Friday, July 22, 2005

Everyone's a Little Bit Racist ... But It's Not Ok

"Everyone's a little bit racist
Doesn't mean we go
Around committing hate crimes.
Look around and you will find
No one's really color blind.
Maybe it's a fact
We all should face
Everyone makes judgments
Based on race."

I think this song has a lot of truth to it, I mean we are all a little bit racist, aren't we? And admitting that is definitely a good thing, but it doesn't make it ok to be racist.

Orthodox Jews, I've found, are especially guilty of being a little bit racist. I've had a couple experiences this past week in which that point became clearer. Frum Jews are not great about race issues. I'm not trying to badmouth our brand of Judaism as a whole and I'm not putting myself outside of the problem, but I do think it is a problem.

It's probably partially because we live in very sheltered communities and are only exposed to certain people. (A co-worker of mine couldn't get over the fact that I didn't have non-Jewish acquaintances until college.) And I'm certainly not saying that should change (though I'm also not saying it shouldn't), but I do think it's something we should address within our community. It is not ok to be racist.

If Israel can teach peace and tolerance for the Palestinians in their classrooms (which they do), then we can most certainly teach tolerance for all races and ethnicities and cultures in the halls and classrooms of our yeshivot, and it is a disservice to our people if we don't.

And while it may be a fact of nature that we're all a little bit racist, we should also try to change that reality as much as possible.


At 7/22/05, 11:25 AM, Blogger EN said...

I agree there is a need not to belittle somone based on race. However is it necissary to counter-preach in our schools and label and say "Do not" be a racist, if Judaism never advocated racisim to begin with?! Is there a need to educate Jews who have never thought of putting down anyone and tell them if you say such and such you are a racist.People grow with experiences, is it racist to tell over an experience so others should know to be wary? Of course one shouldn't act based on hersay, but to be cautious is permitted, I think.

At 7/22/05, 11:57 AM, Blogger Eli7 said...

EN, you're right. Judaism never advocates racism, however Orthodox Jews in my experience tend to be racist because they really have never been exposed to people different from them. And we should be teaching the lesson that different does not equal bad everywhere, until everyone in the frum community believes it.

At 7/22/05, 6:08 PM, Anonymous Chaim said...

A long time ago I was talking to the assistant placement director of my law school, who is of Asian ancestry. He told me he had seriously considered studying for the Protestant ministry, but was repelled by the racism he saw in the church. This surprised me, and I asked him why he didn't consider racism just another aspect of original sin? We don't believe in original sin in the Christian sense, but certainly we believe we have a yetzer ha-ra. So I agree, racism is "natural" but like a lot of things that are "natural," it is not good. And just because Judaism doesn't teach racism -- although consider the words of the Aleynu ("Who has not created us like the nations of the earth")-- we still need to teach our children to be on guard, just as we teach them to be on guard against other selfish and hurtful impulses.

At 7/24/05, 7:35 PM, Blogger EN said...

Chaim-I don't know what you mean to accomplish by bringing that posuk in aleinu - there is nothing wrong with being proud of who we are. We are not like the other religions. It is a fact of nature. People that have self esteem complexes think that Jews put down others and need to apologize for our religion. We don't.However I like your pshat why you need to teach not to be racist.

At 7/25/05, 6:30 AM, Blogger Eli7 said...

Chaim brings up an interesting point: as Jews we believe we are the Chosen nation. We do believe that we are different than anyone else.

But that doesn't mean we can accept racism. We can teach tolerance and practice tolerance and believe in tolerance even as we maintain our special status as Am Ha'nivchar. After all, we believe every human being was created with a tzelem Elokim.


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