How are we here in 2017? The violence is not coming from many sides, and suggesting that it is for even a moment, from what is supposed to be the highest moral office in the country, is appalling and gravely dangerous. Trump did not create the alt right or the KKK or racism, but these hateful people will take any opening or perceived opening given to them. His words or lack thereof matter. He has to do better when the consequences are literally life and death. I’m still coming to terms with what happened in #Charlottesville, and I don’t want to make the horror of what transpired there about us personally, or us as Jewish people. We stand against all the hate, intolerance, bigotry, and racism exposed there. With this post, I just want to share a small slice of what my Mother and I have been receiving (in especially high volume) since January 20th 2017 because we are proudly and publicly Jewish. I should also note that the most heartening thing, in the face of the antisemitism we experience online, is you. For every hateful comment left on a post, there are ten supportive ones coming to our defense and standing up to intolerance. Thank you, you are what gives us hope that what happened in Charlottesville is not the real America. Swipe on this post to see the images I have compiled. #crazyjewishmom
Yesterday, I posted this on instagram, exposing some of the antisemitic hate that my mom and I experience online. I want to elaborate a bit further on my decision to share. For several years now, I have chosen not to publicly acknowledge this abuse, thinking that it would just give these bigots what they wanted: attention and a spotlight in which to spread their hateful rhetoric. I opted instead to report every instance I encountered to Instagram, the ADL, and when necessary, the police. This idea that posting about these bigots gives them the very spotlight that they desire is probably still true, but in the wake of the horrors in Charlottesville and the utter lack of moral leadership from our president, I feel that sharing this part of our Internet experience is important.
I’ve seen a lot of people responding to the mere fact that Nazis and the other hateful groups even gathered in Charlottesville with horror and, much to my surprise, with shock. This is not shocking. Over the last few days, I’ve realized that I have become far too desensitized to the kind of antisemitism and hate my mother and I consistently experience online. More importantly, I’ve realized that people who don’t carry an identifiable banner proclaiming them “other,” whether it be the color of their skin or a well intentioned instagram account that acts as a modern, digital Jude badge, do not and cannot understand how prevalent bigotry and hate still is in America. Even I do not fully appreciate it. As a cis, white looking woman, living in liberal Brooklyn IRL, I have an unbelievable amount of privilege and, for the most part, I’m able to turn off the Jewish target (of my own creation) on my back as easily as I turn off my phone. My experiences online have certainly brought the privilege I inhabit physically into sharp relief for me. There are so many people targeted by these groups who do not have the ability to hide in plain sight. While my mother and I can neatly file away the vitriol we receive into the “hate speech” folder on my phone, so many others have no choice but to violently confront intolerance just walking down the street.
I remember my first brush with Internet Nazis vividly. I was sitting (in my deathrap apartment) watching Netflix, and I got a notification telling me @CrazyJewishMom had been tagged in a photo, so I absently swiped over to see what I assumed would be another funny mother and daughter’s conversation or maybe a meme about pizza. Instead, I found myself face to face with Hitler – swastika, Sieg Heil, and all. I dropped my phone. My heart raced. I almost threw up. Then, I called my mom to cry (Yes, I’m an adult. Yes, I maybe have some codependency issues). I remember feeling panic. I called my boyfriend at work and forced him to delete any of his posts that tagged location, while I frantically tried to scrub any geographical markers I had shared publicly. I was writing a book, and I wondered how I could ever host a reading, knowing that publicizing a book event would mean sharing an exact time and location where @HitlersFanBoy could find me, the people I love, and a room full of innocent strangers.
This fear has not gone away. Every time I walk into a JCC for a reading or to any book event, a dark little voice in the depths of my shark brain wonders if I’m bringing something horrible out of the digital realm and into an unsuspecting community of real physical bodies in a real physical space. But each time my mother and I appear somewhere and nothing bad happens, that voice gets quieter and quieter (excluding the few instances when we actually had to call the police or alert the venue hosting us, because a threatening, Hitler-friendly comment was left on a post promoting our location). But even those incidents ended with a room full of safe people, so it has become easy to forget the frankly appropriate horror and fear I felt when that first Hitler so rudely interrupted my Netflix binge. And now, comments like “Go find a gas chamber u filthy jew” don’t even break my stride. They should, and maybe my initial instinct was right. Maybe I am wrong to talk about these hateful people who want a reaction from me, but I think it is absolutely essential for people who don’t experience this frequently to understand how common and how real of an issue this is. How can you stand up to something you don’t know is happening? And if the events of this week have taught us anything…it’s happening. The threat is real. And it’s not just lurking online in anonymity; it’s not even hiding under a Klan hood anymore. It’s openly walking OUR streets with fucking tiki torches, spewing hate, mowing down innocent people with a car, and even murdering an innocent woman. So, we need to talk about it.
I encourage you to share this and to share your own experiences with intolerance, so we can face the reality of what is happening in our country and then stand up to it together.