Sunday, January 14, 2007

Jews Love: Martin Luther King Jr

And not just because, as David Kelsey pointed out, Heschel walked to Selma with him.

My roommates and I just sat, in silence, watching a video of the "I have a dream" speech (which I have thoughtfully provided for you). During the speech we sat, making 'agreement head nods' and occasionally interjecting comments, such as when he references Mississippi, saying that the state is still a mess.



Our quasi-ceremonial listening sparked a discussion once we were done. The other roommate grew up going to a lefty Jewish community day school (is there any other kind) where MLK jr day was celebrated as a major holiday every year. She said that as a kid she was routinely moved to tears by the speech. Now, I'm rarely moved to tears by anything, so I found this a fascinating idea. She went on to say that she knows of people who bring the text of the "I have a dream" speech to be read aloud on Passover. Here is where I had an issue. I don't like the idea of equating Jewish slavery in Egypt, from which we feel little to no lasting effects (if it happened), to the immediate and still relevant slavery of African Americans in America. It seems to me that it can only denigrate their experience. The other roommate disagreed. She argued that the use of the speech is to make our freedom holiday relevant, to put it into perspective and to remind ourselves that we do not yet live in a free world, and that our work is by no means complete.

And here, again I'll shift to my current pet issue of wage slavery. African Americans have never been given the chance in this country that other immigrant groups take for granted. They came, often unwillingly, without skills, or chance for social mobility. And then once the Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression) was over, not enough was done to rectify this great wrong, and put the former slaves on an equal playing field. From then on individuals have been able to, with luck, fortitude, and great strength of character, pull themselves up from the gaping maw of poverty, but that is not the norm. Yes, African Americans can vote, but they do so in disproportionately low numbers, they can hold civil service jobs, but again, not according to their proportional representation. We've made great strides on paper, but the inequality of opportunity still exists, and must be addressed. Raising minimum wage was a good first step, but universal healthcare, welfare reform, and educational reform (specifically the cost of college) are all necessary components to ensuring that every child born in this country has a fighting chance to follow their dreams.

24 comments:

Jack's Shack said...

Annie,

I used to agree with everything that you wrote here but I am no longer willing to do so across the board.

Yes, African Americans can vote, but they do so in disproportionately low numbers, they can hold civil service jobs, but again, not according to their proportional representation. We've made great strides on paper, but the inequality of opportunity still exists, and must be addressed.

This is true, but it is not entirely because of slavery, Jim Crow laws or latent racism.

Too many African Americans have proven this to be false. You can succeed in America.

We cannot continue to provide excuses. We have to help people stand up and part of that means that we no longer coddle.

That comes straight from the mouth of friends who are African American but I agree with it.

One of the fundamental issues right now that affects all of us is the problem with our public schools, both inner city and suburbia.

It is a terrible problem.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that there are no issues and that things are hunky dory for everyone.

But it is just not right to give blanket excuses anymore.

Liberal Jew said...

Mr. Shack-

I believe you are making "blanket excuses" for the people who are keeping others down. It is important to point out that people (of all shades and colors) must work hard from themselves.

But lets be honest. People of color, esp. black folks, have had a real tough time here in the US.

"Too many African Americans have proven this false."
Really? What is the proportion of black folks to white folks as CEO of fortuion 500 corps? And what is the proportion of black folks to white folks on death row?

Perhaps the Dream wasn't just to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps but to help others and provide some bootstraps for which others to pull themselves up.

Naked Arab Ladies For Peace said...

I think black peopel are antisemitic and jealous of jews
why bother looking out for them?

Anonymous said...

"I don't like the idea of equating Jewish slavery in Egypt, from which we feel little to no lasting effects (if it happened)"

When you say if it happened do you mean like the Holocaust (and indeed black slavery too) may not have happened?

What is wrong with you? Are you only willing to accept anything that's not in the tradition of your own religion? Does something being Jewish invalidate it?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what you mean by "without skills."

LT said...

I actually agree pretty strongly with Jack, which surprises me since I'm somewhat left of center on these issues.

I believe you are making "blanket excuses" for the people who are keeping others down.

Huh?

Who is "keeping others down"? Not only do African Americans have many opportunities to advance themselves, in some ways they have more than others (via programs like affirmative action).

If I had to pinpoint the people who are most responsible for "keeping African Americans down" in this country today, my finger would be pointed squarely at individuals like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who have cultivated a culture of victimization. By perpetuating the idea that blacks can't succeed without massive entitlement, they only shortchange themselves. I give African Americans far more credit - I think they can succeed. But first they need leaders who say "we can overcome" far more than "we can't". Leaders a lot more like... well... Martin Luther King Jr.


PS - Passover, regardless of the history, is a holiday meant to celebrate freedom from persecution and slavery. I don't see what's wrong with discussing other persecutions than our own at the Seder table...

DK said...

