I think it’s important for Jews to stay with the Women’s March, and to address the anti-semitism that surfaces there as a natural and expected part of working in broad coalitions.
Black and brown women also have to address the white supremacy that surfaces, Muslim women have to address the Islamophobia that surfaces, trans women have to address the transphobia that surfaces. This is the nature of working in broad coalitions. And this is the nature of living in a society where the air is heavy with many prejudices against many vulnerable groups of people.
Maybe what’s strange to me is that some Jews expect that non-Jews don’t hold internalized antisemitic ideas and responses, in the same way that, as a white person, I’ve internalized racist ideas and responses and am always in a process of trying to notice and challenge prejudices that have lodged in me.
There’s no question in my mind that Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, and the mainstream Jewish establishment’s conflation of anti-Israel positions and anti-Zionism with antisemitism, have stoked antisemitism in U.S. liberation struggles, like the Movement for Black Lives. The Nation of Islam, as wrong as its anti-Jewish messages are, is not the only contributor to antisemitic strains in the liberation movements of People of Color and indigenous people in the U.S.
In a broad coalition, I don’t need to agree with everything everyone else in the coalition believes. I only need to agree with the shared agenda of the coalition. I believe that the leadership of the Women’s March is genuinely interested in addressing antisemitism, and that the best thing for U.S. Jews is to accept the good faith of the effort they’re making. I don’t condemn Tamika Mallory for having a relationship with the Nation of Islam – I don’t know enough about her or the roots of that relationship. I know from my experience that families are complicated, and that we often stay in relationship with people we have some deep disagreements with. I haven’t heard Tamika Malllory claiming to share the antisemitic views of the NOI, or to bring those views into the Women’s March.
We live in a society where we’ve all internalized many untruths about other groups. It will take a long time to unpack all of the “isms” that we all suffer from. As long as we’re all naming our intention to uproot these “isms” in ourselves, and as long as we’re doing the work, I’m ready to stay in.
In his autobiography, Trevor Noah talks about how the white minority in South Africa was able to rule over and oppress such a large majority for so long, by pitting groups of Blacks and mixed-race South Africans against each other. That’s a very effective and successful strategy. I see the kerfuffle over the Women’s March in exactly this way. It’s easy for us to fight with each other and distrust each other. It’s genuinely difficult to work in coalition with other groups with whom we don’t have long histories or strong relationships. For me, building these relationships and histories is what we need to be doing right now.