Tag : roots

April 20, 2020 by

Digging Up the Rotten Roots

I woke up and went outside to harvest. I spent the morning digging up roots, rinsing them clean, putting them into containers to store. Then I checked the news. 

Hasidic Jews in New York attacked with a machete inside their Rabbi’s home on Chanukah. The ninth anti-Semitic attack in New York during this week. Visibly Jewish people bearing the violent brunt of the story told about all Jews: that we are the ultimate source of people’s suffering. And that by harming us, killing us, that suffering will be alleviated. 

The roots of our society are rotting. It is time to dig them up. 

The roots of racism and anti-Semitism have run deep through our society’s history and have grown violence for generations. The exploitation of Black and Brown people, since before our country’s founding. The story that says that Black people are subhuman, that Black labor is white people’s to commodify, that Black communities can be destroyed in an infinite number of ways if white people can benefit. Stories that pave the way for gentrification and expulsion. And the stories that say it’s the fault of the Jews, stories imported by white nationalists for generations that claim that Jews control the banks, control the government, and ultimately control people’s lives. We have breathed these stories in since before we were born. They have always been written and spread by white supremacists and white nationalists, but at some point they came to be understood as common knowledge and we have failed to belong to each other ever since. 

All of these stories serve to divide and conquer. All of these stories are meant to keep power in the hands of those who hold it. 

As Carin Mrotz writes, “Just as capitalism absolutely depends on racism in order to justify exploiting black and brown bodies for labor, it absolutely depends on anti-Semitism in order to scapegoat the Jews and obscure the wheels of its own violence. Poor people are told it’s the Jews who are to blame for their poverty and oppression. Oppressed people are driven apart and pitted against each other. That’s the whole point. It’s so, so painful—and as we see, violent—when it works the way it’s supposed to.” 

Most Hasidic people in New York experiencing this violence are poor. They live at the same economic level as the communities around them. But this isn’t the story that gets told. Because if we enable our suffering to connect us to one another, then we constitute a threat. 

We must constitute a threat. 

This doesn’t mean returning things to the way they were under the Obama administration. This means digging up the rotten roots. 

DOVE KENT, “Tearing Up Anti-Semitism by the Roots,” The Lilith Blog. 

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July 9, 2019 by

An Unanticipated Birthright Effect

In college, a Jewish friend told me her experiences during an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel. I was impressed when I learned about Taglit-Birthright Israel and its mission to ensure that Jewish young adults have the opportunity to visit and learn about Israel. Last year, as a graduate student, I traveled there with several Jewish classmates. I was moved by—and somewhat envious of—their strong sense of shared identity and how the trip nurtured it.

I couldn’t forget that feeling. The PBS series “Finding Your Roots,” in which Henry Louis Gates Jr. investigated the family history of well-known Americans, was another reminder to me of how powerful it can be to learn about the genetic and cultural ties that connect us all to stories and communities much bigger than us. 

This year, I finally organized a trip for a group of my black friends and classmates and me to explore our own heritage. On that trip I learned to cook jollof, a rice dish that is a staple of West African diets. I learned about investment opportunities in Nigeria, including cashew farms and start-ups. I had my hair braided. I visited castles where enslaved people were kept in dungeons before they exited through the door of no return. We discussed Nigerian history over dinner and learned about the political turmoil and wealth of the country… I reflected on what life would be like if I lived in a nation where I was part of the dominant racial group.

MERCEDES BENT, “The Trip I Hope All African-Americans Can Take,” The New York Times, May 4, 2019.

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