I am interrupting our Tyranny lesson for today to share some of an article by Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, director of the Social Justice Organizing Program at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and a member of the Board of The Shalom Center. The Rabbi marched with over 50 other clergy in Charlottesville.
I think it is no accident that our nation is so polarized at the time that we have the largest wealth and income gap since the Civil War. Over half of our population has seen no improvement in their real wages in decades while the top 1% has grown fabulously wealthy. People are feeling angry and hopeless hence both the opioid epidemic and the election of Donald Trump. It is clear from studying American history that white populism emerges in these moments and undermines the formation of a multi-racial, multi-ethnic coalition that can bring about economic and social justice.
This overt assertion of white supremacy is occurring at the same time that the challenge to structural racism has become more powerful through the organizing of the Black Lives Matter movement, the resistance at Standing Rock, the struggle for immigrant rights and the growing awareness of white privilege among many whites. This will inevitably cause more confrontations.
White supremacy is not only racist — it is deeply anti-Semitic and homophobic. In Charlottesville, we heard no chants mentioning people of color, but homophobia and anti-Semitism were loudly vocalized. This is a struggle that the Jewish community cannot avoid. Not only are we targeted as Jews, many of us are GLTBQ and, increasingly, we are people of color as well.
I bring to this the perspectives of a rabbi, the son of Holocaust survivors and the grandson of those murdered by Nazis. We are faced with a difficult challenge: we cannot tolerate white supremacy and we must listen to the fear and pain that many of its supporters carry. I heard part of one speech, the speaker was fabricating statistics about a dwindling white population and whipping up fears of the eradication of white people, ending in the chant of “You will not replace us” (at a rally evening before, chants were heard, “Jews will not replace us”).
These are the fears of the rank and file followers. Contrary to the facts of wealth, income or education, they believe they are losing ground relative to non-white groups. The truth is that they are not getting what they were led to believe and their economic future is not promising. The ideological white supremacists and nationalists are feeding on this. Donald Trump knows that he needs these people to stay in power; he will not condemn them.
It is the work of those white people who are able to hear their pain, attempt to reach over barriers and advocate for policies that will benefit them as well. Dehumanizing and dismissing them leads to more hatred. We will not bring about a more just society through violence. We, also, need to reach out to our allies in the anti-fascist movement and have conversations about their tactics.
The more doable and equally important work is for people who do not think of themselves as activists is to realize that their future well-being is at stake. History shows that a society with extreme wealth inequality will collapse, and it is usually ugly. The extremism of wealth gives rise to all other forms of extremism. We need to understand how white supremacy is at the root of the inequities in our schools and legal system. We must stand up against hate and for love, while we advocate for policies that bring about more justice.
We are the heirs of prophetic tradition that have called people to justice for millennia. We are, also, the more immediate heirs of generations of people who worked for justice throughout their lives. It is time to honor both our spiritual and historical traditions.
“We are the heirs of generations of people who worked for justice throughout their lives.” In their honor and memories, Stand up! Speak out!
Today in LGBT History – August 18
1721, Germany – Catherina Margaretha Linck is executed for female sodomy. She was a Prussian woman who for most of her adult life presented as a man. She married a woman and, based on their sexual activity together, was convicted of sodomy and executed by order of King Frederick William I. Linck’s execution was the last for lesbian sexual activity in Europe and an anomaly for its time. Linck’s story was the subject of a play, Executed For Sodomy: The Life of Catharina Linck, performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013.
1935 – The New York Times publishes a review of Gale Wilhelm’s (April 26, 1908 – July 11, 1991) lesbian novel “We Too Are Drifting.” The reviewer refers to reading about “Sapphic intimacy” as chilling, and said that while the author had a poetic style and was clearly talented, the subject matter was the book’s major fault. Wilhelm lived with Helen Hope Rudolph Page in San Francisco from 1938 until Page’s death in the late 1940s. Barbara Grier (November 4, 1933 – November 10, 2011), owner of Naiad Press, spent several years attempting to locate Wilhelm. The 1984 Naiad Press edition of We Too Are Drifting included a foreword by Grier describing Wilhelm’s life and pleading for any assistance from anyone who knew any information on the whereabouts of Wilhelm. By the time Naiad published Torchlight to Valhalla in 1985, it contained a foreword by Wilhelm herself, information given to Grier by an anonymous source. Grier speculated that Wilhelm stopped writing before she turned 40 years old because “the world would not let her write the books she wanted.” Wilhelm lived with Kathleen Huebner from 1953 until Wilhelm’s death in 1991 of cancer.
1988 – The Centers for Disease Control announced that syphilis and hepatitis B among gay men decreased dramatically since 1982, but had increased among heterosexuals.
1990 – President George H. W. Bush signs the Ryan White Care Act, a federally funded program for people living with AIDS. Ryan White (December 6, 1971 – April 8, 1990)[, an Indiana teenager, contracted AIDS in 1984 through a tainted hemophilia treatment. After being barred from attending high school because of his HIV-positive status, Ryan White becomes a well-known activist for AIDS research.
1992 – Rocky Mountain Regional United Methodist Church bishop Roy Sano urges Colorado Methodist ministers to oppose Amendment 2, which sought to ban laws against anti-gay discrimination.
1993 – The California state supreme court rules that the state hate crimes law does not violate the first amendment.
1993, Sicily – Giuseppe Mandanici, 33, was shot three times but survived the attack. Police believed it to be an act of random violence until they discovered that his father had paid a hit man $1 million lire (approx. $700 US) to kill his son because he could not come to terms with his son’s homosexuality.
1999 – Hackers re-routed hate monger Fred Phelps’ anti-gay web site, godhatesfags.com to godlovesfags.com.
2009 – Lateisha Green, a transgender woman, was killed by Dwight DeLee in 2008. DeLee is found guilty of manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime. DeLee is the second person in the U.S. to be convicted of a hate crime for killing a transgender person.
Speak out!! Let your voice change the world!
(Historical information obtained from a variety of sources including QUIST at facebook.com/quistapp, Back2Stonewall.com, Lavender Effect, DataLounge.com, Arron’s Gay Info, All Things Queer, RS Levinson, Amara Das Wilhelm, Safe Schools Coalition, and/or Wikipedia. If you wish to edit an item or add an item, please send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!)