Hispanics/Latinos · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · race/racism

When every friend’s just a little bit racist….

I have been crying for 15 minutes. My chest hurts, my stomach hurts. My heart hurts. I feel like walls around my heart are caving in and my lungs feel smaller, tighter, like the air has been sucked out of them.

Do I look like your f$%^ing priest I want to say? Do I look like I’m taking confession?

This is anger but I don’t feel anger, not at first. First, I just feel pain.

Because my friends, my white Jewish friends, their white Jewish friends, like confessing their discomfort, their latent racist tendencies to me.

Because apparently, I look like a f$%#ing priest.

They assure me that these racist tendencies don’t apply to me because I’m different. I’m not one of those people. That’s why they can confide in me.

They can tell me on the day that I’ve been rocking my afro, that actually they don’t think Michelle Obama should ever wear her hair natural. That makes them uncomfortable. They don’t even like seeing her kids rocking their hair au natural. Seeing the Obamas with their hair natural just strikes my friends as unnatural. But they assure me, they like my hair just the way it is. “It’s cute.”

And they would never date black people. No, no. But this doesn’t apply to me because I’m not black, I’m Hispanic, you know. There isn’t enough African blood in my veins for me to be offended by this confession, they assure me. No, it would kill my grandmother if I married a black person. So what if your grandmother died? Would you do it then? Silence. And a black Jew? Silence.

My grandmother was an anti-Semite. And you know, she didn’t die when I became a Jew, when I married one.
Every time feels like a violation. I was safe. So safe. Ignorance was bliss. But I can’t get back there now that I know the truth. Now that I know how you really feel about me, about people like me, about my unborn children you think shouldn’t wear their hair natural and shouldn’t marry into your family.

And did you know that you were ripping my heart right out of my chest? Probably not. If you knew, I’d like to think you would have thought about it before you said something. Like I think about it before I tell you I hate white people because they’re all racists. I mean, they’re not right? I mean, they can’t be. I just hope. Please tell me, they’re not.

MixedJewGirl responds with “When people forget you’re a minority”.

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27 thoughts on “When every friend’s just a little bit racist….

  1. i read in a book on black people that those who can or are almost able to “pass” often had the most hatred toward white people

    you hear all the things they dont say around other minorities, you dont get the buffer, the filter that everyone else has

    its hard

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  2. Wow, I have to agree with Karol. How utterly insensitive and totally nasty and prejudiced. I am so sorry, Aliza. Your anger and your pain are justified, but I wish you didn't have to experience this (and so often).

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  3. Even if I had such feelings (or became aware of them) it wouldn't occur to me to share them with someone else. Where did you find your friends?

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  4. Dear Aliza,

    I know exactly what you're talking about. Today I went to pick up my step son from his religious school in Los Angeles and me and my husband were approached by a bunch of six graders that go to the same school and started talking to my other step son. They look at me and asked my step son: Is she your father wife? Is she jewish? And trying to be discrete, this boy complete the comment: “but she looks like a nig…! Yes he use the whole “n” word, and his don't even know me for more than 10 seconds!
    That's happened in one of the more rich neighborhoods in LA and this school is attended for more them 85% of persian jews, most of them brown like me!
    What are this boys growing up to be? What kind of education is being given in there?

    So sad….

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  5. (((HUGS)))
    I dunno…sometimes it seems like racism is so deeply ingrained.

    I can't tell you how many times I heard, “you're not like other black people; you're O.K.” Plus, other variants of that sentiment.

    Gee…thanks?! What does someone say to that.

    When I married my husband, my ILs were horrified. It was really bad but they are still alive!

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  6. Hi,

    It's Natasha, I am not going to do my usual thing by talking about cultural differences and how racist American society is, instead I am going to raise up my hand and say, I am SO sorry you got your heart broken by a friend, I couldn't imagine being around people like this and it makes me so sad to hear about your pain.

