling actions deplorable, and writing off people as deplorable. To take Judaism seriously, and to take the process of teshuvah seriously, means to reject the idea that people are irredeemable.  To her credit, Clinton has since apologized for the statement.

“Free will is granted to all,” wrote the Rambam, the renowned medieval Jewish commentator. “There is no one who can prevent a person from doing good or bad,” he continued. We ourselves decide “whether to be learned or ignorant, compassionate or cruel, generous or miserly.”

As the new year dawns, and the election season mercifully comes to a close, may we commit to making ourselves and our communities learned, compassionate, and generous. And having done so, may we commit to bringing that same spirit to our neighbors, or towns, and — God willing — our whole world.

A slightly different version of this article was first published in The Blogs section on The Times of Israel and reprinted with their permission.

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Rabbi Mike Rothbaum serves as Bay Area Co-Chair for Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, and lives withhis husband, Anthony Russell, in Oakland. He has been extensively involved with faith-based social justice organizations, and spoken widely at conferences and rallies, from Moishe House to the House of Representatives. His writing and speaking has been featured in Tikkun, the Huffington Post, KQED radio, CNN, and Zeek.

MORE:

Come Celebrate High Holidays with Tikkun and Rabbi Michael Lerner in Berkeley this Octoberby Staci Askelrod

An Autopsy of the Bernie Sanders Campaign by Dan Brook

Reflections on Yom Kippur and Mideast Peaceby Ron Hirsch

Minorityphobia: A Letter to American Minorities

Oct10

by: Nazir Harb Michel and Murali Balaji on October 10th, 2016 | Comments Off

Dear Fellow Minorities,

We are not writing this piece as individuals. We are not even writing this as Brown people in America or members of the Islamic or Hindu faiths. We’re not writing this as academics or researchers or activists.

Rather, we’re writing this as minorities to all our fellow minorities in America. But we also hope that those of you in the majority are paying attention because this concerns us all.

We Have To Stop The Circular Firing Squad of Inter-Minority Prejudice and Violence Right Now

As we are living through this nasty spike in anti-Muslim rhetoric and attacks, we need to keep in mind that the incidents are increasing, not decreasing, as we near the November elections. So far in 2016, there’s been an attack against Muslims in the U.S. every 13 hours. And it’s important that we realize as minorities that these attacks, which seem to target Muslim immigrants, aren’t shouldered by the American Muslim or Middle Eastern communities alone. They’re affecting other minorities too.


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Tikkun’s Interview with Dr. Jill Stein

Sep7

by: Rabbi Michael Lerner and Ari Bloomekatz on September 7th, 2016 | 5 Comments »

Conducted by Tikkun Editor Rabbi Michael Lerner and Tikkun Managing Editor Ari Bloomekatz in August, 2016.

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JILL STEIN

I’m feeling so much appreciation for your work here as I look over some of your website and some of the really important things you’ve been talking about forever.

 

RABBI LERNER

Thank you, Jill. As you know, Tikkun is a 501-c-3 nonprofit, and contributions to make Tikkun able to continue to function are tax-deductible. So we are not allowed by IRS rules to endorse a candidate or be identified with a candidate or, a political party. So we will continue to seek to interview other major candidates and have requested interviews with Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

Could you help our readers differentiate what you stand for from what Bernie Sanders stands for? And if there isn’t a difference, why don’t you run in the Democratic Party where your voice might have much greater impact because of their access to the media?

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A Response to Cherie Brown’s Article on The Movement for Black Lives Platform and Israel

Sep1

by: Donna Nevel on September 1st, 2016 | 4 Comments »

Screenshot from https://policy.m4bl.org

[Managing Editor's note: Cherie Brown, the founder and executive director of the National Coalition Building Institute, recently published an online piece in Tikkun that addressed controversy over a portion of The Movement for Black Lives platform the dealt with Israel/Palestine. You can read that piece here. The article below, from Donna Nevel, is a response to that article. Neither represents the official position of Tikkun. For Tikkun's official stances, please refer to the editorials published in the print magazine, which you can subscribe to at www.tikkun.org/subscribe.]

The Movement for Black Lives recently put forth a profound platform that, as Robin D. G. Kelley wrote, “is actually more than a platform. It is a remarkable blueprint for social transformation that ought to be read and discussed by everyone.”

