The dominant non-Jewish White person's relationship to Nazism and antisemitism has always been symbolic and rhetorical.— Sarah Hamburg (@sarahrhamburg) November 27, 2016
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I'm a Buddhist now, but I was raised Jewish. And I still identify that way culturally. So when the tweet up there showed up on my timeline (retweeted by April Hathcock), something started to bubble up inside. I'm guessing, if demographic statistics are anything to go by, that most of the people reading this post are not Jewish. In the past I know that my gentile friends are astonished at the experiences I've had, but it's important to know these things, so I decided to share a sampling of my experiences with antisemitism. I'm going to share small ones and big ones, because Sarah Hamburg is right - most people don't encounter real, live antisemitism.
Small: In high school, I was called "kike" by the younger brother of one of my closest friends. He thought he was being funny, and other people laughed. I know I didn't cry, and I'm pretty sure my friend made their younger sibling apologize, but I knew I could never trust that person - or anyone who laughed - again.
Large: The synagogue I attended when I was a child, the building where my father's funeral service was held, was desecrated with swastikas. I felt so safe, so loved, in that building when I was young. The rabbi and his wife embraced me and my family when we joined the synagogue, and it's one of the few places where I've ever felt like I actually belonged and was welcome. Those swastikas took that from me.
Small: When I was 7, my parents bought a house in a nice suburb of Boston. I immediately set out to make friends with kids in the neighborhood - I'm a gregarious person, after all - and I ended up meeting a girl close to my age right next door. Success! However, a couple of weeks later, the little girl who lived in the house next door yelled at me when she found out we were Jewish: "I never would have wasted macaroni and cheese on you if I'd known you were a Christ killer!"
Large: If I want to visit my father's grave, I have to contact the board that is in charge of the cemetery because they have to keep it locked up with a chain link fence. They have to do this to keep people from desecrating the graves because it's a Jewish cemetery. And to drive the point home: he's buried north of Boston, in Massachusetts, where people are supposedly liberal and open and accepting.
Small: At a previous library, I was told I was over-reacting, and that a work party wasn't just Christmas, because they played "White Christmas" (which was written by Irving Berlin, who was Jewish). I don't know if the person who said this to me actually believed what they were saying, but I'll always remember that almost nobody else spoke up to correct that person.
Small: I've been called "[word]-nazi" multiple times in my life. "Grammar Nazi" mostly, and some "Table Nazi" when I worked in a restaurant. It's ridiculous to compare anyone to a fascist, genocidal regime for things like a predilection for correcting grammar or wanting the tables to be done according to spec at the end of a shift, but it stings extra hard for someone who is Jewish.
As hard as this all may have been for you to read, please know that this is only a sampling of things I've experienced. Never mind the ever-present micro-aggressions - things that are easily brushed off by people who aren't on the receiving end.
One other thing: I didn't publish this to make you feel bad. I published it to let you know that racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate, have always been a part of the culture in the US. It's going to be worse now, so you need to believe people. And you need to speak up when you witness this kind of hate.