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How would Jews react…

How would Jews react to the sentence, “The swastika has a rich German history”? Words matter. (I do acknowledge that the swastika appeared in Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Jainism, and other Indian religions long before the Nazis adopted it and perverted its meaning.)

Lipman’s article provides not only a history of blackface, but describes it as though its common use from the 19th century on by performers, African American and white, neutralized the pain and degradation it caused. Using blackface is wrong now, and it was wrong then. It was an expression of a racist society that used every means possible to reinforce the noxious idea that black people are inferior. That black performers used it is an indication of internalized racism as well as the lack of opportunities to earn a living in other occupations. 

America has been good to the Jews, though black Jews I know have experienced the same discrimination and racism as African Americans in general, sometimes in their synagogues and other Jewish spaces. James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

White Jews along with all white Americans need to face and acknowledge the advantages we have received from a racist system and condemn all expressions of racism and white supremacy, past and present.

Linda Oppenheim
Princeton

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