Before I start, I want to be clear that this post is not about an anti-semitic incident that happened to me. Rather it’s a tale expressing my amazement at the level of ignorance and insensitivity people still display towards Jews, and the manner in which I intend to deal with it when I cross its path.
If you know me you know where I work, and if you don’t know me you can figure it out pretty easily, but for the sake of protecting the innocent I’m not going to say it outright here. At my current job I have had two separate incidents with someone speaking ignorantly towards me. Today was my second incident. The really great thing about this one is my cube-mate is also Jewish (it’s really great—this has never happened before), so I had a little support.
A fellow co-worker poked me with a stick from my side and said, “Hey, Jew.” When confronted with a semi-aggressive “What?!” he plead ignorance and pleaded, “I said ‘you.'”. Not buying it I proceeded to tell him how inappropriate, rude, and disrespectful it was. When I mentioned there was a history to the context of being called “Jew” he said he didn’t know it. So, I explained briefly a little thing called the Holocaust, yellow stars, and Juden.
While he still tried to play it off as a goofy bastard, I challenged him to approach a black co-worker and address him in a similar, relevant manner, at which he promptly declined.
I was mildly pissed off by this and after the offender left my fellow Jew turned and told me that if I had not said anything he would have. At which point we discussed it for a couple of minutes.
As I think about this in hindsight I am a bit more pissed off about it than initially. There will be ignoramuses, schmucks, and people who make honest mistakes, but in spite of this, I do not know why people will speak to a Jewish person in a racial manner that they would not address a black person. Therefore, it is my new agenda when confronting this issue I will issue the challenge. If given the opportunity, I will enlist the help of black people around me to cooperate with my challenge to the offender, making himself available at a moment’s notice, so that a point may be strongly impressed upon the person to never repeat the mistake again.
This is something that I will no longer deal with wearing a smile and believing in the innate goodness of people. I will address the issue aggressively with a determined goal of preventing it from happening to another from this person, or from another who witnesses the event.