Sunday, December 28, 2014

I'm Not White, I'm Jewish!

I've been told that I'm not white, I'm Jewish. Although, racially speaking I get where they are coming from, I however, have probably no Mid-Eastern blood in me at all. I am Irish and German. As white as you can get. I've been struggling to get some thoughts together and the best way to convey my ideas in a way people understand where I'm coming from. I think the reason I've been struggling is because I have been thinking of myself as the white person. I am realizing that although my ass glows in the dark, I was not raised as white people are raised. I was raised Jewish. It is more than a religion, it is a culture.

My family history as I know it is that I am a third generation American raised in the south by some tough Jewish Brooklyn broads brought up in an Italian neighborhood. My family came to this country the minute things didn't smell right in their home country. My great-grandmother was terribly suspicious of telephones and the government-the police especially.  My grandfather fought in WWII. I was raised in a kitchen eating onion rolls over the sink while listening to my family speak a range of languages from English to Yiddish, to Italian.  We ate Italian and Jewish food. I was forced to watch every show ever made about the Holocaust. I actually watched Schindler's List in a movie theater filled with people who were actually there (probably one of the more terrifying moments of my life). Even though I don't go to temple and eat Kosher, my cultural heritage is extremely important and ingrained in me. I, for one, will never forget.

I am more sensitive to political, racial, and social injustices. I am more suspicious of the government. Being that I don't look Jewish, I know how people really feel about us. I don't see what is happening through the eyes of the average white American even though I can pass as one. This is confusing for some people when I make the comments that I do on social media.  Some of the comments I have received from black people make me want to say "Fuck it." Nobody is going to understand where I'm coming from, everybody wants to be on the defense. But my point of view is not being represented and I think it should because it is relevant to the misconceptions people have about one another.

I have been mistreated because of my color and religion by both white and black people.  I am 32 years old.  I've been told by kids on the playground that "white people are the devil" and the aren't allowed to talk or play with me.  I've been told by a white kid, "my daddy hates Jews." I used to get beat up all the time because I was white. I used to get gum thrown in my hair, chunks of hair pulled out, spit on, my hair set on fire a few times, just because I had long pretty hair. I've had bottles and bricks thrown at me because I'm white, I've been shot at because I got lost in the wrong neighborhood which isn't hard to do in Atlanta. Teachers and students used to call me the "City Jew girl" when I attended Winder-Barrow high school in rural Georgia.  "I ain't never met a Jew before.  Where's your horns? hahahaha." I've heard white and black people go off on racist rants against Jews.

One time a black girl was telling a story and when she referred to somebody as "white trash." I knew what she meant, but she turned to me and said, "no offense."  I wasn't offended until that moment.  I told her, that's like me telling a story and calling someone "ghetto" and turning to you and saying, "no offense."  Why would you do that unless you thought I was white trash? I never liked that ghetto bitch. Anyway...back to my point.

Most young black people today have never, and will never experience the racism that their grandparents and great-grandparents had experienced (the police is a topic to be discussed later). When I asked my mother why that little boy said his grandma says white people are the devil, she told me that his grandma probably has good reason to feel that way and used that opportunity to teach me about slavery, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights movement. I have suffered a great dosage of racism myself.  I am fairly confident I have experienced a more severe degree of racism than most Americans for my generation...in "The City Too Busy to Hate." So when a 20-year-old raised in the suburbs doesn't want to deal with me because I'm white (it has happened) I don't understand what their problem is. What have white people done to you that is worse that what has been done to me and most importantly, how is that my problem? After all, I'm not white, I'm Jewish!
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"But you have white privilege," they say. "You aren't targeted and harassed by the police like black people are." Au contraire mon frere. But alas, this is a story for another time.

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