fbpx
Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Thinking of How I Teach My Black, Jewish Daughters About This Moment in History

I grew up in an upper middle-class home in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the 1980s and ’90s. My parents were well educated; my dad owns his own business and I was taught that I could be and should be anything I want. Unlike many other Black children, my parents did not have “the talk” with me. My mother, a white Ashkenazi Jew from New York, and my father, a half-Black and half-Chinese man from Trinidad, thought their love proved the world was now colorblind.

We were the only Black family on our block. We received bomb threats, were denied admittance to a Jewish day school, lived through the Crown Heights race riots between Chasidic Jews and Black Caribbean immigrants in the late ’80s, and yet, we still never talked about it.

I am an extremely confident, strong, empowered and optimistic person. I generally see people as good and trust them until they prove to me otherwise. My husband, a dark-skinned man from Ghana, had a different experience. Told at the age of 8 that he had to work twice as hard to get half as far in America, and seeing this born out in reality, he’s more guarded and feels he can’t fully trust people until they earn his trust.

How are we going to raise our daughters? A combination of both approaches. We will, no doubt, have a “talk” but we will also ensure our daughters are full of confidence, self-love and belief in their own destiny. My parents’ way was definitely not the right way because I was not prepared emotionally and did not have the right language to deal with the many microaggressions I’ve experienced. My husband’s lesson could have backfired, and he could have used that message as an excuse for failure.

The current moment is forcing me to speak in a way I never have before. It’s uncomfortable and I feel naked. When I first saw the George Floyd video, I couldn’t watch it. Truthfully, I have not watched more than a few seconds. It takes my breath away. 

The protests and actions now include many, many, many white people. There seems to be an awakening and active desire by them to be part of the solution.

We’ve been overwhelmed and somewhat confused but also heartened by the outpouring of texts, emails and calls from friends just checking in to see how we are doing. We are the Black friends that everyone — especially Jewish friends — wants to check on right now. Will it last? Will they be checking on us or continuing their protests in two weeks, two months or two years? I don’t know. But this is where my parents’ rosy view of the world kicks in. I am optimistic. 

My husband, on the other hand, was angry, demanding, “Why is this any different than every other incident of police brutality? Where was the outrage and protests for every other murder? Why has it taken so long for white people to understand and believe this has been going on?” 

It’s true. There were protests (and riots) against the Rodney King decision in L.A. in 1992, after the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, and a few others around the nation. But these protests were mostly held by people of color. 

The protests and actions now include many, many, many white people. There seems to be an awakening and active desire by them to be part of the solution. These allies are crucial to keeping this momentum going. 

Ironically, although I have big-picture optimism, I personally feel helpless, restless and nervous. I’m trying to figure out my role in this movement. I’m treated like a spokesperson but I feel like kind of a fraud. I’m not a Black man. I’m light-skinned. I grew up with every advantage in life. I have an advanced degree. And yet, I live in skin that causes most Jews to look at me funny and question my right to belong every time I walk into a synagogue. Fortunately, I’m better equipped and more comfortable now to deal with these questions and quizzical looks than I was when I was a child. My family was the only Black family in our synagogue, and I didn’t have adult Jews of Color to look up to. I’m a mom now to two adorable girls who are too young to really understand what’s going on. But one day they will understand. And one day they may also feel like they don’t fit in. 

I guess that’s my role. I speak, I write, I advocate and I help normalize the Jews of Color experience. Everything I do is for my children, and other Jewish children of Color.


A former lawyer, Marissa Tiamfook Gee owns a corporate wellness and personal training company and is on the board of IKAR. 

Did you enjoy this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

High Holy Days or High Fever?

 In a year like no other, it was a Rosh Hashanah like no other. 

Why This Yom Kippur Can Be Our Most Meaningful

Yom Kippur counts on us to feel vulnerable. It is through feeling vulnerable that we open the hidden vessels of growth and healing.

Trump Quoted as Saying That Jews Are ‘Only in It for Themselves’

The quote was part of a longer report in The Washington Post.