Cherie Brown’s piece on what progressive Jews should be thinking about in relation to this platform – specifically what it says about Israel and Palestine – does not remotely reflect the deeply thoughtful, kind, loving, liberatory nature of that platform or of the Palestinian-led work for justice in Palestine and the world-wide solidarity among so many different communities. Rather, her article caricatured and misrepresented that work for justice.

1. Brown writes: Many Jews on campus report an atmosphere of intimidation when Jews question the validity ofBDS, even if they otherwise support Palestinian rights.”

In addition to this acontextual statement and lack of any documentation for the assertion she makes, Brown’s description of what students are experiencing on campuses leaves out a crucial picture of the (well-documented) harassment and intimidation of Palestinian students, Muslim student groups, and those promoting justice for Palestine. For detailed information that Brown did not include about what’s happening on campuses, please see two reports – one from Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), (“The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack in the U.S.”) that documents the suppression on U.S. campuses of advocacy for Palestinian human rights, and another from Jewish Voice for Peace (“Stifling Dissent: How Israel’s Defenders Use False Charges of Anti-Semitism to Limit the Debate on Campus”)that documents how Muslim and Arab students are being targeted, the bullying tactics of a range of American Jewish organizations, and the ways Israel advocacy groups intimidate student government to silence debate.


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Poem on the Murders

Jul12

by: Anita Barrows on July 12th, 2016 | 4 Comments »

Phliando Castile was an African-American Nutrition Services Department supervisor at a Montessori School in suburban Minnesota. He was shot dead by police on July 6 after being stopped for a broken tail light. His girlfriend, Diamond Lavish Reynolds, immediately began narrating his murder on her phone (sent out via Facebook) as she sat beside him while he was dying in the car. Her four year old daughter, also in the car, witnessed everything.

This is for you, Diamond Lavish Reynolds,

before your name disappears among so many

others, before your voice

is forgotten, before you wake up

one morning, still just 24, your child

beside you, and find only the goneness

on the other side of the bed.This is for you

on the morning you wake and wonder

what you are going to do now

with your life, how you are going to talk

to the four-year-old child who saw the cop

fire the gun at Philando, the child you called

your “angel,” your first consolation.

This is for you when the news has stopped talking

about what happened, when the news has passed on

to other deaths.This is for you

in this country of guns, of cruelty, of dismissal;

for you, Diamond

Lavish Reynolds, on some humid morning

in August, as you push the blankets

away, your child

curled in sleep, so small,

and walk into the bathroom and look for the first

time in weeks carefully

at your face in the mirror, ask yourself how

you are going to live

now with only this absence,

one of your eyes consumed with grief, the other

with outrage.How can we hold this

with you, how can we make your tears not

another deleted narrative?

Anita Barrows is a poet, translator, and psychologist in Berkeley, California. She is a professor at The Wright Institute and maintains a private practice.

Safety, Unearned

Jul11

by: Irwin Keller on July 11th, 2016 | Comments Off

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on Irwin Keller’s blogand is reprinted here with permission of the author.

On Saturday morning, December 13, 2014, racism saved my life. It was maybe 3 am, pitch dark, and I was in Winthrop, WA – a tiny town in the Methow Valley, east of the Snoqualmie National Forest. We had performed there that night – theKinsey Sicks, that is, America’s Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet, including me. This was one of my last performances with the group. I was to have an official swansong at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre the next night, and then the denouement of a couple shows in the Midwest over the next week.

We loaded out of the the theater – a large converted barn, actually – around midnight. We rested for a few hours in hotel rooms that were barely worth having paid for. Then it was time to start the long, snowy drive to Seattle to catch our early-morning San Francisco flight.

With a population of around 400, Winthrop was deserted at this hour. We pulled out of the hotel toward Main Street and paused at the stop sign to get our bearings. We were bone-tired and punchy. Jeff, who plays Trixie, was pulling up the navigation on his phone, but paused first to turn on an interior light and take a group selfie, to show the world how hideously unslept we were.

I noticed a vehicle coming toward us. It had also reached Main Street and was at the stop sign directly across from us. It seemed to be waiting for us to go, so I turned right onto Main Street. The other car turned to follow us. The navigation hadn’t quite kicked in and within a minute or so we missed the on-ramp to the freeway we needed. We saw our error instantly. I stopped just beyond the ramp, hoping the car behind us would pass, so I could just back up and grab the ramp. There were no other cars for miles.

But the other car stopped too. I stuck my hand out the window, waving for it to pass. It didn’t.

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