Jewish In America: Explaining To My Kids That People Who Have Never Met Them Hate Them
The children were playing in the kitchen. My husband and I spoke in whispers about the horror unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white nationalists and white supremacists held a “Unite the Right” rally that quickly turned violent.
Fistfights broke out; racial slurs were hurled; Nazi salutes were given. The images coming out of Charlottesville bore an eerie resemblance to 1930s Germany, compounded with the boldness of the KKK during its resurgence in 1960s America.
It physically hurts to look at the pictures. Swastikas on flags. Masked and hooded KKK members carrying torches. Bodies flying into the air as a white nationalist intentionally drove a speeding car into a crowd of counterprotesters, ending with the death of a 32-year-old woman.
As much as it pains the eyes and the heart, we must not look away. We honor those who showed up in order to defend and support us. It’s a scary time to be Jewish in America. It’s a scary time to be a person of color in America, especially if you are a Black person. It’s a scary time to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer in America.
It hurts to watch the videos and hear the chants that were coming out of Charlottesville on Saturday, August 12. “Blood and soil!” “Jews will not replace us!” “Heil Hitler!”
“Blood and Soil” was a Nazi slogan that meant ethnicity was based solely on blood descent and the territory a person maintained. “Blood and Soil” actually became a Nazi policy in 1933, and farmers needed to produce an Aryan race certificate in order to receive benefits under the law.
“Why do people hate Jews, Mama?” my youngest child asked, as we walked to school last spring.
“Because they want someone to blame when their own lives aren’t working out the way they hoped,” I said. “It’s called making someone a scapegoat. And they convince themselves that Jews are less than human, which makes it easier for them to do mean things to Jews without feeling guilty. They tell themselves that we deserve to be mistreated, that we are not their equals.”
“But I’m Jewish, Mama. Do they hate me? They don’t even know me.”
“They don’t want to know you because then it would be impossible for them to keep hating you.”
I held her warm, soft hand. I shivered with fear for what the world could do to her, to my older girls, my Jewish children.
The world has turned darker since that day last spring. My Jewish children are less safe because the alt-right people have been emboldened. We need our government, our allies, and our citizens to express unequivocal condemnation of the white nationalists. There is only one side that created the “Unite the Right” rally, and that is the side of those who called for an event rooted in hate, violence, and genocide.
What mitigates my terror is seeing how many other people are standing up for us. Thank you, thank you, thank you to the brave students who would not be cowed, who spoke up for Jews and Blacks, even when surrounded by a crowd of screaming, torch-bearing madmen and madwomen.
Thank you to the people around the country who held supportive anti-hate rallies in response to the disgusting display of white nationalism in Charlottesville. Be not silent. Be a witness. Be an ally. Be the light side of the Force.