I admire Martin Luther King Jr. tremendously. Sometimes, I wonder where we would be today without him. Sometimes, I wonder where we would be today if he had lived a longer life. In his day, many Blacks and Jews were united (click on this link to see an informative news story about this ) behind the common cause of Civil Rights. Why shouldn’t we be? Yeah, there are many differences, especially the reason why we are in this country. Jews, of course, came here voluntarily, we were looking for a better life, and/or escaping the Pogroms or the Nazis. The majority of African Americans, as we all know, came here most involuntarily. But we still have a lot in common. Historically, both of us have suffered as slaves at the hands of tyrants. We still face discrimination and we are still subjected to stereotyping by Hollywood and the media.
What is my point? Ok, I’m going to come right out and say it. There are a lot of racist Jews. Although I was raised in a house where not a racist word was ever uttered (really), I hear my fellow Jews, especially those in my parents’ generation, spout Black racist jokes and subscribe to many derogatory stereotypes. I never understood this. Why would Jews, who have been treated unfairly, treat others in such a fashion? I just don’t get that hypocrisy.
My childhood Rabbi taught me to speak up whenever I hear someone spout that racist crap (ok, he never said “crap”). He said that if we, as listeners, allow it to be said without objection, it is as if we are in agreement. Indeed, whenever I hear a racist joke or a racist comment, I ALWAYS speak up. To hell with being polite and respectful to these old folks. They can think and feel whatever they want. They can even say whatever they want (I think we still have free speech in this country, though I’m not sure) but I don’t have to stand for it. I use my right to free speech to tell them I don’t approve of that kind of talk. Won’t you? Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Hitler did not come to power with tanks and machine guns. Hitler came to power with words”. Words are powerful tools. Use them for good.