Black people could end the cycle of poverty and hopelessness, if only they could just be more Jewish. So stated Sharon of upstate New York and it hurt my head.
Sharon and her husband, Kenny seem like normal, reasonable people. They're intelligent, well-educated, and fun-loving.
On a recent visit to their home, my wife, Broomhilda regaled Sharon and Kenny with what she considers to be a very funny story involving me sitting handcuffed in the back of police car for 45 minutes.
When she stopped laughing, Broomhilda said that it was lucky that I wasn't Black. Kaboom!
Our hosts launched into a two-pronged attack.
Sharon bristled at the way Blacks play the victim card and she thinks that they should do what the Jews did when they came here.
If we can do it, why can't they? After all, we were once slaves, too.
Kenny focused on the proper response when stopped by the po-po. He taught his kids to be respectful and always say, Yes, sir or Yes, ma'am.
He also said that you should never reach into your pocket and bring your hand out in the shape of a gun, repeatedly demonstrating said verboten move.
To Kenny, it's the pretend gun thing that gets Black kids shot.
When Kenny leaped out of his chair, towering over me while angrily re-enacting the reaching of the hand thing, he was hopping mad. He looked like a poster of a guy about to have a stroke.
Dismissing the idea of Black people being disproportionately stopped by police, Kenny said that he sees White kids getting stopped all the time.
I didn't see any kids in Kenny's neighborhood that weren't White.
The Emancipation Proclamation (1863) did nothing to change the fact that White America still viewed Black people as slaves, and as "others." Many White folks still do.
There were few jobs in the South for recently freed slaves, so it was common for men to migrate north in search of employment. Black families endured separation and a distortion of the family unit.
Jews, obviously had a different experience.
Back in feudal Europe, it was illegal for Jews to own property. so they were relegated to the chore of loaning money and keeping records.
Could be that's how Goldman Sachs got started.
Fleeing Nazi Germany, Jews escaped with whatever was light enough to carry or small enough to shove in their pockets. Some carried violins, while some stuffed diamonds into their pockets and headed for Manhattan's 47th Street.
They had something to fall back on and they had their families. Their best piece of good fortune was that they landed in a post war America where federal programs funded education, infrastructure and business growth.
At the same time though, black people were still suffering the oppression of Jim Crow laws.
Victimization is not a state of mind.
Jews learned to stand up for themselves and for each other. Why are we offended when Black people do the same?
Which brings us back to my time in handcuffs, where my situation deteriorated by the minute. There were many issues and the potential of felony charges.
It was easy though, for me to crack wise with my captor.
I had no fear that he would shoot me. It doesn't happen to guys like me. We think in terms of legal bills, not bullet holes.
Kenny's kids will probably behave properly if they're ever in that situation. They have no fear of being shot. They're more worried about what their parents are going to say.
You can't deny that bad things happen to Black people at the hands of the police any more than you can deny global warming.
Growing up Black, you learn to fear the police and fear is a powerful thing.
Fear triggers an inexorable response that is hard wired into our brains. It's meant to ensure our survival.
The fight or flight response can override good manners when being stopped for driving while Black and people in that circumstance can do dumb things.
Police, on the other hand are trained for those interactions. It's their job.
How we can expect the general population to behave correctly when we can't ensure that our police will do the same?
This is in no way an indictment of the police. Theirs is a tough job and they tend to meet civilians behaving at their worst.
Kenny probably didn't realize that when he lunged at me, he had committed the crime of assault. Sometimes even the best of us can lose control in stressful situations.
Had he lunged at my uniformed friend back in Illinois, Kenny might have found himself in a situation that he thought only happened to Black people who reach into their pockets.
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