As a Jewish mother, I had to stop and think about how to explain what happened this weekend in Charlottesville and Seattle to my son. How do I explain why some people would make posters that are branded on violence against Jews? How do I explain why these men would “joke” that they wanted to “round up little Jew children” and “build a great, big oven.”
But I have no other choice. Remember, this is the same son who has had to practice emergency bomb drills at his Jewish Day School. He has sadly already experienced the direct results of when groups of people actively hate him for who he is at his core.
So what do we do? In my home, at least, we start by talking about what happened. Personally, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. My son needs to know that there are people out there who hate like this, so he can prepare to fight against them.
This is no different than when I speak to him about the Black and Brown people who have lost their lives just because of the color of their skin. Only this time, he’s a part of the broad target. And sadly, my son isn’t surprised that people hate others this much.
But he does want to work to be part of the solution, and I hope you do too.
Because make no mistake, the people marching in the streets of Charlottesville and Seattle, the ones who are planning to come to Boston this weekend — they’re not some villain or force we can’t take down. No. These are regular folks that surround us daily, and it is up to us—and our allies — to stop them.
If you’re already posting about what happened on social media, that’s a great start. But it’s not enough.
Name “racism” and “anti-Semitism,” even subtle instances. Shame it. Stand up against it in daily life. And please, most importantly, remind your friends and family that these aren’t “scary people” who marched in Charlottesville, but regular folks who happen to have disgusting, horrific, evil viewpoints. Because the thing is, they’re still people.
They’re still your mailman, your waiter, the guy who fixes your car, and possibly even your neighbor. All of these people went home to somebody, whether a romantic partner, a nuclear family, or friends. These people live daily lives out in the world, and odds are, you know some of them.
So start getting loud. Put a sign up in your front yard that tells folks who walk or drive by that your family supports equality, that you believe that Black Lives Matter, that you trust women, that you support immigration, and that everyone is welcome in your neighborhood.
Talk to the neighbor or Facebook friend that thinks a Confederate flag is “no big deal.” Explain to the person in line with you at the bank why what they just said under their breath about another ethnic group is not okay. Shut down your co-workers when they tell “harmless” jokes that rely on stereotypes and bigotry. Get involved in a group like Standing Up for Racial Justice or donate to a local group of activists whose work you believe in.
We currently have national leadership that took way too long to call out what happened in Charlottesville for what it is. In his first public statement over the weekend, President Trump did not explicitly call out the white supremacists and Nazis in Charlottesville for what they were—and he actually implored people to look at all sides of the issue.
There is only one side to be on when it all boils down: the side that does not joke about shoving small Jewish kids into ovens, the side that does not beat up a defenseless black man, and the side that does not drive a car into a group of people who were assembled to stand up against racist, anti-Semitic, wicked demonstrations.
The truth is, with an indifferent at best administration in charge, change is up to us. Racism and anti-Semitism and white supremacy may be part of our history as Americans, but we can refuse to normalize it. I refuse to normalize it. For my sake, for my friends’ sakes, and for my son’s sake.