"Liberal Jew" is pissing me off. I have no patience for general ranting and raving about "racism." Tell me a specific policy you are upset about, not just the end results you wish were different, and your proposal to correct it.

Otherwise I will have to make fun of you for being a hippy. But I will do so out of love!

Harley said...

To anon, re: "if it happened"

Regardless of the biblical account, historians argue endlessly about the historicity of Jewish slavery in Egypt. With little archeological record available, we can only conjecture as to what might have been true to create a historical memory of slavery. Many Ancient Near Eastern scholars argue that, while the number of slaves the bible claims left Egypt is unlikely, the text likely reflects the slow and measured escape of disparate peoples from a variety of backgrounds (although perhaps similar geographic areas) who bonded together under a common myth. Because several thousand years have passed, historians and archeologists can only speculate about what actually transpired. Regardless of its historical accuaracy, the memory of slavery has been religiously and nationally compelling for Jews and their example of exodus inspired slaves throughout history to hope for freedom (and not just Black slaves in the United States). Questioning the historicity of Jewish slavery in Egypt is in no way similar to questioning the existence of Black slavery in the US or the Holocaust. Not only do we have extensive records of those events, but we have people living who attest to the latter (and first-person accounts of the former).

For some scholarly insight, see: Norman K. Gottwald's The Hebrew Bible: A Socio-Literary Introduction (and, for fun, Richard E. Friedman's Who Wrote the Bible)

dash said...

i see harley is a big bible 1009/5011 fan...

Anonymous said...

WWKD?

http://fish.blogs.nytimes.com/

-The Rooster

Jack's Shack said...

I believe you are making "blanket excuses" for the people who are keeping others down. It is important to point out that people (of all shades and colors) must work hard from themselves.

But lets be honest. People of color, esp. black folks, have had a real tough time here in the US.


LJ,

When I was your age I felt the same way. How is that for pretentious. But seriously, how about some specifics.

What is the proportion of black folks to white folks as CEO of fortuion 500 corps?

Do you really think that this is a good measure of success? It is as flawed as asking how many white millionaires are there in the NBA as opposed to Black.

But just for kicks I googled Black CEOs and found this Black CEOs gaining in corporate America
Numbers growing


Look at this

When Black Enterprise magazine named the 25 hottest corporate managers in 1988, there were no black chief executives. By 1993, there were two CEOs among the 40 African Americans included in the top tier.

This year, the magazine honors 75 blacks in corporate America, of which 18 are CEOs.


and this

This year's list also includes 15 women -- the most to appear on similar lists compiled by the magazine.

Perhaps the Dream wasn't just to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps but to help others and provide some bootstraps for which others to pull themselves up.

I don't have a problem with that. I have a problem with giving people a perpetual label of victim. It is wrong. It is unhelpful and creates a culture that is unhealthy.

Who is the most influential woman in America? Probably Oprah.

Racism still exists, but it is influence is not nearly as pervasive as some make it out to be.

IMO, the best thing that we can do is improve public schooling in the inner cities and suburbia.

But let's not pretend that we still live during Jim Crow, it just isn't true.

Anniegetyour said...

Jack- I think that you and I are arguing the same point. That we need to make fundamental changes to a flawed educational system, which disproportionately affects a specific segment of the American population. While I wouldn't call it "racism" I think that it is pretty clear that slavery and Jim Crow cannot be ignored when accounting for where we are today.

Liberal Jew- the idea that African Americans, or any other group are being "kept down" is one that I find uncomfortable. We have a flawed system, absolutely, but I don't think that it intentionally privliges whites and the middle class over other groups, just that it is informed by our racially troubled national past.

NALfP- speaking of blanket statements, WHAT? I think that that statement is racist and has little or no basis in fact.

Anon- I think that Harley has pretty well answered what I meant by that parenthetical statement. For the record, I do believe that the Torah was given by G-d at Sinai, and contains a true (or mostly true) accounting of the history of the Jewish people. Harley does not, so that statement was mostly for her benefit. Not sure where the Holocaust paralell comes in. As Condi Rice would say: "As a student of history" I can see physical and documentary evidence of the Holocaust. Less so with the slavery and exodus from Egypt.

Anon- I mean job skills. I graduated with a liberal arts degree, so I graduated really without any useful skills either. I can't really fix anything, build anything, or qualify for most blue collar, non-minimum-wage jobs. That is what I meant.

LT- I mostly agree with you, with the exception of your point about Passover. If the purpose of reading the speech is to make the ideas of freedom and persecution relevant, then go to it. However, I often feel like the speeches/poems/etc are being read as a congratulatory "look what we have in common with our poor black brothers, see, we were enslaved too!" We can talk about this at length later, but I mostly disagree with the use of the readings, not their presence.

DK- I second that.

Harley- I know that you love you some biblical criticism. Thanks.

Dash- Harley loves basically everything about the bible except the idea that it might be true.

