This post was written for Small Stones. -E
In another part of my life, I run a newsletter of social justice events. There’s a joint Jewish-Muslim event coming up, and yesterday I received an email that began,
“The Palo Alto Police Department recommends not putting it on social media, so we are refraining from that.”
My first reaction was, “Let’s advertise it! Bring on the white supremacists! Let them show their faces.” I’m not going to do that, but part of me wants to.
Folks should know: Jewish people (me. my family.) attend synagogue under armed guard in California. I grew up attending a Bay Area synagogue burnt down by white supremacists two years before my birth. Our Holocaust-survivor Cantor was injured trying to rescue the Torahs. The texts are considered holy, so they are buried and memorialized in the synagogue courtyard, for everyone to see. When I was 10, the synagogue was grafitti’d with swastikas. I never liked going to temple very much, and still don’t. I carry around the feeling, “Really? You want me to deal with this sh*t in the name of something I’m not sure I believe?” with the competing feeling of, “I’ll be damned if some bigoted jerks are going to change my behavior.”
I’m not scared, I’m angry. Incandescent, actually. Black, brown, Muslim, and immigrant lives matter. Yes, all lives matter, but especially the ones that face daily targeting and could use some extra moral support and physical protection.
All of the denigration of human worth we see happening is related. My mother’s family escaped Nazi Germany. Most of my husband’s family on his dad’s side perished, and his Polish grandmother spent World War II hiding in a basement. My nieces and nephews get evacuated from their JCCs annually due to bomb threats. Hell, so do the Christian babies of friends who use JCC preschools. I can “pass” on the street if I don’t wear a Star of David, because I’m white, but a couple weeks ago, my friend of Indian descent was told to “go home” in the Safeway parking lot in Mountain View, with his infant daughter in the car. This man is more Californian than I will ever be, and he has the flat, native California accent to prove it. A college friend’s Nigerian-American husband risked his life to photograph the supremacists in Charlottesville this past weekend. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at their family’s bravery.
I know I’m preaching to the choir, but I want to add my voice. You should care about these problems because they are immoral. You should also care because it costs taxpayer money for police to respond to racist garbage, to patrol past threatened houses of worship and community centers, to over-police largely black neighborhoods.
The things happening right now in the US are wrong. They aren’t new, but the volume is louder and it would be sinful not to respond. People needing to fear the government’s action (or inaction) is wrong. The hatefulness, whether by commission or omission, is in our systems and in our streets and we cannot accept it.
I don’t have neat answers, but I encourage you to do a little more than you’ve been doing. I’m an introvert, but I’ve found it powerful to attend solidarity rallies (I’ve only started doing this in the last few months.) It’s not always because they’re directly impactful, but because it seems to help folks feel less alone—both those participating and those who pass by and smile at us. Give money to places like CAIR, Cville Solidarity, the SPLC, or any other causes that move you. Ask your friends what they’re doing and tag along. Get together with friends or your faith community and invite a speaker to teach you about Black Lives Matter. Try to stretch a little past your comfort zone, as a demonstration of the fact that you care.
Sending love to you.