a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

The End of an Era

Posted on: January 14, 2012

On Thursday the Sisterhood Blog of the Jewish Daily Forward ran my final thoughts on Shit X Says to X.  Meme-o-rama has come to an end, at least for me it has.  This isn’t to say that I still won’t be trying to get an interview with Francesca Ramsey, it just means that I won’t be writing anything else about things that people say.

I’ve learned a lot over the past two weeks listening to friends share their experiences of really messed up things they’ve been asked.  I’ve laughed uncomfortably at videos and wondered if I’ve said those things.  Most importantly, I’ve had really great conversations with strangers from all over the U.S., thanks to Facebook and Twitter about how to learn and grow from these experiences.  There are too many lessons to put in one post, but these four are a great start.

1-Think before you speak.

I don’t think that asking questions is wrong.  I don’t think curiosity is wrong and I don’t think that wondering about a person is a bad thing, it can only lead to conversation.  I don’t think people should be afraid to speak to people who are different than them, or that people should feel like they can’t express themselves for fear of offending. People should talk.

Everyone should be treated as individuals, with respect and courtesy. An experience with a former colleague, late-night BET watching and owning every Woody Allen movie aren’t accurate pictures of who anyone is.   Asking asinine questions or make ignorant remarks isn’t just rude and insensitive, it’s horrible manners.

My mother always said you should treat people the way you want to be treated.  Jesus said do unto others as you would have them do unto you, a message he probably got from his rabbi, Hillel who said that which is hateful to you, do not do to another.  My mom is a smart lady, and those other two guys were too, take their advice.

2-Don’t stop learning.

You thought I was going to say “don’t stop believing, didn’t you?”  I thought about it, but as Jews it’s not just about believing, it’s always about learning.  We will always be learning and the lessons we learn today may not necessarily be applicable tomorrow.  This is true of anything and most of all, it’s true of humans.  We’re not all the same.  Even if you really know someone well, do you really ever know them completely?  There’s always something new to learn.

3-Make waves.

NYC’s MTA slogan is, “If you see something, say something.” It can be uncomfortable to stop water cooler jokes about Jews, blacks, Latinas, etc., etc., but we’re Jews, tikkun olam, remember?

I’ve never tolerated any type of hateful or ignorant speech in my presence.  I actually remember one of the last guys I went on a date with.  He was all wrong for me, arrogant and totally lied about how tall he was.  I was giving being straight another go so despite all of those things we went on a few dates.  We were talking on the phone one night and “C” starts in with the “N-Word”  Ni@#a this and ni@^a that.  He actually called me his Ni(7a!  It’s not a word that I tolerate and I don’t buy “taking it back and owning it” I asked him to stop using the word while speaking to me and he refused.  I hung up and deleted him from my Myspace.

4-Change starts with us.

Jewish history, gay history, and black history are wrought with suffering and anguish.  You can pretty much add any group of people here and you’d find similar stories.  The Irish, Catholics, Mexicans…we’ve all suffered and it’s part of our heritage to remember that suffering and to never forget where we’ve come from.  That suffering, the hatred of others, the enslavement of people, and the injustices we’ve experienced are part of our past, but we can’t make it our future.

In the United States blacks weren’t the first group of people to be considered subhuman, second class citizens, many came before us.  But if we always look back, how can we move forward.  Don’t misread, there is much to learn from the past.  Most of all, not to repeat the mistakes of those that came before us.  Use the lessons they’ve taught us about acceptance, tolerance, building bridges to make the future for our children brighter.

It’s not always a pretty picture, and it’s not paved in gold, but we have the ability to make changes.

 

 

So there, I’ve given up the beast, I’ve watched every single Shit X Says video in existence.  I’ve written and I’m done.

Shabbat Shalom!

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