Rat Race

Voice Card  -  Volume 28  -  Janine Card Number 3  -  Sun, May 9, 1993 6:48 PM

I want to thank Larry for that wonderful book review. I am getting more and more disturbed at the state of race relations in this country (not to mention the rest of the world). It's wonderful to read something from an innocent, "child's-eye view," before the negative outside world has had an effect.

I suppose two recent events have caused me to dwell on this subject even more than usual. I met a wonderful woman named Claudia (who happens to be black) about a week ago. We began talking, and she was saying that the biggest problem people have is a lack of self-esteem. I couldn't agree more. In any event, we exchanged numbers and hugs - we both enjoyed each other's company.

In a subsequent phone conversation, we discussed the differences and similarities between the African-American struggle for equality and what Jews have gone through. All of a sudden she popped out with, "How come the Jews hate black people so much?" I related to her that there's a lot of misunderstanding on both sides, and that I knew Jews who worked very hard to improve relations, not just with blacks, but between all people.

She really drove it home, though, that the only reason people have a problem with people of color, is that their skin is darker. That's it. I agreed, too, that it's been a lot easier for Jewish people to fit in (especially non-religious Jews) because we don't necessarily "look" Jewish. I did tell her that when Alex Haley interviewed the Grand Dragon of the KKK, he was not asked if he was black (granted, that would be obvious when they met), he was asked if he was Jewish. This surprised her very much.

After the conversation, I had so many thoughts spinning in my head. I realized once again that we need to educate each other about our differences and similarities, and drop the preconcieved notions we have. I also thought about how important it is to reach kids when they are young, to give them an alternative viewpoint to the brainwashing they may be receiving at home.

The next consciousness-jarring thing happened late last night. PBS ran a show on American Playhouse by Anne Deavere Smith. It was a one-woman play, which she also wrote. It was about Crown Heights, and centered around the death of a seven-year-old black boy, who was hit by a car driven by a Hasidic Jew, and the subsequent retaliation murder of a Jewish student from Australia. She vividly portrayed all sides of the conflicts in that neighborhood, playing everything from a Jamaican to the father of the little boy, to a Hasidic rabbi, to the brother of the murdered student.

If any of you get a chance to see it, DO! It was called "Fire {someting - I can't remember!}: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and other Stories." It was amazing to see all sides of the tragedies that happened there, and the deep-seated differences and conflicts between the residents of the neighborhood.