Kristian King on Why Are African Americans Silent About Anti-Semitic Attacks?

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of BCNN1.

For more than a decade I have worked in the area of Black-Jewish relations, specifically as they relate to Israel, so the recent shooting in Jersey City along with the horrific Bronx stabbing are both particularly disheartening for me. That two African American gunmen stormed a kosher supermarket and gunned down innocent members of the Jewish community is shameful, especially because it was rooted in anti-Semitism.

Shortly after the shooting, I began to reach out to Black leaders across the country and ask them to make a statement condemning anti-Semitism.  Many did, but surprisingly many others – including major Black institutions and scholars that I have worked with and even traveled with to Israel – were reluctant even though I gave them plenty of leeway. I did not link my request to support for Israel. I framed it as one focused solely on the twin problems of anti-Semitism and racism, and even said that they didn’t need to address the Jersey City incident specifically because the details were still forthcoming. I pleaded that this was an important moment for the Black community to condemn hatred aimed at another community, especially since the perpetrators were from our own.

The response in too many cases was silence. It was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “At the end of our lives, it won’t be the words of our enemies that wound us most, but the silence of our friends.”

What is the knot in the throats of African Americans that keeps us from speaking out against anti-Semitism?  Why have we remained silent in the face of hate-filled speech directed at the Jewish community by Black leaders like Minister Louis Farrakhan whose venomous sermons call secular Jews the Synagogue of Satan?  Aren’t we the ones blessed with internal radars sensitive to the nuances of racism by even the most unsuspecting white bigot (“But Kristina, some of my best friends are black!)? Does our moral compass only include Black people? If that is the case, then ours is a false morality. The reason we admire righteous men like Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Barack Obama is precisely because their leadership extended humanity to all people.

If I can say Black Lives Matter in the face of police corruption and brutality, then I should also be able to say that Jewish Lives Matter when members of their community are gunned down in cold blood. Because anti-Semitism is racism, and because, as the German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.  God will not hold us guiltless.  Not to speak is to speak.  Not to act is to act.”

During the last three years, I have seen a rise in anti-Semitism in the Black community. Part of this stems from a rise in hate speech across our nation that is being pushed at the highest levels of leadership. Teachings rooted in hatred of the other, left unchecked, lead to incidents like Jersey City – and Charlottesville.  But there is another issue, a specific issue, that gives otherwise morally-courageous Black leaders pause when dealing with the issue of the Jews? That issue is identity. There is a desperate cry in the heart of every African American surrounding issues of identity that our Jewish friends, even after the Holocaust, do not understand.

Fringe Black Hebrew Israelite (BHI) sects like the one to which the Jersey City shooters belonged call into question the identity of the original Hebrews.  I do not share their sentiments but I understand their question because I hear it everywhere I go. When I’m on the campus of a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), I am inevitably asked some variant of the following: “If Israel is in the Middle East, a region filled with people of olive skin and dark hair, why do the Jews we see look like white Europeans?”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Kristian King