I have written before about being Jewish in America. There is no denying that I am white and that my life has known privilege because of my skin color. Even though, as a Jew I belong to one of the most historically persecuted groups in the world, I always felt safe in the US.
Donald Trump changed that. When the white supremacists were marching in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us,” Trump said there were “fine people on both sides.” He has consistently refused to repudiate his bigoted supporters. When Joe Biden asked him to reject the Proud Boys in a presidential debate, his response was “stand back and stand by.”
We learned last week that he was signaling those radicals to be ready to march on Washington, D.C. It’s been clear for a while that many of Trump’s followers are white supremacists, people who believe that white people are superior to all other races. Even though my skin is white, these racists do not consider me, or any Jew, a member of the “white race.” While most of the mob appeared to be wearing Trump gear, a couple of notable exceptions chilled me. One man was wearing a shirt that said “Camp Auschwitz,” referring to the notorious German concentration camp. Another was wearing a shirt that said “6MWE” or Six Million Wasn’t Enough, in reference to the number of Jews killed by the Nazis in World War II. Suddenly even with white skin my country doesn’t feel safe anymore.
In a powerful video he released after January 6, Arnold Schwarzenegger tells of how the people breaking the window of the Capitol reminded him of Kristallnacht, also known as “The Night of Broken Glass.” For two days in November of 1938 Jewish people and businesses were targeted in what is considered the start of the German “Final Solution,” the plan to exterminate all Jews in Germany and the countries it subjugated. While I was born a decade after the end of World War II, I had the same reaction as Schwarzenegger to seeing the terrorists breaking the windows of our Capitol.
On Holocaust Remembrance Day I wrote about my uncle’s experience with a German family at the end of World War II. It was a story of reconciliation and unity. But after the events of January 6, I add my voice to the demands for accountability before unity.
I’ve spent the last few days watching cable news and I’ve been struck by the voices of people of color, whose history has had far too much persecution and hatred. They are calling for justice and accountability, not unity or forgiveness. I think the unity that all minorities, including Jews, should be seeking is amongst all of the groups the white supremacists have targeted. All of us have a history of being singled out by hate, and we should be natural allies in this battle.
I appeal to other minorities and people of color to remember that although many Jews have white skin, that didn’t save the six million from the Nazis, and while it is easier for us to blend in among them, none of us would be safe in a country governed by white supremacists. Let’s fight together to save our country from the evil that threatens to destroy our democracy.
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