Last week, someone posted an article on this story about the Egyptian Olympian who refused to shake the hand of his opponent, an Israeli Olympian. The purpose was to highlight his action as poor sportsmanship and bigotry. Ironically, as I scrolled through the comments I quickly realized that those who felt the need to comment were answering hate with more hate. Among the comments were: “dirty Arabs” and “bomb them” and “sports are for humans, not Arabs” among other horrendous, bigoted remarks.
That’s not even the shocking part yet, folks. There is this: That article and those comments were posted on a Facebook group devoted to “Grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors.” Yes. That part made my heart sick.
You see, I am a grandchild of two Holocaust survivors, too. My grandparents lost their parents, siblings, and a wife and children to the hate that fueled the Nazi genocide during World War II. My grandmother and grandfather, against all odds, survived concentration camps and the death march to live and bare witness to what a society overwhelmed in hate can destroy. And they didn’t survive to raise children and grandchild who are bigots.
My grandparents raised children and grandchildren who refuse to stay silent in the face of bigotry and suffering. They taught me that staying silent is as good as committing the crime. They wanted to go on and add light to this dark world – to raise a “Mensch” (a righteous person). While I expected better from the Jewish community (one that has long history of being discriminated against), this is not a “Jewish problem.” It is our society’s problem.
Here we are. This is now. Our society is normalizing the hate and the dehumanization of Arabs and Muslims. It’s somehow “okay” to discriminate against Arabs and Muslims and to see them all as a threat. It’s even become what people want to hear from our political leaders. This is a slippery slope. We know from history that this leads to horrible things and it opens the doors to prejudices against other marginalized groups and it spirals out of control. For example:
There comes a time when speaking up against this kind of hate becomes scary. When the righteous among us must decide between the safety of our family and doing and saying what’s right. We are not far from that reality.
So let’s stop this now. Let’s refuse to go down the path of hate.
Let’s be a Mensch.
Let’s be a light to darkness.
Let’s be human.