March 22, 2012

One more voice raised in outrage

Once, a black professor, my all-time favorite professor in fact, argued to my class of mostly white faces that a white woman and a black woman could never truly be friends. A white woman could never understand trials faced by a black woman. She could never understand the fear, the repression, the weight of her dark skin.

I argued with her, somewhat naively, that my experiences as a Jew would help me on the road to understanding and friendship.  That my distant family's experiences in Nazi-lead Europe qualified me to be friends with a black woman like her.

She stared me down for a moment before answering.  "You don't look Jewish."

She was right. I have blonde hair. Blue eyes. I don't look Semetic.  If I ever needed to, I could pass for something else.

A black woman probably doesn't have that luxury.

I still disagree about whether or not I can be friends with a black woman; I've had many friends with skin much darker than my own.

But I don't know if I disagree, anymore, about never being able to understand.

Because I look at Zoe. She, by Jewish law, is also Jewish. With her darker hair and darker eyes, she probably looks more Jewish than I ever did.

But still, as she gets older, she will probably be safe walking down most streets. She will probably never be stopped by someone in an affluent neighborhood, challenging her right to be there. Telling her she looks suspicious.

Many things may happen to her in life, but I doubt she will ever be accosted, and then brutally shot and killed, based solely on the color of her skin.

I, like many, am outraged that our world is still not safe for black children walking down the street, holding nothing more dangerous than a bag of Skittles.  My heart breaks for Trayvon Martin's parents, who will never see their own child alive again. And I sadly acknowledge: I cannot begin to comprehend their burden.

One man's actions destroyed another young man's life, for no reason other than the color of his skin.

I will never begin to understand that.  All I can do right now is raise my own voice in outrage, to add to the chorus of broken hearts.

2 comments:

Sean P. Farley said...

Trayvon's murder is awful, I agree. ANY murder is awful, let alone his. BUT....I have an issue with anyone who ever says this person and that person can never truly be friends because of such-and-such. Do you know what I hear often? "A gay man and a straight man can never TRULY be friends." Why? Because the gay man will, at some point, be attracted to the straight man, and the straight man will never truly understand what it means to be gay. Who cares?!? I have a few straight male friends and we're friends BECAUSE we can express our trials and tribulations - we're there for each other. That's what friendship IS. Sorry, I'm not upset at you or your post (I love your posts!), but I'm upset at the audacity that an educated woman like your professor can make a statement like that. I mean, you might not LOOK Jewish, but if I was your friend, the fact still remains that you ARE Jewish, and I wouldn't look or think of you any differently. Oh my gosh, I'm rambling! See, this is what blog posts are supposed to do, get people talking. :)

Leah said...

Ha! Rambling is for sure allowed...I like it.

It was definitely a bizarre/upsetting moment , when the professor said that. I still don't agree that we couldn't be friends. But I feel now like maybe I couldn't *quite* understand her burdens.

But you're right - friendship is about helping to lessen one another's burdens, in some way.

I still love that professor, and I will be friends with people of any gender/color/sexual orientation, because that's the kind of girl I am. :)

Thanks for commenting!

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