#BLACK LIVES MATTER has hit the entire world with a heavy force for all of us to reckon with. “What does it mean? Do not Asian lives matter too; what about white ones?” my son asked me. He then shared with me that his classmates are calling themselves “white privileged,” which makes him feel like he should be ashamed somehow. I am not going to lie, this had me defensive for a moment. I do not want my son to feel ashamed that we are a medium-to-high income household and live in a beautiful neighborhood that has minimal crime rates. I work 50 plus hours every week; my husband works a full-time job, and we have three college degrees between us.
I began to respond with, “We have what we have because we have worked hard, very hard. I worked hard throughout school and I had to pay all my own school loans myself. I have never received a handout.”
But then, I had to counter my defense and explain to my son that Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that only Black Lives Matter and that I don’t feel that he or I can really comment on what “white privilege” feels like unless we are Black, Asian, Hispanic or another ethnicity of color. Honestly, it is not about how we feel at all. It is about acknowledging and understanding something that we may not ever experience. I will never know what it feels like to be a Black woman. I have never had to experience racism because of my color, but I have experienced it for being a Jewish woman.
My son is fortunate to have never faced real anti-Semitism. As editor of the Atlanta Jewish Times, I publish stories about anti-Semitism in schools all the time. Yet I was still faced with trying to teach my son, and even myself, a little more understanding of what white privilege is verses racism.
In my effort, I came to understand that white privilege is not suggesting that white people have never struggled. And white privilege is not the assumption that everything a white person has accomplished is unearned; most white people who have reached a high level of success worked extremely hard to get there. Instead, white privilege should be viewed as an advantage, separate from one’s level of income or effort in life to accomplish their goals.
On one hand, we are privileged because we are white and on the other, we are singled out because we are Jewish. I am not sure if it was really getting through to my son, so I just leveled with him and said, Black Lives Matter because Black Lives Matter, not because any other life does not matter. You can agree that Black Lives Matter and still believe that all lives matter, because they do.
Recently our society has witnessed the loss of Black life in the state of Minnesota and two lives in Georgia. It is important to grieve, regardless of color, and attempt to understand someone else’s loss, pain and feelings. We are white privileged because we do not know what it is like to be discriminated against because of our color.
As Jewish communities around the world suffer a great deal of discrimination and hate because they are Jewish, we should be aware of the feelings of others, always acknowledging their pain, and being supportive of their efforts to ensure their voices are heard.
All lives matter and that means that Black Lives Matter.
Disclaimer: This editorial’s references to Black Lives Matter (BLM) is only suggesting the movement and sentiment itself, and does not speak of The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, or BLM Global Network Foundation as an organization in any way.