Blog by Nina Freedman, Bristol J-Soc
In recent days, the media has been flooded with news of George Floyd and the despicable police brutality which is coming to light. George Floyd was a 46-year-old Black man who died after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for 8 minutes while he was pinned to the floor in Minneapolis. The conversations about race that this has sparked are unbelievably important and present an opportunity for us all to evaluate our privilege. It has allowed the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, founded in 2013, to once again come to the fore and reminds us why we need to be constantly working to fight racism in all its forms.
I come from a completely Ashkenazi background, I am white and am afforded a significant privilege compared to Black people. I therefore feel it is my obligation to use this privilege to speak out as a white ally to both Jewish and non-Jewish Black people.
Though I may have experienced anti-Jewish racism in my life, I know I won’t ever experience prejudice because of the way I look. I know that I am afforded countless privileges in education, careers and so much more because of the colour of my skin. I won’t be stopped by the police because I look ‘suspicious’ or treated with hostility if I hang around with a group of my friends at night-time. And I reap the benefits of an engrained subconscious bias every day. Because of this, it is my duty to speak out as a white ally to Black people.
Just as we would expect others to speak out if we were facing this level of antisemitism, so too we should be speaking out as allies to Black people all around the world. We cannot in good faith as a Jewish people sit back and watch the systematic oppression of another minority continue.
Not only is this a matter of morality and principle, but Jewish law commands us to do so.
We are commanded in Vayikra (19:18) to “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” In practice, this mandates us to show love and compassion for our Black neighbours and care for them as we would ourselves.
Furthermore, the Jewish people are committed to the notion of ‘Tikkun Olam’ – ‘repairing the world’, which has come to represent social justice and healing in the context of today. Racism is a scourge on the world and is something that we should be constantly working to eradicate as a Jewish people.
I’m sure that I and many others have been left with a feeling of helplessness in the face of this seemingly insurmountable problem. Racism has become so engrained in our culture that it seems impossible to eradicate. But there are steps that you as an individual can and should be taking in order to start effecting change.
I would like to preface this by saying that this is by NO MEANS a comprehensive list of steps you could be taking or resources that you should be using to educate yourselves. But this is just an example of what I have found helpful and a suggestion of the places that you can start.
You can sign some petitions calling on the people in power to take action:
You can donate to some of these places to give financial aid to the cause:
https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd - the George Floyd Memorial Fund which supports the Floyd family.
https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019 - Black Lives Matter movement
https://minnesotafreedomfund.org/ - the Minnesota Freedom Fund which pays criminal bail and immigration bond for those who cannot afford to.
https://www.blackvisionsmn.org/ - the Black Visions Collective which is dedicated to Black liberation and long-term change.
https://www.joincampaignzero.org/#vision – Campaign Zero which aims to end police brutality in America.
You can read some books in order to champion the work of Black authors and understand this issue further:
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad
White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Even just following some social media accounts which are vocal on this issue is a good first step, such as:
Color of Change
In a time when most of us have constant access to the Internet, there is no excuse for ignorance. We have a duty to consciously educate ourselves on these issues and become active allies. We need to actively challenge racist ideologies and opinions when and where we can. If you stay silent during this time, then you are continuing to be a part of the problem. I hope that people take these steps to start educating themselves and understanding the responsibility and opportunity we carry as Jews, as students, as people.
Black lives matter.