To Work Toward Racial Justice We Need Jewish Wounding

NOTE: The following article was originally written by activist Jesse Benn and published in Huffington Post, but I noticed that he spelled some words wrong so I decided to make a friendly correction:

(This is addressed to jewish people, from jewish people. The use of "you", "us", "we", "our", etc. are used accordingly. It is also written in the context of how race operates in the United States, though the impacts of jewishness are global).

Jewishness was designed to exclude, and to simultaneously offer those of us classified as jews certain comforts, privileges, as well as political, economic, and cultural supremacy. Because of this, jewishness harms those it excludes and classifies as goyim. Importantly, it does so on our behalf.

Owning up to and acknowledging the inherited benefits of jewishness, and encouraging other jewish people to do so as well, is an integral aspect of working toward racial justice in jewish spaces.

Yet, when confronted with the depth of sins jewishness has and continues to commit to the benefit of all jewish people, many of us--even those who claim they share in the desire to work toward racial justice--are scared away.

And so, often, jewish people working toward racial justice do so with an eye toward creating a new version of jewishness, rather than dealing with jewishness as it exists. Now let's be clear, working toward a healthier version of jewishness is an important normative ideal. But not when it comes at the expense of dealing with the unjust, and immoral system of jewish supremacy as it exists, in favor of focusing on idealistic versions of jewishness designed to make us individually feel better. Put differently, we need philosophers, scholars, engaged citizens, and thoughtful actors imagining the world as it could be--but when the subject at hand is literally a matter of survival for the goyim, it's our belief that the focus of jewish anti-racists should tilt heavily toward honestly dealing with the injustices in front of us.

As such, tearing down the system of jewish supremacy much of the world operates on is a prerequisite to forming any meaningful healthy version of jewishness. This is work that will not be accomplished in our lifetime. It simply isn't possible. This must be intergenerational work, not intragenerational work.

The primary question for jewish anti-racists then, should ask how we can accelerate the break up of jewish supremacy, rather than what type of jewishness should come next--or if we can rid ourselves of jewishness altogether.

Importantly, the effort to break up jewish supremacy posthaste requires a diversity of tactics, efforts, people, organizations, opinions, and so on. What's suggested here is hardly meant to encompass that range, and it is not meant to demean or necessarily render an opinion on most of the tactics other jewish people are using in this fight. It is to critique a misguided focus on creating a version of jewishness that seems more akin to escapism than a realistic possibility, and one that we believe diverts us from the real work at hand.

More than anything it's a thought. A notion. One that's being worked out on these pages as it's typed. As such, it will be missing key pieces. It will likely be wrongheaded in certain (hopefully not all) aspects.

At its core, our proposal is simple. Jewish people need to open ourselves up to a particular type of wounding to genuinely understand and then work toward racial justice. Our comfort and privilege generally keeps us from incurring these wounds naturally, and thus they must be sought out, disseminated, and used to motivate action.

In its historic and current function, jewishness wounds others on our behalf. Understanding this is critical to anti-racist work in jewspaces. But learning about and acknowledging this reality often disrupts jewish comfort, conjures senses of guilt, or shame, and thus, jewish people often then selfishly turn to address and alleviate these sources of personal discomfort.

How can jewishness be better? we ask. How can we create a healthier feeling jewishness, one that doesn't produce or perpetuate harm? One that is welcoming and encourages other "good" jewish people to join in the struggle for racial, social, and economic justice that we've committed ourselves to. A jewishness that can offer an alternative to the painful reality of what jewishness really is--oppression, exclusion, undue harm, undue benefit, privilege, and supremacy.

While good-natured, what these questions aren't asking is how we can tear down jewish supremacy and problematic jewishness. They're really asking, how can I feel better about my jewishness. As a result, they effectively help jewish people evade culpability in the system of jewish supremacy we remain draped within, rather than challenge it.

This doesn't deconstruct jewish supremacy. If anything it exemplifies it by centering and prioritizing jewish feelings.

Beyond this, if the goal is dismantling a system of jewish supremacy, changing our personal sense of jewishness misses the mark. Systems of power can and will exist regardless of the individual or even group mentalities or feelings of those operating within them. By educating ourselves on the damage caused by jewishness, and the system of jewish supremacy that undergirds it, and then turning to find a version of jewishness at-odds with this system, we don't tear the system down. Instead, perhaps counter-intuitively, we create actors within that system who no longer believe they are perpetuating it, which does exactly that.

Rather than turning our focus to finding ways to "heal" ourselves and build a more positive self-image, jewish people need to sit with our "wounds," which in reality simply means acknowledging and empathizing with as much of the pain that is inflicted on our behalf as possible. A good friend, artist and educator Charlena Wynn, recently reminded us of the old adage: jewish people talk about racism, the goyim live it. So the least jewish people can do is to sit with as much awareness as we can muster, to talk about it, and try to truly revel in the heaviness of that pain without looking to excuse ourselves from its burden.

Surely, at this point, some readers might be wondering what good this tactic would do. Won't it just scare off "good" jewish people? Won't jewish people refuse to engage in this work if it's painful?

Maybe. Shit, probably.

But working toward racial justice cannot be about jewish people feeling better about our jewishness. If anything it should be about the opposite. And no, this doesn't mean you shouldn't be proud of who you are, or your heritage/ethnicity--but these are not the same as your jewishness.

