"I should not have to alter my character and my being for anyone," writes Aviva Davis. (Courtesy)

Why You Need to Care About Black Lives Matter

A young Jew of color speaks to white Jews.

Over the past few days I’ve been debating whether or not to say something about the protests, the riots, the murders, all of it. I’ve been donating and sharing resources with my peers; surely that counts for something. However, I have some sentiments I feel the need to express that simply won’t fit on my Instagram story or in a text.

I feel so scared, and I have been realizing over the course of my twenty-something years on this earth that most of the fear I experience is learned from hearing about my peers being stopped by the police in their own communities because the majority of the neighborhood population is white and from the unjust murders of Black people like Trayvon Martin.

For the majority of my life, racism, discrimination, and bias have been at the forefront of my existence.

And the fact of the matter is, what I struggle with doesn’t even compare to the experiences of many of my other brothers and sisters. Because I am mixed, I am privileged. Because I am educated, I am privileged. I know just how to change my posture and my manner of speaking so white people take me seriously. And it’s a damn shame that I had to learn how to make these changes. I should not have to alter my character and my being for anyone, let alone the people that have oppressed my black, Jewish, and queer ancestors for centuries.

I am numb with rage. At the cops who continue to murder my people in cold blood with little to no consequences. At the people who dare come to the defense of the police, when it is the police who are instigating violence at peaceful protests, it is the police who are shooting and macing anyone in their path, and it is the police who are protecting the trigger-happy officers killing black and brown people without a second thought.

I am honoring the black, brown, and native bodies sacrificed so white people could build and rule this nation. I am honoring the black and queer communities for fighting for the liberties I have been blessed with as a queer woman of color. I ask that you do the same, no matter how you identify.

To my Jewish community: I appreciate those of you who have shown your support and donated to bail funds and GoFundMes, provided food and water to protesters, participated in protests yourselves, and shared educational resources with your peers. 

I have noticed that some members of my white-passing Jewish family have decided to remain silent or argue that the Black Lives Matter movement isn’t important or worth contributing to. To you I say: That is your white fragility and privilege blinding you from the truth and causing you to make enemies where you could be making allies. 

I assume you have never been told you don’t “look Jewish” and have never been met with looks of surprise when you tell other Jews that yes, you actually did have a bat mitzvah, just like everyone else in your Hebrew school class. This is why we protest. This is why we sign petitions. This is why we keep fighting even though people who have claimed to be our friends are just too tired to do the same. 

I believe that we are all created in the image of God. Those of you who believe the same and still do not contribute to the movement, who are you to tell myself and my peers that we are not as worthy of the breath of God as you?

White people: Your friends of color are struggling right now. We are in pain. Check on us. But before you do, I’d like to make a few suggestions.

Some phrases we appreciate hearing:

  • I don’t understand what you are going through, but I stand with you.
  • I am reserving space to listen to you.
  • How can I support you and how can I support my community?

Some phrases that we don’t appreciate:

  • I feel your pain. (Chances are, you definitely don’t.)
  • Are you okay? (Our people are bleeding in the streets, so no.)

This list is not to shame the people who may have used a less than ideal way to show love to their peers. It is a call to those who are silent. To the people who are saying nothing right now—not sharing resources, not donating, not protesting: we see you. And we will remember this the next time you are asking for our support.

Some ways you can help:

  • Donate to bailout funds such as Reclaim the Block, People’s Breakfast Oakland, and Black Visions Collective, if you are able. 
  • Share resources for safe protesting.
  • Share other resources that support the movement. This doesn’t mean tagging us in your performative woke posts. This means sharing information that actually contributes.
  • Support black writers and artists.
  • Be there for US. This isn’t about you. Please respect that.

Thank you for reading. Black Lives Matter.

 

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