Tag : Race

The Lilith Blog

August 26, 2020 by

Friendships and Race: A New Orleans Coming of Age Story

New Orleans, in all its tawdry glory, is the setting for Iris Martin Cohen’s second novel, Last Call on Decatur Street (Park Row Books, $27.99).  After swearing that she’ll never get to return to the Big Easy, Rosemary gets kicked out of college and finds herself back in her hometown, working as a burlesque dancer. Most nights she dulls her private sorrow with a combination of booze, drugs and sex but on the January night in question, her world is cracked wide open and she’s forced to confront the choices—good and bad—that she’s made.  Cohen talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about how her Jewish protagonist fits into this very Catholic world. 

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July 27, 2020 by

We are Dying Because of the Fears of White People

Why are white people so afraid of my Black skin? When will living in this Black body feel liberating and freeing, instead of terrifying? When will this country acknowledge this pain? When will we have to stop running on the wheel of white supremacy? When will we be able to breathe?

I am exhausted, too. All the Black people in me are tired. […] We can’t get into an accident and knock on someone’s door for help. We can’t be too loud in our joy. We can’t be too Black. We can’t go birdwatching. We can’t say “I can’t breathe” and expect to live. We can’t be. We are murdered and blamed for our own deaths. We are tired of running. Tired of being told that we are not enough. Tired of constricting ourselves into tiny boxes. Tired of screaming “Black Lives Matter” at the top of our lungs. Tired of mourning and grieving those we’ve lost—those lost to gun violence, those who’ve slipped through the cracks in our society, those we’ve lost to Covid-19. We are tired.

My liberation is tied to your liberation. I want collective liberation. I need collective liberation. I need to feel free in this Black body. Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) need the time and space to dream, heal, and rest.

This is not a fight of our own creation. We are living and dying because of the fears and imaginations of white people. It is long overdue for white folx to join us in this fight. This feels especially relevant when the mainstream Jewish community continues debating whether Jews of Color exist, and cannot even have conversations about how Ashkenormativity in the Jewish community hurts Jews of Color.

It is no longer the time to stand on the sidelines and cheer us on (and it never was). If you love me, show me. Show me what the Jewish values of Tikkun Olam look like. Will you shield me with your body to protect me from the vicious blows that come from living in a white supremacist society? Will you move through the pain that comes with wading through 400 years of racist and white supremacist history to get to the other side with me?

Black people are magic. We make the impossible possible. We always were and always will be. It amazes me that despite the injustices, the maimings, the killings, and the collective trauma, we haven’t yet burned the world down. I suppose that given all our ancestors went through, we will not go down without a fight. Or, maybe we are just otherworldly and we’re here to inform you of new ways of being.

DENA ROBINSON, The Lilith Blog

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July 27, 2020 by

Lyrical Looks at #MeToo and Whiteness

It has been hard to read lately. If this has been true for you—and if, like me, the printed word has always been your escape hatch from reality these last two (three? seven?) months—you can appreciate the sense of utter strangeness created by this absence of reading. My mind floats over the surfaces of novels, instead of digging in. I’m envious of people reading voraciously.

Before the lockdown, though, I bought two books by faculty I’ve known and worked with as a writer. When we can’t be with each other in person, connecting to these mentor figures by reading their words has given me a sense of restoration, as well as a charge to do better, and be grateful.

How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences by Sue Silverman is a collection of essays about memory, those that help us endure, as well the kind that we’d rather keep hidden from ourselves, and the kind we question. It’s both ironic and not that the title of the book mentions death, since if there was ever a guide for how to live, this is it. Silverman’s essays are about survival—the individual and the collective, how they wind together, and how we pass on memories, and their inherited trauma, both with intention and by accident. A character known as “The Knife Thin Man” carves a path in and out of Silverman’s essays, appearing and disappearing, His presence serves as a reminder that as women, we’re particularly likely to question the authenticity of our own memories, as well as to grapple with the message that our bodies are inherently toxic.

What do we do with those memories that carry with them the ability to sink us? According to Silverman, in order to survive and grow, we have to collect them, transform them, and let them transform us.

Maids is a collection of prose poems by novelist Abby Frucht reflecting on race, class, and gender in the context of her Long Island childhood and the black women who worked for her family. If Silverman’s essays tunnel into the #MeToo movement, Frucht’s poems do the same with whiteness. Maids is rife with reflections on moments that will make white folks cringe with recognition, even if, like “the doctor’s daughter” characters, we’re accessing our own childhood memories. What happens to our cognition around race when those memories resurface? Do we allow our shame to make us disappear? Frucht’s astonishing sentences aren’t simply artful, they also reflect a struggle to comprehend and process the world, and often, failing. Why is a white man so interested in why a black man is sitting with the doctor’s daughter on her porch? What do we do when the moment of action—right or wrong—passes us by? Frucht’s poems urge us not simply to move on, but to consider what our means of disturbance might be. Remaining still is not an option.

Right now, when we’re frightened and frustrated and often on the verge of spinning out, we need art to help us access hope. These books urge us to touch on the painful and the frayed, in order to take that road.

Chanel Dubofsky writes fiction and non-fiction in Brooklyn, NY.

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September 27, 2018 by

Are Ashkenazi Jews White?

“You may not feel white, but that doesn’t take away the privilege. In America, race is not a choice. It’s assigned.”

NYLAH BURTON, “White Jews, Stop Calling Yourselves White-Passing,” Forward, July 2, 2018.

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