Is there any other way to describe it than racism?


(re: “Looking at Black Lives Matter from one Jewish perspective,” March 4)

It’s hard to know what to make of Alvin Gordon’s Point of View. It is a mixture of falsehoods, bizarre distortions, irrational fears and rage — at Black people, Black communities and Black leaders.

But when I can’t make rational sense out of someone’s viewpoint, as a psychologist, I look for the psychological sense of it.

Mr. Gordon starts with some hypothetical situation of whether you would save an anonymous Black person versus a loved one if both were drowning. Of course you would save the loved one. “That’s the way it actually is in real life,” he says.

But you would also save your loved one before a stranger who is white, purple, whatever. And he ignored the situation where the Black person is your loved one, as is the case for me.

His hypothetical makes no rational sense to me. To me, it seems Mr. Gordon is conveying the thought, “Come on, you are just as against Blacks as I am. Their lives matter less to you than white lives, don’t they?” Many of us don’t belong to that club.

Then he attacks the slogan “Black lives matter” because all lives matter. Having watched and participated in Black Lives Matter protests, I have never heard anyone say other people’s lives don’t matter. The Black Lives Matter movement came about because it seemed that, to some portion of the police, Black lives don’t matter as much as white lives.

One of the beautiful things about the movement is that it is interracial. But when a particular group is having a problem, you focus on that problem.

If there were a “Jewish Lives Matter” movement in the 1930s, I don’t think Mr. Gordon would condemn it for not dissolving that message into an “all humans” platitude.

Next he goes on about how the Black Lives Matter movement is not doing “a damn thing” about Black-on-Black crime. But Black Lives Matter has a different focus: police brutality. Would you attack a Jewish group supporting research on, say, Tay-Sachs disease for not dealing with anti-Semitism?

What is not known by many is the work of numerous groups dealing with inner-city violence. The right — especially since the rise of Trump — doesn’t want to talk about it because Black lives don’t matter that much to them.

The left, unfortunately, is afraid of acknowledging problems in the Black community for fear of attacks like Mr. Gordon offers. But 400 years of trauma, of being seen as being less than fully human, is going to be traumatizing.

To quote James Baldwin back in 1961, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost, almost all of the time.”

For an example of one New York City group dealing with inner-city violence, there is Street Corner Resources, led by Iesha Sekou. It offers a variety of services, including violence interruption, working with neighborhood gangs. “If” this Black-on-Black violence concerns you beyond finger-pointing, look it up and make a donation.

There are many such groups, operating under the radar.

Mr, Gordon goes on to talk about local disputes decades ago. When there are real conflicts between competing groups which rub up against each other, there will be friction — and, sadly, prejudice. On both sides.

Back in the day when I worked with inner-city kids, the Puerto Rican gangs would do battle with the Dominican gangs. In many parts of the world, this leads to inter-ethnic slaughter. (Remember what happened in the Balkans?)

What about today? Where are “the Blacks” attacking Jews? And I don’t mean criticizing Israel, which many Jews also criticize. Of course today in, for example, Borough Park — where there are turf battles — there are Blacks who hate their Jewish neighbors, and Jews who hate their Black neighbors.

One of the things that I am most proud of as a Jew is our willingness to fight for the well-being of our fellow human beings, as exemplified during the civil rights movement by Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman — who gave their lives. As the people of HIAS, who work with Latin Americans at our southern border (and other refugees), put it, “We used to take refugees because they were Jewish. Now we take them because we’re Jewish.”

A poll by the Jewish Electorate Institute last September found 66 percent of Jews had a favorable impression of Black Lives Matter, with 28 percent negative. Mr. Gordon is in the minority.

I have noticed that in the anti-Black Lives Matter, anti-Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, anti-left diatribes that I had read in these pages — not blaming The Riverdale Press, which also has printed the opposite view, including from me — they get more hysterical as they go on. Mr. Gordon goes on to attack a bunch of Black people.

He claims Louis Farrakhan, who actually is anti-Semitic, is a friend of Obama. Really? Yes, they were once in a photo together at a meeting of Black leaders. I’m sure there are pictures of him with devout Zionists.

He attacks “Black anti-Semites,” including U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib — who isn’t Black, but is of Palestinian descent. (The same for Mr. Gordon?)

How can a rational person (I’m being generous) — especially after the attack on the Capitol by right-wing white supremacist groups with a guy happily wandering around with a Camp Aushwitz shirt — look at Black people and the left as being the source of danger to Jews?

And don’t forget the synagogue in Pittsburgh. Or the “Jews will not replace us” march in Charlottesville. And their anti-Black plus anti-Semitic ancestor, the KKK.

It makes no rational sense. Never a mention of the actual people who hate and kill Jews, and who — mixed in with armed white supremacist militias — are a genuine threat.

There is only one answer, and I don’t use such a word lightly. Racism. To play off Mr. Gordon’s ending (“to the haters, a Jew is a Jew is a Jew’) — To the haters, a Black is a Black is a Black.

Why the racism? Why the fear and loathing of Black people?

Hey, I’m a psychologist. But I am not Mr. Gordon’s psychologist.

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Peter Wolf,