Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gam Zu L'Tova

Our tradition teaches us to look for hidden good when seemingly bad things happen. And it's not too hard to see a silver lining in Barack Obama's victory last week. It might just be an end to the culture of victimhood that oppresses the African-American community and, to a lesser extent, our own. I see it every day as a teacher, the alienation and cynicism in my students, the mindset that holds them back from becoming what they could become. I tell my students on the first day of class that my course would be difficult but not impossible, and if they study and put in some effort they will succeed, that everything in life worth having comes from struggle. Once a student piped up that that's what white people say. That student had the guts to say what many many black students were thinking. Studying, speaking and writing proper English, attention to personal cleanliness and the like are "acting white." With that attitude how far can one expect to go? And then there's the N-word. I cringe whenever I hear it from a black student directed to himself or other black students. It is the ugliest word in the language. It is loaded to the gills with baggage, 100% negative. It is pure poison. A kid who thinks of himself as a n----r will never get anywhere. I can tell my students not to use that word till I'm blue in the face and I don't get anywhere because my skin is the wrong color. Well, come January 20 we will have a black President. He did not get to Columbia College, Harvard Law School or the White House by thinking of himself as a n----r. If he walks into a school and tells black kids from poor backgrounds to think and speak well of themselves and others, that he too comes from a broken home and that he got where he is as a result of hard work and study, and that they could do likewise and have a future of unlimited possibilities, maybe they will listen. And then our children will be closer to a world where the color of their skin is as inconsequential as that of their hair or eyes (gentlemen prefer blondes but end up marrying brunettes). And such a world will be that much closer to the ultimate ge'ula.
And what about us? After surviving the Holocaust and coming to America and Israel, few of our parents allowed themselves to wallow in victimhood, or to become parasites on the community and the larger society. They rebuilt their lives, married, had children and imbued them with a culture of opportunity: Study hard, get good grades, go to college, make something of yourselves and have everything we didn't have because we grew up in miserable lands of persecution. For some inexplicable reason, that mindset has largely broken down in the Orthodox community. Education is frowned upon, as is working for a living. Even speaking and writing fluent English someone makes you Grade B in sectors of our community. And breaking the law is okay if you profit from it and if you don't get caught. Maybe a minority President telling those people that neither he nor they are above the law, that the only route to success is education and hard work, it will carry some weight. And if it does, Obama's presidency will have done us a world of good.

Hat tip: Emet Ve'emuna

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember he's only HALF black.

Sun Nov 16, 01:20:00 AM EST  
Blogger Zev Stern said...

People thought that being "half black" would hurt him with black voters, but they accepted him as black, and that's what matters.

Tue Nov 18, 02:20:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The politically correct position on mixed-races has been to treat the person as a member of the minority race. Half-blacks are blacks, half-Orientals are Oriental, etc. What no one knows is what happens when two distinct minorities mingle?

Tue Nov 25, 10:49:00 AM EST  
Blogger Zev Stern said...

Under Jim Crow, illegal liaisons between "Negroes" and whites were so frequent, producing mulattoes, quadroons, octoroons, etc, that eventually anyone with any quantum whatever of "Negro blood" was deemed a "Negro." If their skin and features were sufficiently Caucasian-looking they could cross the color line, with disastrous consequences if they were found out. A similar situation existed in South Africa, where mixed-race persons were given the legal classification "Coloured." They had some but not all of the privileges of white South Africans under apartheid.
Thank God we are moving toward a society where such things simply will not matter, and Obama's election will in all likelihood accelerate the process.

Tue Nov 25, 03:56:00 PM EST  

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