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  7. what a powerful and courageous and honest post, Aliza. I can relate to it as well in the sense that people feel they can come up to me and say, “i would never adopt transracially. or, i could never love a child i didn't give birth to as much as my “natural 'child'”. or even when a person at the retreat last week called their transracially adopted child not “naturally jewish”!! (I did say something in that instant). most of the time i walk away thinking, yep, good thing you dont do that. and many of the folks who have told me this are jews.

    At the same time, what an incredibly heartfelt and courageous and honest post by Natasha. that also took alot of cojones to talk about and make a public explanation and apology. and to talk publicly about complex emotions that get all mixed together, not to mention how clearly Natasha seems to value Aliza's friendship.

    What a tribute to today — the Loving Day shabbat. may we all find courage and freedom in the tears, anger, hurt,honesty and attempt at repair that these two women have shown us. At least that is what i am going to think about tonight when i listen to the prayers waft thru the synagogue . . there is so much work to do it feels overwhelming sometimes. shabbat shalom all. sonia

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  8. Honey I am so sorry this happened to you and I am so proud that you were able to put voice to your emotions by writing and doing such a good job of it. You out did them.
    Jo Ann Hernandez

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  9. I'm bothered by the racist comments both by this insensitive individual and her allegations of you having reverse racism…i hope that that is plain bs on her part because it would undermine your entire blog and this case would be moot. So I am going to assume that she has got some issues and that you have no business associating yourself with this person. It's great that apologies were made on her part and now I would be very selective about my frienships. You seem like a strong individual. oh, and your hair is very pretty and the envy of many stringy-a-haired ladies.

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  10. I'm sorry you have to deal with stuff like this. All Jews are minorities, and should think before they speak ill of others (derech eretz, anyone?). The confidence of others can be a double-edged sword. I'm sorry it hurt you. Thank you for sharing your perspective. Anonymous (in LA), that's terrible! I'm not a parent, but if I were one, and my child used language like that, I think I might be tempted to forget that violence isn't the answer (just for a moment). And then I'd make them watch the same PBS Klan movies I accidentally saw when I was too young to be watching stuff like that unsupervised and it scared the **** out of me to the tune of nightmares for many years to come. The civil rights movement and Judaism/social justice are so inextricably linked, for me. The more I am reminded that SOME more observant people are racist like that, the more I am glad I haven't swung back that way. I realize there are observant folks who are not like that, and when I do spend time, I prefer to spend time among them.

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  11. I just got back online today. I am so so so so sorry. You know that I share you pain often at the shabbat table, and give you big hugs, and an ear whenever you need it. CALL ME when this shit happens. Really.

    This weekend, I was at a function where the only other person of color was the housekeeper, so yes, I hear ya.

    Abrazos and besos girl. Screw those racist asses.

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  12. I hoipe you don't still call these people friends.And I hope you articulated to them exactly what you said on this blog.

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  13. Wow. I don't know what to say.

    I grew up in the suburbs of Washington D. C. In my high school (public), some 150 or so countries of birth were represented by the student body, and we had a hallway lined with each and every single one of those 150 or so countries' flags.

    Suffice it to say, racism was unheard of in my school. I didn't know people like your friends existed.

    There's a story in The Universal Jew, by Yosef ha-Kohen (the author is a student of Rabbi Aryeh Carmell's, and so Rav S. R. Hirsch is heavily present in the book), about an incident in a beis yaakov school. The principle walked past one classroom, where he heard the teacher lividly yelling something. He asked what happened, and he was told that one student had used the “N”-word. The principal became no less livid. “I don't know what YOUR Torah says”, the principal screamed, “but MY Torah says that Avraham Avinu was to be a father of all nations, and that G-d chose him in order to bring blessing to all the world.”

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  14. I doubt it was unheard of (maybe you just didn't hear about it) but I know what you're trying to say. At my high school, people dated interracially and had friends of different races and different cultures without batting an eye. I don't think that prepared me for encountering people who haven't really had deep relationships (friendships or otherwise) with people of different cultures, much less of different races.

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