a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Posted on: November 23, 2015

George Santayana said that. I don’t know much about George, but I do remember the first time I heard that phrase. It was on a grade school trip, we were at a monument or a park or maybe neither of those places, but I took a picture of the words etched into marble because even at just 10 or 11 years old, the words were powerful.

There are a lot of complexities to my identity as a black person, as a woman, as a Jew, as a lesbian. And if I look to the past I am flooded with a history of oppression, segregation, discrimination, death and unjust laws meant to keep me and my identities down and separate from the mainstream. So, my heart strings are plucked when crisis exists in the world and an oppressed person or persons are criminalized simply for being who they are.

Because of the terror attacks in Paris, Facebook and other social media has been flooded with some of the most vile responses that I have read. I’ve steadily unfriended and unfollowed many of my “friends” because I don’t have time (or the desire) to engage their hate speech. I use my Facebook page, this blog and my Twitter accounts as my own personal Erikaland where what I say goes. I invite folks to engage in conversation, but won’t tolerate over simplifications and problematic language like “radical Muslims” or “Islamic terrorists.”

When a white man walked into a black church and opened fire the media didn’t call him a “Christian terrorist” or a “radical Christian”. So why does our media insist on using Muslim and Islam when speaking of attacks of terror carried out by psychopaths?

Since 9/11 American media has portrayed a religion of peace as a religion of hatred. And before you write a comment quoting some verse in the Quran that says otherwise, I ask you to open your Tanach or your King James Bible and you will find just as much violence and death. Our holy books aren’t perfect, they were written by men who lived in different times. And if we all followed our holiest of books to the letter, well, the world would be a different place. (Not a better place, mind you. A place where you could sell your daughter for goats) Yet, we’ve allowed a handful of very violent, very confused terrorist hiding under the name of Islam to paint broad strokes on a brother faith. Nevermind the fact that the vast majority of ISIS-related attacks and threats in the U.S weren’t carryied out by Syrians, but by Americans.

And while that fact pains me, it pains me even more that Jewish people cannot or do not want to see the Syrian refugee crisis as an eerily familiar and detrimental crisis that changed the very fabric of the Jewish people. Leading up to the WWII Europeans wondered what were to do with their “Jewish problem”. Pogroms terrorized communities, lucky ones escaped, and the unlucky ones died at the hands of the hatred of the Nazi party, but also by their neighbors and the neighboring countries who turned their backs on refugees fleeing the terror and violence of Europe. Jews say, Never Forget and Never Again, yet fall into the same verbal rhetoric that countries (including the United States) used as excusesô to turn away Jews and prevent them from entering their shores.

Saying that Syrian refugees deserve asylum in my country does not make me a bad Jew. It makes me a good Jew, because the idea of Tikkun Olam isn’t just Tikkun Olam for the Jews, it’s for the world.

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