I’m sure you’re really tired of hearing more about President-elect Donald Trump. Good, because this isn’t about him. This is about me.
So, I’m obviously going to start with an inspirational quote that I did not say.
“My mom used to say, ‘You can’t fall off the floor’” — Bakari Sellers, cice chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party.
This past weekend I traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate as a representative of the University of Michigan Hillel in the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America. It was a little life changing and it’s where I heard Sanders speak.
At the GA — that’s the cool, hip abbreviated way to say it — I got to sit four rows away from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (who claimed that she is proud to be the Notorious RBG), to Skype with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to be in contact with congressman Ted Deutch (D—FL), to be front row at a Kafe Shahor Hazak (“Strong Black Coffee” in Hebrew) hip-hop concert and to participate in multiple breakout sessions on philanthropy, media during the presidential election and the Jewish voice in Israel.
Just pointing out, the above paragraph is only one sentence. Haters back off.
In one of the breakout sessions, I sat in the audience of a panel filled with two Jewish African Americans, Yavilah McCoy and Gamal Palmer and Sellers, a political commentator for CNN. McCoy was strong in her stance to inspire us to march forward confident in our identities, Palmer preached the value of respecting those identities and Sellers spoke of his belief that we will all be all right.
Expectedly, I walked away feeling inspired.
I also had the chance to visit, as a part of the first Jewish group, the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The exclusivity of the NMAAHC (the museum is booked through March) can be equated to Hamilton, but it’s worth it. The museum is breathtakingly amazing.
But the main point of this article is about a meaningful conversation I had the day after visiting the museum with some fellow Michiganders. In brief, we spoke about how amazing the museum was, but how we did not think we felt the same impact because of the privilege of our skin. We spoke about how that wasn’t inherently bad to not understand the full weight of the museum, as we are sure others do not feel the same impact when they visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum or Yad Vashem in Israel. Though the Jewish voice is entwined with the Civil Rights movement in America, it is not the spotlight. We cannot claim that.
Within this conversation among Jewish women, I want to point out two major points.
The first is that we spoke about it. We talked and explained how we were affected and how we felt while maintaining the sanctity of those who were directly affected. The second is that we were there and we were inspired. We didn’t “otherize” ourselves, as Sellers puts it, or stake claim to why we were being marginalized. Because. We. Weren’t.
I came away from that weekend making a pledge to myself that I will do what I think is right. I made a pledge to worry about my neighbor as much as I worry about myself. And I made a pledge to be a part of the conversation, and if conversation is too little, the fight.
I know so much has been written already in the past week, and my voice isn’t adding much to the conversation. But this is as much a pledge to you as it is to myself. I have not mentioned political names sans the introduction, I have not discussed the election and I have not mentioned party names. I am a future lawyer, I see both conservative and liberal viewpoints and though I highly lean in one direction, I do not judge those who lean in the other. I believe in democracy and I believe in each other.
One day, I might look back and be regretful I chose to be very careful with my words in this column. And be regretful that I did not voice everything that I wanted to. But in truth, I don’t think I will. McCoy said this to us: “This is a time for action, not for words.” And I hope whoever knows me will attest in these coming years, as I become a real adult, that my actions will be just and my words will be few.
At the GA, a very common dialogue was, “We have not forgotten,” to remind ourselves that as the Jewish community we have not forgotten our past. And so it is our duty to now stand up and protect those whose future is in danger.
As a Jewish woman, I have not forgotten.
And now is not a time to keep quiet and forget, either. Your economic status is not more important than the safety and security of the person next to you. Your political agenda is not more important than the safety and security of the person next door. Your beliefs about Israel, the Islamic State, in building a wall or others is not more important than the safety and security of your friends and family.
I have faith in America. I am not being naive, and I am not succumbing to the disillusionment of this nation. I do not see the danger in my day-to-day life, but that does not mean it does not exist. I call on you to speak up and be heard as we enter into the real world. We are the future. We must be the change and break from our liberal bubble and see the world for what it is, and not what it should be.
Listen to Sellers’ mom. Will not fall off the floor.
How to: Have political conversations with someone you don’t agree with as an adult
- Are you both in a combative mood, angry and unwilling to listen?
- If yes to 1, don’t do it
- Are you both cool, calm and collected?
- If yes to 3, move forward
- Listen and engage with the other’s background
- Speak your mind
- You will disagree
- The world will not end
- Don’t worry, you’re obviously in the right
- They are the worst
- People are the worst
- Fake an excuse and disengage from the conversation
- “My mom is calling, she pays my tuition bill so I should probably talk to her”
- If 9-12 don’t happen, congratulations, you win