*Written by Cayla Brint*
2020. What a year this has been so far.
Aside from the global pandemic, racial and political tensions are at a significant high.
In my opinion, racism and equality is not a political issue. It is a humanitarian and ethical conversation that many are unwilling or too uncomfortable to engage in.
Domestically, we are becoming more polarized every day. On a political scale, I understand and can appreciate that people have different values and beliefs. However, when it comes to equality and respecting each other, I simply cannot tolerate a “side” that does not believe in an equal society.
I reiterate that equality is not, and never should be, a political conversation.
It is a black and white topic.
As a Jewish American, I exist within a minority. Minorities come in different forms, and no oppression of one minority can be compared to that of another.
This is not the oppression Olympics. We should not sit and argue about who has had it worse or which movement is more “important,” but, rather, we should stand together.
As a Jew, I have been actively involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. I have attended protests in my city of Philadelphia, and have engaged in uncomfortable conversations. I have acknowledged my privilege and taken this moment as an opportunity to learn and grow.
This past week, my own world was somewhat rattled when Desean Jackson, a player for the Philadelphia Eagles, demonstrated antisemitic beliefs through Instagram.
Jackson posted an Instagram story with an antisemitic quote from Adolf Hitler. While he has since issued an apology, the overall response to this has left me shocked.
The Eagles team issued their own apology on social media. This statement, while nice, seemed more obligatory than heartfelt.
Jackson has received minimal punishment, and the conversation quickly disappeared surrounding his behavior.
The same day the Eagles issued their statement, a former Eagles player, Malcom Jenkins, issued a statement on his personal Instagram. Jenkins is known to be an activist who promotes equality.
His quote included, “Jewish people aren’t our problem, and we aren’t their problem.”
The post includes more sentences and a video, essentially saying that this isn’t as important as the BLM movement and we can’t lose sight of that.
Seeing and reading this left me feeling deeply upset. A man who claims to be an advocate for equality has openly spoken out saying that equality only matters for his minority, completely neglecting and minimizing the severity antisemitism in today’s society
While I am not now, nor have I ever, attempting to compare or minimize one minorities oppression to another, Jenkins did just that.
Historically, the black and Jewish communities have worked together to fight for equality. Rabbis marched, with Torah in hand, alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma and other significant civil rights marches.
Being a Jew myself, I recognize the history and the oppression both of our people have faced. I can never understand the struggles people of color have endured, but I can empathize with being oppressed.
I understand the Holocaust and slavery are not the same, nor are they comparable. But, I still utilize the history of my own culture to help me fight for equality for every person.
I do everything in my power to educate myself about the persecution of my people and that of other minorities.
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to go to Poland, where I visited Holocaust concentration and death camps. I was thrown into the history of the systematic murder of my people and other minorities. I felt both a pain and an empowerment through my experiences whilst in Poland.
That pain helps to fuel empowerment, and that empowerment helps to fuel my passion for the fight for equality today.
Leaving my experiences behind in Poland, I came back to America for my senior year of high school.
It was during the year of 2019 when I got news of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. Heartbroken and confused, I got physically sick from the news.
I cannot and will not ever understand why so much anger and hate is targeted towards anyone who is different. I felt afraid, helpless and angry.
The anger that grew within me was not directed toward any individual, but rather toward the significant lack of exposure the American people have to diversity issues.
This fight is not yet over, and we can’t let something so important fizzle out. Get angry. Get passionate. Get informed. Acknowledge that you probably are uneducated to some degree, but that that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Take today as an opportunity to learn and grow.