Welcome to the Moment of Truth, the thirst that is the beverage.
The CEO of Goya Foods, until recently a popular brand, if not the most popular, among Latinx consumers, praised Donald Dump, as if to say, “I have no idea who buys our products, and even less what they care about, and even less than that why I should care what they care about, so I’ll just add the most offensive thing I can come up with into the public discourse, dragging the company name down with me.” And it worked like a charm. An instant, ferocious boycott was initiated, and in sympathy with the boycott, the hashtag “Goyaway” came about. It’s a play on “go away,” I think.
Goyaway. To me it sounds like a brand of gentile repellent. Like something you would spray on yourself before going outside to keep a mob of late-19th-century Polish peasants from coming to burn down your shtetl. Something to keep priests from landing on you and sucking your blood. A shield in the war on Christmas.
I recently had an interaction with a Jew who treated the word “goy” as if it were the N word, or at best equivalent to the derogatory shin word for Black person in Yiddish. Goyim, though, is the Hebrew word for gentiles, it is in the Torah, where its literal translation is “nations,” that is, the nations other than the Jews. Goy is not a bad word, as much as Anglophone Ashkenazi dabblers in Yiddish might beg to differ.
It’s interesting, because the day after Goyaway was first trending, the hashtag, JewishPrivilege, also started trending, and Jews on Twitter claimed it, turned it on its head, and used it as a label for their own stories of anti-Jewish oppression. I’ve had a great deal of contact with ghetto, labor, death camp, and death march survivors, so I was familiar with a lot of the material, but some of it – being killed in Ethiopia for being Jewish, jumping from a death camp train to uncertain danger, but at least alive, getting stabbed in front of your house in Odessa, getting pennies thrown at you on the bus, not even too long ago – some stories were outside the Elie Wiesel model, or the Wilna Ghetto narratives, or the mass executions and mass live incinerations with which I was more familiar.
There are so many ways to harass, torture, and kill a Jew! You’d think they’d all been attempted by now. And maybe they have, but the well-played hits and the deep cuts alike keep coming. I’ll just remind you briefly of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre. I’ve also heard on-air journalists refer to “Jewish synagogues,” as if there were another kind. That’s its own kind of massacre. Other than that, we’re used to the swastika graffiti and broken windows fare common in Europe and the US, much as Muslims have gotten used to hatred directed at them in similar regions.
Speaking of Muslims, you’d think Jews would have learned, after centuries of persecution, and especially in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust in Europe, not to take away a people’s homes and sequester them within ghettos. Is it debatable how much choice they had? Well, in light of the undying durability of the debate, I suppose you could argue that it is.
Nevertheless, there are reasonable Jews everywhere who want an end to the Occupation. Yes, even in Israel. They’re called self-hating Jews by hardline rightwingers, and suspected of being too forgiving of IDF excesses by the identity-politics-wielding left. I did a couple of Moments of Truth back in July of 2017 on the Chicago Dike March dust-up where I mused on this conundrum. Is a Jew who is not for the abandonment and dismantling of Israel, where actual people live now, unfortunately, a pure enough leftist to participate in the virtue-theater engaged in by what passes for revolutionaries these days? Shouldn’t Jews just shut the hell up when their synagogues are vandalized during Black Lives Matter protests, most likely by opportunists who value no one’s lives particularly much? And the Jews who blame BLM for allowing it to happen, are they at all interested in Black lives, or only in making noise about their own worries, and making sure another example of anti-Jewish hate is entered into the hate logbook?
I will say that the graffiti I saw in my neighborhood on conspicuously Jewish buildings wasn’t anti-Jewish, per se, but anti-oppression-of-Palestinians by Israel. Is it anti-Semitic to spray paint “Down With Israel” on a synagogue? The answer is too complicated for the kind of debate we engage in on Twitter, but it’s definitely not “no.” But nor a does a simple “yes” sufficiently explain the significance of the act. Whose fault is it that the consequences of the worst aspects of Israeli politics spill over onto Jewish bystanders, some with deeply-held moral revulsion for the Israeli government and its abuses of human rights?
One idiot-of-color tried to say that Jewish Privilege and White Privilege were the same thing. He had to be taught that many, many Jews are not white. There are Black Jews, Iranian Jews (some who have a synagogue in my neighborhood), South Asian Jews, Chinese Jews... educate yourself, I’d like to say. Think less simplistically.
