“Cherish criticism for it will place you on the true heights” -Rabbi Sholom Dovber of Lubavitch
When someone gives you criticism, are you hurt because they are wrong, or because they are right…? This week, allow one piece of criticism to be internalized and make a positive difference in your life. Watch how powerful it can be!
I love to relax and read on Shabbat, and today was an amazing article from a Palestinian from Gaza, who is an American citizen. He feels that Hamas needs to get out, Israel needs to stop getting blamed, and the United Nations needs to step in to do the work it has done before.
Let’s learn and grow together for a common goal of peace,
A few days ago, the Chicago Dyke March posted a tweet: “Zio tears replenish my electrolytes!” “Zio” is an antisemitic slur popularized by David Duke; even the milquetoast Chakrabarti Inquiry into antisemitism in Labour agreed it was a racist term. St. Jeremy Corbyn himself agreed: “‘Zio’ is a vile epithet that follows in a long line of earlier such terms that have no place whatsoever in our party”. The March is now defending itself from renewed antisemitism allegations by saying it “definitely didn’t know the violent history of the term”, only to make an equally ignorant accusation of “white tears” (you know my views on this already, so I won’t recite them again) moments later.
They mean this as a defense, but it’s actually an indictment. Let me explain why.
I’ll accept, for sake of argument, that the Chicago Dyke March did not “know” the term “Zio” was antisemitic. Nonetheless, the March almost certainly didn’t stumble across the term “Zio” by accident. They got it from somewhere, from sources they felt confident enough to emulate. In other words, one of the ways the Chicago Dyke March learned to speak about matters of Jewish concern was from people who think it is okay to toss around terms like “Zio”. The odds that everything else it learned about those matters from this same social network was magically uninfected by this obvious antisemitism is incredibly scant. It’s the thirteenth (or in this case fourteenth, or fifteenth, or seventieth) chime that calls into question the other twelve.
There are many places in this country where people grow up hearing racial slurs that they don’t “know” are derogatory — they’re “just what people say”. When they move into the wider world and use such terms, they sometimes claim ignorance — and in some sense, they might be right. But the implication of their apologia is that not that they are free from racism — far from it. It’s that they grew up in an environment where racism was so normalized that they didn’t even know how to recognize it. Such a situation demands some very hard work of unlearning, of radically questioning one’s own presuppositions and acknowledging that one needs to acquire substantial new information before one can feel confident in their ability to relate to the other group in an ethical manner.
But let’s give the Dyke March even further benefit of the doubt. Suppose they somehow magically stumbled upon “Zio” through entirely innocent means — nobody in their social network was using it, they came up with it all be their creative selves. Even still, all that would demonstrate is that they don’t know crucial information about a subject they nonetheless feel fully confident to opine on. Put another way, if they didn’t “know” that “Zio” was antisemitic, shouldn’t the next question be “what else don’t we know?”
I’ve long thought that the heart of oppression as a discursive practice is a perceived entitlement to talk about a group without knowing about the group. The Chicago Dyke March pleads ignorance about Jews and antisemitism, but that ignorance in no way dissipates their belief that they are absolutely entitled to talk about Jews and Jewish institutions however they want and be treated as credible and legitimate entrants to the discussion. It’s not a valid move. If you don’t know enough about Jews or antisemitism to know that “Zio” is an antisemitic term, then you don’t know enough to be confident that any of your other opinions about Jews or antisemitism are worthwhile.
The Dyke March, in short, wants the innocence of ignorance without the responsibility. It wants to be able to say, on the one hand, “we didn’t know that this term we used was a prominent antisemitic slur”, while on the other hand it equally wants to say “we do know that in all other cases everything else we’ve said or done vis-a-vis Jews is entirely above-board and not racist”. They can only have the first if they’re willing to disturb the second.