April Baskin, a Jewish woman of color joined me for an Everyday Conversation on Race to share her perspectives on Judaism, race, the women’s march and social justice.
Her African-American, Native-American and White Ashkenazie Jewish background made her the person she is today, a social activist who has been instrumental in bringing people together across differences. She has had many Everyday conversations on race, ethnicity, religion, and economic class.
April has a very strong Jewish identity and has held several leadership positions in mainstream Jewish organizations.. Even though she was the VP of Audacious Hospitality at the Union for Reform Judaism, she has experienced racism within the Jewish community. The false myth that all Jews are white, has sometimes led white Jews to question her Judaism, telling her she is not Jewish enough or interrogating her by asking, “How are you Jewish.” This is a question that white Jewish people are not asked, nor are they told they are not Jewish enough.
There is another false belief amongst some more right wing white Jewish people that there is a “special issue” of Black antisemitism. There is some antisemitism and racism in every group particularly when people don’t know each other. Instead of getting to know individuals in any group, some people take the “easy and lazy” way out and rely on the media, one negative experience or Facebook and Twitter rumors to generalize a group. It’s a cognitive dissonance that when someone in a group we are part of (racial, cultural, etc.) we see them as on individual but when it’s an individual from another group they represent everyone.
We also discussed her thinking that some of the claims of anti-Semitism are coming from trolls and people who don’t support equality and want to use Jewish people as scapegoats to separate us from Muslims and people of color who have also been targeted and attacked. Their strategy is to make Jewish people feel like they are being attacked by people on the progressive side and no longer align with them.
This has been particularly problematic in the recent Women’s March, of which April is on the steering committee. In our conversation on race, April spoke about the misconception that the whole leadership of the women’s march was anti Semitic based on the relationship one of the leaders has with Minister Farrakhan who had consistently made anti-Semitic statements.
April made the compared that by saying that if a Jewish person in a synagogue makes a racist statement that doesn’t mean all Jewish people are responsible, and it would be wrong to assume that and condemn all Judaism.
It’s important for April and other Jewish women to be part of the women’s march and educate people who may not know about Judaism and what is considered offensive no matter who they are. At the same time, it’s important for white women involved in the Women’s March to learn about racism. We need each other and the only way we can be successful and eliminate inequality is by education, experience and working together.
This is why April feels that open, honest and sometimes difficult conversations on race are crucial to stop hate and fear of people who are different.