Friday, February 4, 2011

Yes, But Is It Good For The Jews?

It has been brought my attention that I am not your average Jew.

Apparently having experienced anti-Semitism in the form of neo-Nazi-skinhead-punk beatings, vandalism of my synagogue, condescending ignorance from a driver's ed teacher, enduring slurs spoken to my face, and a myriad plethora of other instances qualifies me for: Official Victim Status.

Don't get me wrong; what happened to me was horrific. However, maybe it's the sheer surreality of it all but I can't help feeling... blasé.

See, unlike most of the other hip Yids out there in Jewish-land, I grew up never really questioning or intellectualizing my experiences with anti-Semitism. It's only been recently that I've started to take a hard look at my past, and realize the depth of the prejudice I was forced to deal with from a very young age and even now into my 20's.

In fact, with the exception of some oldsters in the fancy ghettos of Florida and New York, I don't know anyone who's could actually tell me about a specific instance of anti-Semitism that happened to them.

I'm not trying to get into some kind of competition. This isn't the Oppression Olympics. But I do want to highlight that even when talking to people who've had direct experience with racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of prejudice, my stories make them feel uncomfortable.

Maybe it's because I don't act like a guy who's had the Holocaust denied to his face on multiple occasions while being called a Kike.

Maybe it's just because I'm used to this shit. It doesn't surprise me; it doesn't faze me.

Sure, I get upset. I internalize and fume and bluster with righteous anger, but ultimately I always end up shrugging my shoulders and continue walking.

Recently, having talked and written about these things has released a lot of pent-up emotions. The reactions of the people listening -- or reading! -- have often been the catalyst in my own realization that what's happened to me is... wrong.

By wrong I mean seriously wrong. Like the kind of wrong people write into Lifetime movies. The kind that goes into books for high school students to pretend to read. The kind that goes on Oprah or gets a feature in Time magazine. The kind that wakes people up to the horrible things happening around them.

The writing helps though; its always been my personal catharsis. Someday I might even write a whole book about it.

Until then, I'll just keep blogging.


6 footnotes:

Anonymous said...

Very clear details. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Coming to the realization that things that happened to you when you were young weren't normal can fuck you up. (Excuse my language!)

/Speaking from experience

Zek J Evets said...

@anon: thanks! next time come back and pick a user-name =)

@jasmin: indeed, this is very true, but lucky for me i am/was already fucked-up so the end result almost fixes me -- in a way.

Mira said...

I don't think a person can fully understand some things until he or she is older. I don't think the child can comprehend some things the way adult people can.

It's not that you don't see something is wrong or that it bothers you; but only later you realize HOW wrong and bad it was.

Still, you're right about the oppression olympics. It brings no good. On the other hand, it's difficult to discuss issues with people who didn't have to go through the same things. However, I don't think you have to be a Jew to know how some things hurt. But sadly, people usually care only about the things that concern them or their group.

Zek J Evets said...

@mira: this is very true. as a child, understanding the wider world is extremely difficult. and it's only later in life that the seemingly nonsensical or random begins to make sense, and seem far less random.

getting people to talk about things that don't necessarily concern their group is part of getting them to understand that hatred, ignorance, oppression, etc., doesn't stop at just one group of people. it spreads, and while hurt all of us in some way, unless we do something about it right away. jews know this because of our history as scapegoats for myriad problems. as soon as one thing goes bad, or one group gets blamed, it's only a matter of time before they bring the jews into it and suddenly you can't ignore what's happening.

it's actually something we studied when i attended hebrew school.

Mira said...

getting people to talk about things that don't necessarily concern their group is part of getting them to understand that hatred, ignorance, oppression, etc., doesn't stop at just one group of people.

Sounds reasonable, but it doesn't work (often). Because people think their group's situation and problems are unique. (Be it in a way they are the top victims or that they are better than the other groups that might experience some problems).

And when I say "groups", I don't really mean just ethnic groups. It works for any group. Just take (white, heterosexual) women for example. Some of them refuse to listen anything about the troubles POC face, or gays. Ok, they acknowledge the problem, but they think their situation is far worse. Same can be observed in discussions about race or homophobia. Each group seems to think they got the worst treatment and - this is important - members of other groups, even if oppressed themselves, are unable to understand "what is like".

This makes sense to a degree, but if I concluded something, it is the fact oppression is NOT as unique as you may think. In other words, if you are oppressed based one criteria, you should be able to understand people who are oppressed based on another criteria. So the main problem is not the lack of ability to be empathize - it's the lack of interest in doing that.