As a Jew of Eastern European decent, and complexion-wise, arguably one of the whitest people I know, I can “pass” as a white Christian Anglo every single day. Non-Jews assume my last name is German. If they ask, “Is your name German,” I have always answered “no, Hungarian”.
I was taught not to make waves. Ssshhh. Don’t draw attention to yourself.
So, it is not surprising that I have heard acquaintances, colleagues, and clients say horrible anti-Semitic statements in my presence. Some, maybe most, have no idea that I’m Jewish. Some do. What I’ve learned is that some people will say terribly bigoted and racist things and they don’t care that what they are saying is not acceptable.
It’s difficult to know what to say in response, or even when is it appropriate to respond to an anti-Semitic comment.
On two occasions, a group of women I considered friends made anti-Semitic comments in conversation in my presence. One comment was in reference to a son’s girlfriend as a “JAP” or “Jewish American Princess”. A JAP is a pejorative meaning that a girl or woman is pampered and selfish and only likes the finer things. In this instance, the girlfriend wasn’t Jewish, but the mother said that her son’s girlfriend acted like a JAP. Not too long after, one of the women was explaining how she “jewed down” a car salesman to get a better deal.
So I privately told one of the women involved that as a friend, the comments, especially the comment “I jewed him down,” were hurtful to me. She told others what I said. One of the women told me “we don’t even think of you as being Jewish”. I have no fucking idea what that even means. I can only surmise that they meant it as a compliment, which of course, is an insult. Another of the women told me that people just talk that way and that I needed to grow a thicker skin. I don’t talk to those people anymore. I don’t think they notice my absence or care that I bowed out.
I’ve realized that I cannot stay silent in the face of bigotry and racism. I grew up in a mixed race/religion neighborhood in NYC. It was a wonderful childhood in the 1960s and 1970s. I thought, apparently wrongly, we were beyond this. I thought we were better than this.
Since this last election cycle, there have been so many incidents of anti-Semitism, and other bigotry, and racism, and it makes me sick to my stomach. I’ve started using my social media presence to call out certain of these incidences because I believe that I have to point it out.
I was told that being so outspoken about my politics was hurting my business (it hasn’t. I’ve been busier than ever). When I expressed that all these incidents made me fearful, I was told I have nothing worry about. I have had difficult expressing why I am so fearful. I’ve taken the admonition to not be so vocal as a call to action with regard to anti-Semitism.
We cannot act like this doesn’t happen with “love and light” blinders. Sometimes “turn the other cheek” just doesn’t work because these bigoted, anti-Semitic, and racist people think that your silence means you agree with them.
Well I don’t agree with them and I’m no longer going to stand silent. I don’t see this as negative because sometimes you have to walk in the darkness to appreciate the light.
And anyone that doesn’t like it can kiss my tuchas.