Jan. 23rd, 2017

schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
I was not born with internalized anti-antisemitism. I was not always so certain that anything short of being murdered by a Nazi constituted antisemitism. I did not always make excuses and apologies and say that my fellow Ashkenazim complaining about antisemitism were a bunch of whiny white people pretending to still be oppressed. What happened? What changed? My dear readers, that's how gaslighting works.

I always felt accepted in elementary school for my faith. I got to talk about Hannukah around that time, people thought it was cool. I got bullied for my size and my perceived lack of intelligence (fun fact: They thought I had an intellectual disability for a bit in late elementary school!), but never did me being Jewish become a part of it. Then middle school happened. Suddenly not only was it about my size or my weird interest in Shakespeare or my like kind of stupid kind of smartness. Nope, suddenly me being Jewish (or half-Jewish as I identified until 8th grade) became a well worn part of the taunts. I have a theory that it correlates with when most kids start attending youth groups and in a lot of Evangelical circles in my town, not being their brand of Christian, let alone not being Christian at all, meant you were going to hell and that you killed Jesus. Being the astute observers they were, my peers quickly learned that watching videos about the holocaust upset me, that yelling "heil Hitler" and saluting really upset me, that Holocaust denial, saying I killed Jesus, that Hitler was right, saying that I would burn in hell and suffer eternal fire, asking me to really explain what the phrase "Jew you down" meant, etc. were all "how to make Rachel cry, easy mode". I did what I had been told to do, I let adults know.

I was told that it wasn't antisemitism. That they were just bullying me and they only said those things because they knew they bothered me. If I didn't react, if I didn't give them what they wanted then they would stop. My guidance counselor told me I just had to have a thicker skin if I was going to volunteer that information about myself (My family and I had been in the paper a few times lighting Hannukah candles when I was in elementary school, clearly a poor choice.) Really, this was just me making a mountain out of a mole hill and again, it's not like the kids were actually Nazis. I even had a teacher witness it and say "if you had Jesus in your heart, they wouldn't do that". My parents were pretty silent on it, most notably my dad. I know Dad had to balance being a small business owner and as I got older I saw how much micro and macro aggression hurt him but because of the nature of his work, he couldn't push back to defend himself. I took it in and believed it. Antisemitism wasn't a thing, especially not for Ashkenazim (yes we need to examine the intersection of white privledge, conditional acceptance, and antisemitism but that is another entry).

I was speaking these thoughts aloud when I said under the new administration, I had a duty to be tanking on the front lines because I am not a target. One of my friends brought up me being Jewish and I instantly dismissed the many flagrant displays of antisemitism I have seen. I brought it back to how it was like bullying to which my friend pointed out "They would not have said those things if you weren't Jewish. That is anti-antisemitism" One of the most insidious things about oppression is that it teaches you that your narrative is invalid, that your perceptions aren't real. I still have a hard time feeling legitimized in my experiences with antisemitism or that it's a form of oppression I experience (particularly living in a city). It's one of the reasons why I feel very strongly about making sure marginalized folks can share their experiences without me coming in and trying to tell them what they really feel or make meaning of it for them. Listen, legitimize/validate feelings, and act on what you hear.

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schoolpsychnerd

June 2017

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