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Acknowledging the Burdens of the Black Community

Message to the Jewish Community and CBI

Acknowledging the Burdens of the Black Community

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg


I recall when I my children were about to go to college, that I sat down with them to talk about Anti-Semitism they might encounter during their college years. I would share with them what I experienced at UC Berkeley during the Yom Kippur war in Israel in 1963, when demonstrations on campus called for the destruction for the State of Israel. I shared with them the history of anti-Semitism and the legacy of the Holocaust.

Talking to our children about the hatred of Jews is one of the hardest burdens for a Jewish parent.

Black parents have a similar burden.

Stephen Carter, a professor of law at Yale and a novelist spoke this weekend about the burdens of parenting in the black community.

“I remember when our son first got his driver's license, and we warned him about if you're ever pulled over, keep your hands in sight, speak respectfully and so on. If you have to reach into the glove box, tell the officer that's what you're doing - all these things that, really, you would think in a civilized world we shouldn't have to say, but we all know why. We all know why this is true. Because, you know, for centuries now, so much of the West, including America, has been infected, if I can use the word, by a pandemic of hatred, a pandemic of suspicion that rests on the fundamental lie that black people are inferior and white people are superior. That's the lie that permeates our society. And until that lie is undone, we're going to keep seeing incidents like this one.” (referring to the killing of George Floyd while in police custody.)

Carter continues: “But the truth is, sad though it is, that black people are killed by police at an alarming rate. In fact, one recent study tells us that black people have a five times greater chance per capita of being killed by police when unarmed. It's really quite remarkable data. And so this is simply the latest addition of this terrible, terrible tragedy.”

These times call for empathy and support for the Black community which has suffered greatly from the pandemic as well as its economic consequences. But this suffering is compounded by incidents that remind all of us of the racism and brutal treatment blacks experience at the hands of police or vigilante violence. For many the recent events have been a tipping point, bringing thousands into the streets to express anger and deep despair.

It is unfortunate that a minority have turned what have been intended to be peaceful protests into destruction of property and violent confrontation. Local authorities must take firm action to quell the destructive actions.

But I hope the call for justice is not distorted and the pain of the black community be heard. While the law enforcement agencies are served by many fair minded and good officers, unfortunately toxic policing, especially experienced by the black community, rears its ugly head again and again.

Our nation needs strong leadership and healing which can bring good people together and unite the country to recall our cherished ideals of equity under the law and opportunity to live a good life. We must never relax our efforts to remove the stains of racism and to build the foundation for fairness and equal treatment under the law.

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