I was reading a Twitter thread with the hashtag of 'Jewish privilege.' In the fractured, angry world of today, I couldn't quite guess what that meant, so I clicked.
I found two types of comments. One was from many Jewish people sharing heartbreaking stories of the atrocities that they and their families had faced, both in the present and in times past.
The other type of comment, often posted in direct response to these sad stories, were hateful, vicious, mockingly cruel comments by veiled and unveiled neo-Nazis.
Apparently the Nazis started the hashtag, intending to spout their poisonous thoughts and hundreds of Jewish people co-opted it for an opportunity to educate people like me instead. They don't seem fazed by the Nazi hate, but I might be wrong. It fazed me though.
After reporting a number of the more hateful ones to the Twitter police, I started to understand the enormity of the problem. I got into a skirmish with one of the veiled Nazis over his attempt to drive a wedge between blacks and Jews by creating a competition saying that Jews had suffered 'much more than blacks.' As though black people have no beef and should be quiet.
I asked him why he felt that sharing that opinion was helpful. No useful answer came back.
In this moment in history, where formerly unaware whites have been 'woke,' many are starting to see. We see the relentless prejudice, the shameless corruption, the easy dismissal, the casual stereotyping, and, most vividly, the complete lack of the 'benefit of the doubt' that is part and parcel of what has been called 'white privilege' but is really just simple human decency.
We see the anger of our brothers and sisters and we may for the first time have a slight understanding of its origin.
We see the hypocrisy of people who vilified athletes for kneeling in protest, with even the president calling them 'sons of bitches.'
We see these same people, responding to the unrest in the wake of the George Floyd murder by calling the protestors 'thugs' and 'anarchists' who 'want to destroy our country.' As though it wasn't their country too.
Apparently peaceful protests weren't acceptable, but neither are angry protests that sometimes become violent when the police guess wrong as to how to deal with them.
We don't condone violence or looting or vandalism, but for the first time, many of us are understanding the anger behind it. We aren't 'anti police.' The people who want to create that false either/or are the ones who are tearing society apart at its seams.
We see crimes like the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by the police, and the casual approach the authorities took to finding the racially motivated killers of Ahmaud Arbery. We cannot imagine why it is taking so long and is so tortured a process to hold the killers accountable.
This is what they mean by 'structural racism.' The 'structure' in question is the very small box in which black, Jewish, female, indigenous, Latinx, gay and transgender people reside, against their will, for the benefit of others. When they understandably seek to get out of those boxes, their oppressors push back. Hard.
Floyd was killed after someone called the police because they thought he was committing a non-violent crime. Floyd went from being accused of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill to being dead in just a few tragic minutes.
Had this been an isolated incident, it would not have resonated across the world the way it has. Instead of being a one-off, the video touched off a spate of other videos, pictures, and many more stories of atrocities some of which were even more disturbing than the Floyd case.
It may have been the video that shook us awake, seeing a man literally choked to death right in front of us. I'm not sure why other less-vivid video and photographic depictions didn't cause the same outrage, but that's a moot point now.
Maybe we just wanted to stay asleep. But now, at least some of us are wide awake.
In a just world, all would agree that treating another person this way is not acceptable. But there are some (though not as many as before) who insist on remaining asleep.
And there are a few for whom the escape from those small boxes by these groups is so abhorrent that they've been awake the whole time. They've been standing next to the boxes to make sure no one gets out. They are as angry as they are ignorant, substituting guns and audacity for intelligence and reason. And decency.
As for the rest of us, those with whom we have allied ourselves in support doubt our resolve. They have good reason. At various times in the past, white people seemed to jump in on the side of the oppressed. But when push came to shove the resolve wasn't there and when things got heated, the alliance melted.
While they are glad to have any outside support, many blacks don't trust whites to stay in the fight. They know that the real goal of many is to remove Donald Trump from office, but they fear that the larger cause will be abandoned if and when that relatively short term objective has been achieved.
Jews would love the help as well, but they've been disappointed so many times over thousands of years by alliances that failed, they don't even seek it anymore.
Though their doubts are well-founded, woke white people and others have to keep their adult ADD in check. This is especially true for white Christians, many of whom have fallen for the deceitful message of 'what about?' As in 'What about gay marriage?' As in 'What about abortion?' As in 'What about offensive movies and television?' As in 'What about crude language in music?'
As always, the most clarifying question is 'What would Jesus do?'
Would He side with those who oppress and abuse for their own enrichment?
Would He support those who are the modern day Pharisees? These are the people who add to and subtract from, and cherry-pick God's word to defend policies that are clearly not in the category of 'loving one another?'
Would He trade Christian (His) values, His followers, and the votes that come with them for political access and the (earthly) power that comes with it?
Anyone who has even a passing familiarity with Jesus knows the answer to these questions is simply, 'no.' His ministry was the reaching out to the sinners, which includes everyone, but Jesus spent time with the victims. Jesus loved the oppressed, the poor, the maligned, the unclean, the criminals, tax collectors, prostitutes and anyone upon whom society looked down.
The answer starts by asking why.
Why do I feel like this?
Where did I get these ideas?
Is there any basis in logical fact?
What does the Bible say?
Am I behaving in a way that I feel comfortable when I eventually stand before Jesus on the day of judgement? Will He be supportive of my biases against others for simply being who they are?
The answer is clear. If your mirror is showing you someone with hidden or not-so-hidden hatreds, find a way to get rid of them. It can take a while, but you have to start.
The first step is to simply be grateful for who you are and what you have. God made you this way, so stop comparing yourself to other people. It's through comparing ourselves to others that insecurity, disdain, prejudice, and judgement arise and limit our ability to love others and to love God.
Heavenly father, you created us, each in your image, but that doesn't mean we're the same.
In your perfect wisdom, you created each of us as unique works of art.
Help us to appreciate ourselves, and not be so hard on ourselves. We're not perfect, after all.
Help us also to appreciate the unique individuals around us.
Everyone is different and everyone is also a unique work of art, created by the original master craftsman, our heavenly father.
Guard our hearts and minds from hatred of anyone, realizing we are all special in our own ways, and instead learning to love one another as we are.
We thank you for the endless variety of your creation, in nature, and especially amongst your people.
In Jesus' holy name, AMEN!
God bless you.
Jim Donaher is a writer, blogger, and author of the soon to be published, "Call Him, He's Home: Learning Prayer to Start and Grow Your Relationship with God" Click the title to read an excerpt.
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