a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Mourning Trayvon Martin on Tisha B’Av

Posted on: July 15, 2013

971675_10201399101356804_1171362016_nWhen MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry said on Sunday evening that our country makes her wish away black sons I felt a pit grow in my stomach. As we start to think about starting a family I’m struck and also worried. What if we have sons. Because we’re a biracial couple, we’re searching for donors who will reflect our ethnic make-up. Of course, the children I bear will look different than the children she bears, but in the eyes of society they’ll be black.

It was after my first brit experience that I truly started thinking about the differences between having a son and having a daughter. As my colleague’s husband’s voice quivered during the service and the little boy wailed in pain I felt conflicted. Could I do that to my son? Now, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman and an eruption of pseudo-racist rants from his supporters I have the same worry. Is this world we live in a place to raise black boys?

I’ve only ever fasted on Yom Kippur. Not on the fast of Esther or the Fast of Gedaliah. Tisha B’Av has come and gone with me happily eating. This year will be different. This year I will be fasting on Tisha B’Av, but not for the destruction of the Temple, for the injustice and racism that is ravaging our country. When I mentioned on my Facebook page that the destruction of the Temple didn’t speak to me I got the following comment: “Not having a temple, and thus being bereft of that concentration of Hashem’s presence in the world, has increased the injustice in the world.”

I liked the comment, because it’s a reflective response, but I can’t accept it. I don’t believe that if the Temple stood that the world would be void of justice. The world we live in is a world that systematically oppresses the weak, the marginalized, the poor, the less fortunate. The world we live in assaults gay and trans people for who they are. The world we live in denies equal pay to women, denies women the rights to our own bodies and kills and profiles people based on the color of their skin. I don’t and have never believed in a Gd that is on high looking down on the world, but I do believe that if Gd could shake its head it would. I believe that Gd mourns who we’ve become and only we, not Gd, can change that fact.

I wrote the following for The Sisterhood.

Tonight is the beginning of Tisha B’Av, a fast day I’ve never kept because it never spoke to me. The idea of the 9th of Av being the saddest day in Jewish history because of the Temple’s destruction or the expulsion of Jews from Spain — these devastation don’t speak to me as a black, Jewish woman. Instead, like I do with all Jewish holidays, this Tisha B’Av has taken a modern-day significance.

I will be mourning for the loss of a child whose only crime was the color of his skin, I will be praying for the Martin family, my family and the millions of others who are, no doubt, holding their children a little closer. I’m mourning the loss of innocence. I’m mourning the loss of personal freedom. I’m mourning a country that continues to systematically marginalize and penalize people of color. I’m praying for the courage of people who truly have no idea what this feels like to really think about and consider what it is to have privilege in this world so bound by racism.

Read the rest here.

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