With RBG’s Passing, A Rosh Hashanah Like No Other

I take comfort in the idea that I spent Rosh Hashanah in a way Justice Ginsburg would have liked. After leading virtual services on Erev Rosh Hashanah, for the rest of the holiday, I watched the virtual services led by Rabbi Naomi Levy of Nashuva and Rabbi Sharon Brous of Ikar, both of whom paid tribute to Justice Ginsburg.

PBS to Broadcast ‘RBG: Her Legacy & the Court’s Future’

In tribute to the remarkable life and accomplishments of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Sept. 18, PBS NewsHour will present...

Jewish Groups Praise Zoom Canceling SFSU Leila Khaled Event

They praised Zoom "for setting a powerful precedent by refusing to allow the normalization of terrorism on its platform."

What Is Judaism?

There is one universal God. This God is the creator of the world; the God of all humanity; the God introduced to the world by the Hebrew Bible.

Discovering Communities During Rosh Hashanah

Community. We talk so much about it: the meaning of community; why it is needed; what it means to belong to a community; what...

Ginsburg on ‘Being Jewish’ 

In 2003, when my wife, Ruth, and I were editing the book “I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel...

UAE Writer Criticizes Expulsion of Jews From Arab Countries: ‘We Failed to Learn the Lesson of History’

"This hatred will therefore continue to exist, so long as our heritage [text]books continue to incite hatred against the Jews."

Culture

PBS to Broadcast ‘RBG: Her Legacy & the Court’s Future’

In tribute to the remarkable life and accomplishments of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Sept. 18, PBS NewsHour will present...

Ginsburg on ‘Being Jewish’ 

In 2003, when my wife, Ruth, and I were editing the book “I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel...

Comedian Joel Chasnoff on His Yom Kippur ‘Corona Confession’

The video features Chasnoff confessing to some of the cardinal sins he and others have committed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Decadent Desserts in ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles’

Yotam Ottolenghi and culinary historian Deborah Krohn, a small team of top pastry chefs created Versailles-inspired desserts as filmmaker Laura Gabbert documented the process.

Community Voices on the Legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The Journal reached out to local Jewish community leaders to ask them how Ginsburg inspired or impacted them.

Latest Articles
Latest

High Holy Days or High Fever?

 In a year like no other, it was a Rosh Hashanah like no other. 

Why This Yom Kippur Can Be Our Most Meaningful

Yom Kippur counts on us to feel vulnerable. It is through feeling vulnerable that we open the hidden vessels of growth and healing.

Trump Quoted as Saying That Jews Are ‘Only in It for Themselves’

The quote was part of a longer report in The Washington Post.

With RBG’s Passing, A Rosh Hashanah Like No Other

I take comfort in the idea that I spent Rosh Hashanah in a way Justice Ginsburg would have liked. After leading virtual services on Erev Rosh Hashanah, for the rest of the holiday, I watched the virtual services led by Rabbi Naomi Levy of Nashuva and Rabbi Sharon Brous of Ikar, both of whom paid tribute to Justice Ginsburg.

PBS to Broadcast ‘RBG: Her Legacy & the Court’s Future’

In tribute to the remarkable life and accomplishments of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Sept. 18, PBS NewsHour will present...

Hollywood

‘Dirty Dancing’ Sequel Starring Jennifer Grey Announced

It’s official: A “Dirty Dancing” sequel is coming, and it’s starring Jewish actress Jennifer Grey, who played Frances “Baby” Houseman in the 1987 original.

Roy Moore’s Lawsuit Against Sacha Baron Cohen Over Being Pranked Can Proceed, Judge Rules

By the time the episode aired, it was widely known that Cohen was punking public figures.

Podcasts

Pandemic Times Episode 89: Honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg

New David Suissa Podcast Every Tuesday and Friday. Reflections on the life and legacy of a Jewish and American hero. How do we manage our lives...

A Rosh HaSchitt’s Creek Sameach to You!

How long has this pandemic been? This week we're giving a big Shofar Wave to 5780 as it exits the building, reviewing some Jewy...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

x