Black-Jewish tension: Don't ask, don't tell

By Jake Tapper

By Salon Staff
Published August 18, 2000 7:04PM (EDT)

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Jake Tapper presents a very balanced report on the statements of African-Americans about Jews. However, he has made the same mistake that many others have when writing about or trying to understand the tension. First, he assumes that Jessie Jackson, Minister Farrakhan, Rep. Waters, the NAACP and many other "leaders" speak for all African-Americans or that we are a monolithic group. They don't and we aren't.

Secondly, he thinks that someone's civil rights activities should make a difference 40 to 50 years later. They don't. Many issues have arisen, and the partnership has not always been smooth. There must be an opportunity for disagreement and criticism without fear of being called anti-Semitic. Otherwise we have created a repressive environment that sounds very much like the "ole cotton fields back home."

Thirdly, Tapper fails to see that it is not religion that creates tension between African-Americans and Jews. The fact is unless told that the person is Jewish, many see a white person, not a Jewish person. And therein lies the problem. There is little trust for whites, and a belief that they are responsible for everything wrong, and on and on.

No one is all good. Unless serious dialogue occurs and you accept my horrors like I accept yours, there will be little peace between us. And the tension will continue to be exploited by others -- African-Americans, Jews and whites -- for their own means.

-- Gladys M. Lee

I believe that it is very ironic for blacks to continue to harbor anti-Semitic feelings when it comes to Joe Lieberman, especially since he literally put his life on the line to help register black voters in the South during the 1960s. At least one of the three young freedom riders murdered by white racists near Philadelphia, Miss., at that time was a Jew. Regarding Lee Alcorn's comments about Jews being mostly interested in money, let him look at donor lists of charities all over the country. It may surprise him how many of the donors are Jews, and that philanthropy is of as great a religious importance to Jews as it supposedly is of Muslims like Farrakhan. How much of that "Jew money" goes to aid causes that help non-Jews may also surprise people, especially many blacks.

If blacks feel that they would be better off under a Republican administration, they should either support him as do J.C. Watts and Clarence Thomas, or stay home on Election Day.

-- H. Steven Dittrich

How is the Gore campaign going to address (read: fix) the rift between blacks and Jews when no other entity has been able to do so in the past few decades? In the final analysis, it might unfortunately turn out that the selection of Lieberman was a misstep. Tragically, that could be due to African-American anti-Semitism. The defeat of Gore-Lieberman will be a disaster for African-Americans who would like to see one of their own on a future ticket, however. As Jesse Jackson knows, the establishment will not want to gamble like this again if the turnout is bad.

-- David Waghalter

Salon Staff

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