We Must Acknowledge

August 15, 2013

Regarding Simone Ellin’s “Opening Thoughts” (July 26) and Barbara Bloom’s letter (Aug. 2): Columns, articles and letters published here during the past few weeks have reflected the Jewish community’s compassion, identification, anger, fear and confusion toward our African-American neighbors. If we really want to find a way to get along and do right by them and ourselves, these are some things we must acknowledge.

  • Blacks live in a locale where visible reminders of society’s enmity and oppression toward them are still all around — plantations, substandard housing and segregated schools.
  • No matter how educated or middle class some are, they all have experiences of discrimination (at least in the past) and racial profiling (for many, continuing through today).
  • The mortality (incidence of death rate) and morbidity (incidence of sickness rate) is highest for black men, second highest for black women of any ethnic group.
  • Anytime we freely walk into a store or drive down the road and know that we won’t be followed or stopped for reasons having to do with our race; anytime we visit an office or agency to transact business or make a request and expect timely and courteous treatment; anytime we move into an area where others look different than us and we hope for acceptance — these are examples of white privilege. These are not things we are consciously “doing” to oppress our black neighbors. This is just how the world mostly works if you’re white, and [these] situations still cause great anxiety to many blacks.

Acknowledging these sobering realities does not mean that Jews haven’t suffered or that our plight has not also included some of these at various times. It means that we recognize this is the regular, daily experience of many blacks. If we want to love or even know our neighbor, it is to this we must open our eyes.

Joyce Wolpert
Baltimore

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