Dear white Jewish people…from another white Jewish person who was just minding her own business at a wine tasting on a sunny and unseasonably hot September Sunday at the onset of the High Holy Days.
It’s not okay to tell a racist joke that perpetuates a stereotype that black children in Harlem don’t know their fathers. It’s not okay even if the people you are sharing your “humor” with are all white and non residents of the one neighborhood in NYC that has managed to hang on to a cultural identity, much as developers try to change that fact.
A wine tasting on a Sunday when so many of my fellow citizens don’t even have clean drinking water after suffering the ravages of a destructive hurricane, and the neglect of an inhumane administration may seem like the ultimate indulgence in white privilege but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say there are probably Black, Asian and Latino people somewhere today enjoying a few vintage bottles and probably know more than this white girl, who loves white, red and rosé, does about varietals. And at $40 for the event, not out of the range of most middle-class people. Although I will say, as a person living on non-profit wages, $40 ain’t nothing. But I digress…
Judaism isn’t an accessory worn to shout wealth, privilege, and status like a classic Chanel ballet flat or Louis Vuitton purse or a diamond-studded Star of David worn around your neck. It asks, neigh demands, an adherence to a set of values that include Tikkun Olam or repair the world. Right now neo-Nazis are free to kill peaceful protestors in broad daylight and our president thinks they’re “good people”, but a peaceful protest by NFL players against institutionalized racism is worthy of loss of livelihood and a boycott. Right at this moment, Jews should be standing up proudly in solidarity with all our Black and Brown brothers and sisters who are being fired, punished, deported, detained, stopped, frisked, and murdered by killers who go unpunished.
It’s not okay to casually tell a joke that denigrates black men over Gamay Noir from the Finger Lakes and expect both a laugh and no consequence. Historically, Jewish people have been at the forefront of civil rights protests and often have suffered the same physical, verbal and emotional abuse as their Black co-demonstrators. But trotting out history is meaningless if we cannot also show our numbers TODAY! So please American Jews, let’s not brush off Charlottesville as an aberration.
To my fellow Jews who take umbrage with my words, please put your energy and focus on making sure we can do everything we can to repair this world, and not tear each other down with what we feel is clever criticism and casual racism.
But I do want to thank the racist white Jewish lady for one thing. I was experiencing a bit of classic writer’s block and she’s helped me beat it.
Beth Lauren is a writer, director, producer, and author of her memoir, Reeling: Misadventures in Moviemaking, Money, and Love. Her site www.bethlaurenltd.com is coming soon!