3When Rahm Emmanuel was selected as President Obama’s chief of staff his father wascommenting on his son’s influence in the White House, making a point of how importanthis son was to become. “What is he, an Arab? He's not going to
clean the floors of theWhite House.”These are only some of the public comments we hear. Earlier when I was referring to theUkrainian legislator I asked hypothetically what if his comments had been made in aprivate setting only with like-minded individuals or in his private household.And while we might feel that people have a right to say whatever they want in theprivacy of their own home, at the same time if we knew such comments were beingmade, we would nevertheless find it offensive.And so I ask, what happens if we pick up a mirror and look at ourselves? Are we soinnocent of harboring racist attitudes?The Torah reports to us that Miriam was complaining about the Cushite woman Mosesmarried. You know how that conversation might have transpired today? Miriam said toAaron, “can you believe Moses married a
?”Is this any less offensive than the Ukrainian lawmaker calling Mila Kunis a dirty Jewess?And when we use the word
we do not usually use it in a complimentary context.Nor are we offering a compliment to a woman when we talk about a
. And in ouropen minded twenty first century community, it might not bother us to declare thatsomeone is a
Yet I am affirming that using such words is offensive, regardless of the fact that thesewords may not feel offensive to us when we use them, and we think we are minimizingour own stereotypes by couching the derogatory terms in Yiddish. By using the
we may be fooling ourselves into thinking that this is not derogatory language; it’smerely using expressions out of our Jewish culture and heritage. By giving these terms aJewish flavor we think that expressions cannot possibly be that offensive because theyare Jewish, and we give ourselves a pardon because we are expressing those terms in acloud of Yiddish culture.No matter how we disguise them, when we use terms that characterize and objectify anentire group rather than recognize the individual strengths and flaws of each human beingthen we are indeed participating in racism. It doesn’t matter if the hostile words arecoming from a Ukrainian, from a skin head, from a Muslim or from one of our own.Morally it doesn’t matter if the term is English or Yiddish, asserted in public or private.These terms are dehumanizing. A bad person is a bad person, whether white or black orAsian or Christian, Jewish, Muslim or atheist. And there are holy people within everrace, religion and ethnic group on earth.