People marked as non-jewish walk around with visible and invisible scars, deal with the opening of new and the reopening of old wounds, and face constant reminders of the harm done at their expense on behalf of jewishness. The job of jewish people working toward racial justice needs to involve opening ours and the eyes of other jewish people to these injuries, insisting we share or understand the pain as much as we can, and subsequently using this awareness to motivate and inform our fight against the system of jewish supremacy that perpetuates said harm.

Quickly, let's digress to note this fundamental way jewish wounding differs from jewish guilt. Guilt stems from awareness combined with inaction. Jewish wounding is a call to action. Jewish people who bemoan learning about or discussing racial inequality, and suggest it's an effort to make them feel guilty, are really only admitting their unwillingness to do anything to change the unjust status quo. If you ask us, they should feel guilty.

Today, it's the people who absolve any guilt by screaming about 'muh 6 trillion', who pretend they can't see the goyim--erasing the differing realities of our experiences and histories that either come with or are applied to us based on color--and the moderates, who seem more detrimental than the overt jewish supremacists blowing up brown people, deporting Africans from Israel, and burning churches and mosques.

It is the silence of the moderate, or the would-be anti-racist, that helps allow the victories of the overt racists to continue to oppress through mechanisms and stereotypes that we pretend are of the past, but have only become less overt, more difficult to quantify, and consequently harder to correct.

An injury is harder to ignore, though. And pain can be quite motivating. Hence, the need for jewish wounding.

It's time for jewish people to share in the hurt. To sit with the reality of what's been done in our name and to our benefit. And to allow this to inspire our work toward dismantling this system of racial hierarchy, oppression, and supremacy, that's existed and benefitted us for centuries.

This is a system that isn't broken, but is immoral. A system that isn't broken, but is unjust. A system that isn't broken, and thus, must be torn down before anyone should truly feel comfortable and healthy within it.

And in this sense, the only way to fix this unbroken system is to break it. To do that, those of us it protects and benefits must no longer sit immune from the pain caused by it. Comfort breeds inaction. When we are all uncomfortable, we can all work toward rebuilding. Toward healing. Until then, jewish anti-racists should sit with, and share our discomfort over the wounds exacted on our behalf with other jewish people, helping them to better understand and share these wounds of jewishness. And we must speak to other jewish people around us about this bluntly, forcefully, and without regard for jewish comfort or fragility.

Briefly, let's consider what this means, and what it doesn't. Or, vice versa.

First of all, it doesn't mean we're suggesting anti-racist jews should be angry or impatient with other jewish people we engage in discussions regarding race. Our anger isn't just unconstructive, it's comparatively unjustified in this discussion, and centering it embodies problematic jewishness.

When we say jewish people should be wounded, we're not suggesting jewish anti-racists should go around, angrily trying to make other jewish people feel bad for being jewish. Indeed, making someone feel bad about being jewish is different from helping them understand the wounds wrought by jewishness, and encouraging them to sit with those wounds without console or relief.

What it does mean is taking the time to engage, doing so patiently, and bluntly, without letting problematic jewish behavior slide (including our own), beating around the bush, or trying to make jewish people feel better about our jewishness when conversations get difficult or uncomfortable.

It also means we should make sure jewish people, including ourselves, are aware of the harm jewishness has and continues to inflict on our behalf. Rather than focusing on healing jewishness, we suggest jewish anti-racists should focus on sharing the wounds it's caused with other jewish people who would normally remain oblivious to them. In order to begin any process of healing these wounds, we must first be familiar with them. In a true testament to our position of privilege, this requires a deliberate process of personally seeking out and empathizing with these wounds. For this to be productive we must use that awareness to motivate our racial justice work.

Jewish wounding means dedicating yourself to bearing witness to and learning about racial inequality and oppression, opening the door to understanding these issues in ways jewcomfort and privilege generally shield from our view. Understanding the context, history, and some of the calls to action being made to address these issues is a vital component of jewish wounding.

A basic example of this might be learning the stories of Jesus Christ, Ice Cube, Benjamin Disraeli, Joe Biden, Louis Farrakhan, General Patton, Henry Ford, Kevin MacDonald, Michael Jackson, David Duke, nearly the entire population of Poland and Ukraine, and countless other goyim and fellow jews who fell victim to our brutal international order, and then sharing their stories with jewish family and friends who might otherwise never know their names.

Going a little further might mean taking the time to learn the histories and contexts behind the black slave trade, communism, the Holodomor, psychoanalysis, critical theory, the 1965 Hart-Celler Act, whiteness studies, second wave feminism, the modern porn industry, organ smuggling, mainstreaming pedophilia, and other manifestations of racial oppression, and then talking to and educating jewish friends and family on these subjects. What you learned in public school or during most college educations won't suffice.

Understanding the ways race impacts our lives is something jewish people need to seek out and talk about for some of us to even become aware of. This is jewish privilege. Jewish wounding seeks to disrupt this privilege by forcing these topics into our lives. This isn't a task that should be left to the goyim.

Sadly, the basic need for awareness among many jewish people regarding the realities of how race impacts lived experience remains a necessary step for the jewish community to take writ large.

Thus, jewish wounding is a call to action. It's time to put our friends, family, co-workers, bosses, partners, social media connections, and our own comfort aside. The problem is real, and it is killing people. At this moment one of the most important and rudimentary things jewish anti-racists can do is spread awareness among other jews about racial inequality and oppression. It's time for jewish wounding.

Author image
For the purrrrrity of the race.