Are you a racist? If you are reading the Queens Jewish Link, I know that you are not. I know the Jewish community, especially the Orthodox community. It is simply not in our DNA to be racist. Our Torah has taught us to love the stranger in our midst. It has taught us not even to despise the Egyptian, despite having enslaved us for over 200 years, because we were “sojourners in their land” (D’varim 23:8). Incredible! We were subjected to forced labor, had our children drowned, built their cities, and yet we were not to despise our persecutors. We have no tolerance for hate in our persona.
Now it’s true that many of us have politically conservative views, but despite the left’s and the media’s attempts to paint that as racist, it is a total canard. Conservatives just do not approve of the progressive agenda that is viewed as detrimental to the entire country, including minorities. Conservatives do not approve of creating a new problem to solve an old one. They frown upon Affirmative Action because it only serves to create disincentive for those whom it is trying to help. Is that racist?
So here’s another question: Is The New York Times racist? You might say that is a ludicrous question. After all, The Times is the bible of liberalism! They have even introduced the theme of 1619, which posits that America has its racist beginnings at that time, when slavery in this country got its start. How can such a liberal establishment be accused of racism?
Michael Gerson was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush. One of Gerson’s more famous phrases that he coined is “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” That is to say, if we treat a particular ethnic group as though they are not able to make it without a lot of help, that itself is racist. Many of the liberal programs created to help minorities are predicated on precisely those low expectations. The message is: You are too incapable to advance without our programs. To my mind, that is clearly soft – or maybe even hard – racism.
Without getting into statistics to see how many minority people are employed by The Times in senior positions, their soft racism can be detected by, of all places, their crossword puzzle.
Last week, The Times proclaimed on their crossword puzzle page: “Every daily crossword this week, Monday to Saturday, is made by an African-American contributor.” It struck me: Why are they singling out any ethnic group for special treatment? Aren’t we all Americans? Will they have special puzzle weeks for say, Asian Americans? For Italian Americans… for Jewish Americans? Do African Americans need a little help because otherwise they won’t cut the grade as puzzlers for The Times? That is a very disturbing attitude.
Everybody is quick to point to racism. The accusation has almost been rendered meaningless. But where it exists, it is truly a scourge. Yet when it comes to the most ancient and virulent form of hatred, anti-Semitism, everyone runs from calling it out.
Did you ever notice how politicians can say or Tweet the most horrible words and graphics about Jews and Israel, whether locally or nationally, and it is always preceded by “alleged”? His/her words are “allegedly anti-Semitic”? Louis Farrakhan calls Jews “termites,” yet I do not see him publicly condemned. He is allowed to flourish, and I believe he still has his Twitter account. Inexplicably, it is not considered hate speech.
How often have you heard Hamas in the news and it is followed by “which some countries consider terrorist”? Here is an organization that rose to power by blowing up innocent Jewish men, women, and children, and by sending missiles into Israel’s population centers, yet not everyone agrees it is a terrorist organization. In fact, the ICC (International Criminal Court) is now taking up charges of war crimes against Israel for responding to those attacks years ago. The theater of the absurd! The world has no shame when it comes to the racism of anti-Semitism.
Much of this double standard is because the term “racism” has political capital. It is a convenient way of virtue signaling that the accuser is a wholesome caring person while the accused is a vile hater. Unfortunately, referring to Jew-hatred as racism has not become politically advantageous. We have not made it to the protected species list. Right now, we are still on the “alleged” list.
The nechamah that we have is that despite our unfair treatment in the press and elsewhere, we move on. We rightfully complain, but we don’t sulk. We continue to surge forward as we maintain our compassion for all others. That is thanks to our Torah.
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, Vice President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, and the Rabbinic Consultant for the Queens Jewish Link.