So, this happened at the store down the street from me. Not to me, but to my daughter.My daughter is at the Big Y supermarket at the customer service desk, wiring some money to a friend. She hands this oversized babbling idiot my Big Y card. There is no reason for this, it’s just requested. This idiot looks at the name on the card and say’s “my that’s a long name”. My daughter doesn’t respond. She repeats this at least three times. Finally she asks my daughter what kind of name is Bathsheva. My daughter says, “It’s Hebrew.” This tattooed behemoth stops what she’s doing, stares at my daughter with a look of disgust, and “says you’re Jewish? You don’t look Jewish.” My daughter says “that’s my mother’s name and yeah we are. Why?” This ‘chunk of foul’ stares at my daughter, who is Black and Jewish, and starts ranting about how “…Jews have ugly hair, it’s curly and out of place, blah, blah blah…” My daughter walked away in disbelief. She’s so much lovelier than I am. That troll would’ve had her teeth handed to her.
And here’s the thing, this isn’t new to me. These are just a few of my favorite things…
Nor to my daughter, nor to my any of my kids. I’ve been called kike and worse. I’ve had pennies thrown at me. I’ve been asked by some idiot I opened my house to with her husband and her kid, “don’t Jews wipe their asses with the same hand they eat?”. (Never heard that one before or since) I’ve been asked if I practice incest and don’t all Jews… I’ve been asked to convert to xtianity and to islam by “well meaning” friends. Who “love” me in spite of my being Jewish. I’ve had people tell me, it’s people like me, who make a good case for gas chambers. Over a mild disagreement. I’ve had people say in that same vein to go take a shower, not the kind with water.
I’ve been held at gun point for being in the car with my husband (may he rest in peace) who was guilty of driving while Black—with our then 2 year old child, by our friendly neighborhood police. I’ve been denied decent service at restaurants and elsewhere. I’ve been screwed out of apartments, when they found out I was married to a Black man, despite our both meeting all the qualifications, credit, background check etc… And that some of these realtors were in fact Jews, makes them no more and no less accountable or culpable than any of their Christian cohorts. Unless of course, they take into account that it was done to them, so don’t do this to someone else. One Jewish realtor who doesn’t consider himself a member of the tribe, explained, “it wasn’t them, it’s just they’re following unspoken orders.” Following orders? We’ve definitely heard that before. My father, in 1951, at the age of 23 was fired from American Airlines,or not following orders regarding Jim Crow laws.
Stand and Fight by Professor Martha Biondi, 2003 pg 87
My older son, who looks a lot like me, only with darker skin (there are pictures of both of us at about 2/3 years of age—we look identical), he’s been called every racial epithet known to exist. And what’s worse, he’s been severely mistreated in schools, by teachers, faculty and even the principal. In one particular instance he was called jungle bunny. He didn’t even know what the word meant. He came home and asked me. When I complained to the principal, she accused him of lying. And the next day called him a “mama’s boy” for telling me. He was ten and had no father. The cruelty he and I faced, from various people in the school systems, he attended, as well as elsewhere—always at the hand of whites and or/ non-Jews (with one exception) has left us shell shocked and leery. There was no stone left unturned as to the humiliation I and my kids suffered by the school system of our town. My kids were at one point subjected to the “smell test”. Where the teachers would arrange to as they were marching down the hall, to have the school nurse, stand in the doorway of the nurse’s office and they would stop when my older son and younger daughter would be directly in front of them. And they would start sniffing. I only found this out, because the nurse, accidentally let it slip when I started threatening her with having her credentials looked into, by authorities.
The thing is this, I try not to judge. I try like hell to give each and every individual the benefit of the doubt—decent until proven otherwise. Do I wait for the other shoe to drop? Well, no, not exactly. Do I trust you? Well, yes… Well mostly, I try… If it drops, I’m never surprised. Do I wait for whitey to fuck up? Nope, ‘cuz ain’t nobody got time for that.
And the thing is this. I’m educated—fairly. I’ve been reading since I was three, before I really spoke. I was reading Chaucer by 9 and understanding it. Getting the nuances. I’m able to read beyond what I’ve been told. I’ve been afforded every opportunity in life. And sometimes you can’t read beyond what you’re told. Sometimes it’s what you see is what you get. And here’s what I’m getting at. With the passing of Muhammad Ali, I’ve seen a lot of commentary about how he was a draft dodger, about how he was anti-Semitic and anti-white. And for the longest time, I was told I was white, by a system that only says I’m white, when they need me to check a box on some form, but doesn’t treat me white. I am not afforded the same opportunity to send my kids to school and not be subjected to hideous mistreatment and racism, that my white counterparts have. I can’t go to a college campus without seeing or hearing about some anti-Semitic garbage taking place. I see my government treating my people like second class citizens, where our interests and our safety and our lives are being tossed aside for some fun loving xtian oil guy to make another billion or so. Yet I pay my taxes like everyone else.
So, Muhammad Ali didn’t want to go to war. Good! When my son was younger, there was some talk of there being a draft being put into place. I told my son, under no circumstances was he going to fight for this country. I’d sooner never see him again, while he hightailed it to Canada or some such than have him fight a filthy war for some racist fuckface. Where they prefer to lock up young men of color, as opposed to educating them. Where there is still lynching allowed. Yes, shooting young men in the back and there is no justice is your modern day lynching. Imprisoning them and paying them whatever pittance it is they’re getting is your modern day slavery. And, perhaps, it was worse back then. Or maybe it’s just the same or worse now. When you sweep up a young child of twelve to have him get his brains punched in, to get him off the street. Oh boy you’ve done him a great big favor. And, yes, Muhammad Ali lived well.
And so did everyone who made a dime off him and all the other young brothers who got their brains bashed in, for a buck or two and a piece of the American Dream. And, while Ali, may or may not have been able to read, he wasn’t stupid. He saw where the money went. And if you think it’s not a simple thing to do, to take someone and inform them, or misinform them (if that makes you feel better), you’d be wrong. Tell them enough of the truth and throw in enough of your version to tilt the scales and what sounds good or true becomes the belief. It’s easy to look at someone who is rich and famous and hold them accountable. But they live these little small cloistered lives—many of them. They get informed by who is around them. And, who among us, pray tell, doesn’t? They become very dependent on those who are seemingly not grabbing from them.
The thing is too, we as Jews, are often quite offended, when we speak up for our interests, and are accused of having dual loyalties. I don’t get offended, I make no bones about it and offer up no apologies. I’m a Jew first, Black second(self—appointed honorary)—in that Black interests are mine as the mother/grandmother of children who are Black and Jewish and because human, Israeli third(not an actual citizen as of yet/right of return) and American—fourth. Just traveling through… So, why should I or we hold someone else accountable for having a separatist loyalty? He was afforded no favors by anyone. He received no breaks for his good fortune. He made his fortune at the grave expense of his health. Anyone who says that last fight of his, at age 39/40 didn’t destroy him, is just lying. We all saw it. He went in to the ring one man and came out someone else—almost entirely. He never recovered. Ever. We weren’t his favorite people? Get over it. What did we ever do for him? He was an icon, who brought joy and pride and good fun to so many.
I think I first saw him on TV, in the hospital in London. I was 6 or 7 and I was getting tubes put in my ears for the first time. So, his was maybe one of the first voices I heard. And, oh, what a voice it was.