06 May My ‘Flip Switch’ Moment
By: Greg Jobin-Leeds
Are Jews White? Is White Supremacy a Common Enemy?
My parents and grandparents were victims of white supremacy. As Jews they were not considered white in Germany. They were persecuted for it. Luckily they escaped and never experienced the concentration camps where millions died of disease, starvation or the gas chambers.
And when my parents and grandparents arrived in the U.S. in 1939, they were not considered white. There were quotas that kept many Jews out. It wasn’t ‘till 1950 that Jews “became white” in the U.S. Census. My mother was horrified to find in the nation’s capital drinking fountains that said “White Only”. She hated being forced to check off “white” when she filled out forms — she thought she had fled from such identification.
And she was well aware that she benefited from white and class privilege, even in Queens, NY in the mid 1940’s.
Fast forward 75 years and I have the honor to interview Stosh Cotler, Executive Director of Bend The Arc, a movement of tens of thousands of progressive Jews all across the country. As I interviewed Stosh, I was shocked to learn how little I knew about how my own history was connected to white nationalism. Much of what many of us know about Anti-Semitism (Anti-Jewish) hatred, philosophy and tactics is from the Nazi holocaust. But a switch flipped in my mind as I discussed this with my co-host Dey Hernández and Stosh Cotler. Stosh says that Anti-Semitism is one of the only “isms” — that liberals, progressive activists and those of us working in liberatory movements — are not studying. Stosh says we do it at our peril. That those in power in the US and white nationalists weaponize Anti-semitism in a way that divides us.
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