So many emotions are running through me at the moment, so many thoughts are flashing in my head. When I heard the statement on whether the murderer of Michael Brown would be charged, a part of me already knew he wouldn’t. However the other part of me said yes, after what happened to Trayvon–or the countless murders that the media did actually report–the American justice system would prove to the world that it does actually hand out justice for all the black families that have lost young women and men due to overzealous trigger happy law enforcement.
Unfortunately I was wrong.
I was wrong on so many levels, and that frustration turned to sheer anger. Angry at the murderer not being charged, angry at the unjust system that fails to protect black children from police sanctioned murder, and angry that once again people are so blind to white privilege.
During those moments of rage, I`m not going to lie, I said some horrible things.
I called on direct violence and confrontation and an end to this passive non-resistance stance that I had long held so dear. For years now I accepted that as black people we must accept the narrative of non-violence and peaceful protest to advance our goals. In some aspects I still agree with that vision, but after the events of what has occurred this week…not so much.
As a people we must no longer accept the racist biased opinion formulated by the system and its supporters to promote the “ideal peaceful black protester.” It seems America only listens to the angry black person on CNN shouting and destroying property but yet scolds us for not acting like that wonderful dear passive Martin Luther King Jr.
The sad fact is while MLK stood for non-violence he didn`t condemn rioting and nor did he condone it. He understood when a people have been oppressed for so long they must raise up and use violence to show the oppressor, no more.
I`m reminded of the story of Hanukkah as we`ve now entered the month of Kislev. Eight days of celebration against Greek state tyranny who killed Jews for being Jews. Can we make allusions to the plight of our ancestors fighting a system that is unfair to African-Americans being gunned down on the street?
I would argue yes, as Jews we have experienced more than enough sorrow and torment, but as people of colour, we have experienced downright double degradation. I won`t be that person however who claims it’s this perfect world in the Jewish sphere, because its not. On top of dealing with the injustice of the state system we must also deal with the injustice of the Jewish system. We must deal with those comments questioning whether we are truly Jewish to downright discrimination in rabbis refusing to marry us.
In this entire discussion I think the worst part of it all is the absolute refusal of a lot of whites I’ve talked to, to accept white privilege as a reality. My lion`s anger erupted after I read social media and it couldn’t be contained when I saw posts and images the day after the statement. Posts and images calling blacks to forget racism and move on, a black man is president so we live in a post-racial society. I saw people arguing for us angry black folk to understand what Wilson must be feeling and not all cops are racist and gun down black children for fun. I finally realized this afternoon on the bus to campus looking out the window staring at the dark clouds and talking to Hashem, I shouldn`t feel anger for this ignorant people.
I should feel sadness for them, I should feel remorse them.
Remorse that they have hardened their hearts too much to the point where they will defend a man shooting a young boy for “not listening” or “stealing from a store.” These are the people who have never had the police stop them, never had the police ask them questions for just walking in their neighbourhoods. Never dealt with a justice system that is much tougher on black people/criminals than white people/criminals.
These are the same people who think the justice system–not just in the United States, but in Canada as well–is perfectly fine, even though in Canada alone, blacks make up 2.9% of our population and yet over 10% of our federal prison inmates are Black Canadians.
These are the same people who tell black people to “Calm down, you`re overeacting” and invalidating that our experiences are racism by saying “What about racism against white people?” After awhile you become use to it, then you become frustrated by it and after years of listening and dealing with all this white privilege in life, the system, and within Judaism itself, you finally explode and you tell yourself “Enough!”.
On the day the State of Missouri refused to prosecute Darren Wilson, I finally exploded.
I remember a quote from Cry Freedom in which Steven Biko tells the white Liberal South African Donald Woods what happens to black children in a society that doesn`t respect them:
“Your parents try, but in the end, you only get the education the white man will give you. Then you go to the city to work or shop, and you see their streets, their cars, their houses, and you begin to feel there is something not quite right about yourself. About your humanity. Something to do with your blackness because no matter how smart or dumb a white child is, he is born to that world. And you, a black child, smart or dumb you are born into this. And smart or dumb you die in it.”
Tyler Samuels is a liberal traditionalist Sephardic Jew, Political Science/History student at the University of Toronto and religious director of the University of Toronto Scarborough Jew Student Life. Also a small time writer and poet, Tyler runs his blog Bipolar Reb (bipolarreb.wordpress.com) that mixes Judaism, politics and mental illness.
Header image courtesy of Getty Images.