TR- thanks for the reading.

Jack- again, good points with which I agree, but I don't think that you can discount that racism plays some part in the continuing poverty of inner city African Americans. Especially when compared to some other groups. In "No Shame" they compare the rejection rates of African Americans from minmum wage jobs as opposed to Latino workers. The African Americans were refused jobs at a rate 3x higher than Latino workers, according to managers this was because new immigrants are seen as harder workers and less likely to create trouble. Yes, we no longer live in the days of Jim Crow, but to ignore racism as a continuing factor in American society is just naive.

Liberal Jew said...

Mr. Shack - well done on the Google Search. I am not one to say that black folks have not made leaps and bounds towards equality. But to say that we are to give African Americans more credit to pull themselves up is rhetoric. When I am your age I hope to be able to use new tools that prove my point as well. How about that for pretentious.

lt-

The keeping people down comment was meant with a grain of salt. But really the institutional racism in the country is real and Sharpton and Jackson are not the only folks to blame. There are real problems of segregation and de facto regulations that hurt people of color. And these things happen more up north than they do down south.

DK-

I am a hippy. Make fun! But really the issues are not the fact that CEOs are now black, the issues is more about the death stats:

In 2006, 53 persons in 14 States were executed

Of persons executed in 2006:
-- 32 were white
-- 21 were black

While according to the CDC only 14.3% of the US is Black and 70% is white. ( Link)

I might be a hippy but I have my stats to back me up...Google works both ways.

Liberal Jew said...

And before everyone says well they killed so let them be killed there are more stats on that page and others explaing the odds of white person being killed by the state if he/she kills a black person vs a black killing a white.

Those are the really wacky ones.

LT said...

LJ,

I'll agree you have a point regarding the death penalty - it isn't applied in a racist fashion based on the race of the killer, but the numbers involving the color of the killed are staggering. If you kill a white person you are much more likely to get the death penalty than if you kill a black person...

There are real problems of segregation and de facto regulations that hurt people of color.

And there are de jure and de facto regulations regarding minoroty hiring, quotas and affirmative action that *help* people of color. How can you only focus on one side of the equation while ignoring the other?

DK said...

So liberal Jew, your point is that you want more violent white criminals to get the death penalty, correct?

Jack's Shack said...

But to say that we are to give African Americans more credit to pull themselves up is rhetoric.

No it is common sense based upon reality. Your condescending attitude does not help.

At some point in time people stop being victims, if you let them.

Liberal Jew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liberal Jew said...

it –

Affirmative Action doesn’t help much. But it is used as a stepping stone that may be perceived as hurting whites. I have no way to argue against that. Yet it is losing the battle for constitutionality, so there you go.

DK-

Yes I want to kill more people and continue to sit cross-legged on the floor while listening to the Grateful Dead… or I want the Death Penalty to be illegal. It is a racists institution and should be abolished or at least place in moratorium.

Mr. Shack –

At some point we do need to stop being victims. Now I know you have never written anything about how the Jews are victims of society…or agree with Jewish Republicans about the Wesley Clark incident or that as Jews we must always have a bag packed and cash around the house when the Nazis come back.

I hope to end the condescension, but reality is only as real as the individual who perceives it to be the truth.

Jack's Shack said...

but reality is only as real as the individual who perceives it to be the truth.

Nice gibberish for an academic setting but in the real world it doesn't mean anything.

The bottom line is that statistics bear out that African Americans are not being prevented from succeeding. Neither are Asians, Latinos or any other group.

If it makes you feel good to say otherwise be my guest. If you want to assuage some guilty feelings of your own by trying to be a good guy to minorities, that is your deal.

There is no substitute for life experience.

Liberal Jew said...

To borrow from Annie: In "No Shame" they compare the rejection rates of African Americans from minmum wage jobs as opposed to Latino workers. The African Americans were refused jobs at a rate 3x higher than Latino workers, according to managers this was because new immigrants are seen as harder workers and less likely to create trouble. Yes, we no longer live in the days of Jim Crow, but to ignore racism as a continuing factor in American society is just naive.

I have no guilt issue (even though I have a Jewish mother) and I suppose I am not being all that naive. Life experience or blindness, whatever you need to believe Mr. Shack.

harley said...

Annie and I had been holding back, allowing the conversation to flow naturally, but there's a sneering and angry tone entering the discussion. Please refrain from ad hominem attacks (even implied ones about intelligence) and open condenscension. Bring facts to bear that argue your point or don't comment at all. Thank you.

Liberal Jew said...

My apologies. Mr. Shack, I do respect your opinions and would like to extend my apologies to you as well for implied stupidity or choice racism.

I do not know you, nor your belief system and it was wrong of me to assume as much. Good day…(was that academic gibberish too, and if so I will try to construct more simplistic sentences.) please read as a joke

Anonymous said...

Life ain't been no crystal stair.