Very often Jews do shut up when the rhetoric heats up, because to chime in is bound to be perceived as equally unwelcome as mansplaining or whitesplaining. Jewsplaining. It’s real, but as a diagnosis it can also be a cudgel to stifle discussion.
Think about white people for a second, won’t you? I know you’re not often asked to do so. When they hear blanket statements about white people, like, “all white people would gladly believe a Black friend guilty of a crime, when the chips are down,” or, “white people are virtually zero percent likely to suffer from police violence,” a true comrade will listen. They won’t say, “Not all white people,” or, “what about white people in poverty,” but rather register the harsh statement as an honest expression of the speaker’s genuine pain. Pain at having to shoulder the burden of the legacy of hundreds of years of slavery, exploitation, theft of resources, occupation and endo-colonialism, and just plain being policed in the most grotesquely violent and dehumanizing ways imaginable.
But an honest, good-faith comrade might also wonder, is it not dehumanizing and patronizing to assume the speaker has been so damaged by hate and rage that I’m doing them a favor by not offering my voice? Wouldn’t a hearty, “that seems a mite simplistic,” or, “where do your statistics come from” be preferable? Most of the time, a wise person of any ethnicity will keep their own counsel when bumping up against this ambivalent feeling.
Because angry people are no fun to try to reason with, no matter what the subject is. Some people get angry when discussions of race or gender or sexual orientation distract from what would otherwise be clear-cut class explanations of power inequality. There are people of all races, genders, and sexual orientations who feel that, if we could all agree that curing capitalism’s worship of property and wealth was the basic job of the revolution, it would go a long way across lines of identity to hobbling one kind of people’s ability to oppress another kind. But there are others who get frustrated when the specific awfulness of the way their kind of people have been treated like garbage is glossed over with class explanations, and that the villainy of white people or Han Chinese people or Anglo-Saxon people or Israel must be acknowledged if justice is to be accurately described by its contrast with injustice.
You have to admit, all these ways of being angry have a lot to offer. If we didn’t worship property and ownership in the capitalist way we’re indoctrinated to, we wouldn’t need to give cops such excessive power to protect property’s sacredness. But if we don’t acknowledge that the brunt of police abuse of authority falls disproportionately on Black people, how can we avoid the accusation that our critique is missing something urgent happening right in front of our eyes?
On the Goya front, some have mentioned that Goya makes a point to give to charitable concerns battling hunger in the US. A million cans of garbanzo beans! That’s one million people with a can of garbanzo beans each! Or two million people sharing a can between each pair of them. Such charity invites the question, is it enough? Obviously not. We still have food insecurity here in the richest nation in the history of the world, and things are getting worse thanks to the pandemic. Meanwhile, right in front of our eyes, and not just the general us but the Latinx us in particular, President Dump’s actions have separated Mexican and Central and South American children from their families, and allowed an unconscionable number of US citizens who just happen to live in the commonwealth of Puerto Rico to go for literally years without disaster aid. And the CEO of Goya, this garbanzo-bean distributing corporation that wants credit for its giving, has the gall, the myopia, and the tin ear to announce that we are blessed to have the leadership of the man at whose feet an estimated 65,000 extra deaths due to Covid-19, the reality of which he denied for months, can be laid, including members of some of those same families separated and warehoused at the border.
It’s becoming important to admit what’s going on around you, not just to perform goodness and then argue after the fact that people should be grateful. If people see they’re being shafted, in greater numbers year after year, your half-assed charitable donation, which leaves the evil shafting mechanism untouched, to shaft and shaft again, is just a shell game. And the great thing about Black Lives Matter is, they demand real change to the system that’s shafting them, and in doing so, they shed light on the ways it shafts us all.
There’s no easy way to wrap up these strands of thought and action. And, meanwhile, while these loose threads are blowing around in the wind, the necessity to wrench control of the ship of civilization out of the hands of the captains of capital becomes more urgent as we creep closer and closer to the end of whatever this human species has been all about for all these millennia. And, looked at in this way, with the approaching destruction of huge numbers of our species, if not the entirety, due to homelessness, war, famine and disease – it becomes obvious the economic system so accepting of poverty needs to be eliminated. It needed to be eliminated a long time ago! We’ve accepted it for thousands of years, and now we’re all about to be as poor as you can get. Because, as I’ve said before, you can’t get poorer than dead. And you can’t get deader than extinct.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!