Antisemitism, White Privilege, and Racism

I was talking to my dad yesterday and he had the ignorance to say “Racism doesn’t exist anymore. We have a black president.” Then he adds, “Racism exists like antisemitism exists, it’s always going to be there but for the most part gone.” I just got really upset and mostly was speechless. I was appalled by how ignorant he was. He’s reading a book, Feminism Is For Everyone by Bell Hooks. He was unwilling to accept that fact that in the 1970’s, Hook’s felt discriminated based on gender. My dad claims he was going to school around the same time and he doesn’t remember women being discriminated against. He says it was the height of the sexual revolution. My personal assessment is that he, like most males, are oblivious to their male privilege and when anyone who’s oppressed speaks out about it, it doesn’t fit into their reality.

Racism and antisemitism are two different things. Most people forget that because Hilter went after the Jewish people as a race – but it really is just a religion. I get really annoyed when people are like “I’m a quarter Jewish” to me, that just shows lots of ignorance. In Judaism, you get your “jewishness” from your Mother. So, it’s either you are Jewish if your mother is Jewish or you aren’t. There’s no half or quarter or anything like that. You can consider yourself to be culturally Jewish or culturally half Jewish but there is a difference than being Jewish. That being said, being Jewish is something one can hide for the most part unlike race which is apparent. Racism is discrimination based on the color of your skin.

My dad claims he was beat up in school for being Jewish. I also know that my dad was a bully. He shoved a kid in a locker with his football buddies. He did all sorts of mean things so I really don’t know if they started picking on him for him being Jewish first or if it was something to add fuel to the flame because he upset them by being a real jerk. Not to say that it was right to pick on him for his religion, but if you upset people they’ll find something about you not to like.

My personal experience as being the only Jewish kid at my school, no one picked on me about that. I also grew up and a very conservative Christian area. Then again, I wasn’t a bully.

With that being said, I think my dad is very ignorant about racism in America in this day and age. He hasn’t been to the black ghettos on the outskirts of New York City. He hasn’t had Asian Pacific Islanders refuse to date him because he’s white. Nor has he gone to be an ally to people of color to only have them accuse white women of being racists for voting for Hilary instead of Obama in the primaries. He hasn’t been to a queer scene so divided between race and class that whites go to one party and people of color go to another. I have.

I don’t know how to explain what I’ve seen and experienced with my own eyes to him because anything I’d say he can deny. The talk would end with me getting really upset at his stupidity and him remaining blissfully ignorant being unwilling to accept another’s reality. He’s unwilling to admit his male privileges so why would he be anymore willing to admit his white privileges?

There’s an article written by Peggy McIntosh called White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. I highly suggest everyone go read it. Some of the privileges that McIntosh points out that she has based on simply by being white are:

– I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
– I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
– When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization”, I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
– I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who will cut my hair.
– I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
– I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
– If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.

I remember having a talk with people of color about what their reality is like. The worse thing you can do when someone is telling you an experience of theirs is to deny it. I mean, it’s really unfair that people have issues with me simply because of my skin color but people have issues with them because of theirs. Even today, my friend pointed out to me racism on Google. If you type, “I’m terrified” in the search box – the auto-complete shows up, “I’m terrified of chinese people.” It makes me sick.

What can you do? Educate yourself and be aware of the privileges you might have. There’s plenty of books about privileges and racism.

I think for the next book I give my dad to read it will be about racism. Anyone have any suggestions?

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