Section: Opinion

Resisting complicity in an age of extremes

January was a busy month. Besides all the terrible news that seems to pop up every day — whether it be our president’s racist comments or his refusal to impose congressionally mandated sanctions on Russia — we’ve also marked several milestones. We’ve passed the one-year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration,  celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and witnessed another Holocaust Remembrance Day. All of these events have made me think about resistance and what we can do to oppose Trump and the Republican congressional agenda.

Jaboukie Young-White, an up-and-coming comic, made a joke about how, as a queer person of color, everything he does has become radical in the age of Trump. He gets up in the morning? Revolutionary.

While he is overstating reality, his joke shares parallels with other accounts of living in the face of prejudice. The Rabbi who bar mitzvahed my father came of age during the Holocaust. He had his own bar mitzvah in Auschwitz. In an experience that none of us can imagine, he kept his faith and kept living. In times of struggle, sometimes the most important thing you can do is to remain true to who you are.

This resilience is very Jewish. From antiquity, constant persecution has hounded the Jews (the 1492 expulsion of Jews from Spain or treatment of Refuseniks in the former Soviet Union, to name a few), but they have always kept their faith and their community.

King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” warns of the white moderate. He defines the white moderate as one “who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action.’” To truly oppose Trump, we must recognize and speak out against the white moderates in our own society. 

The “modern” white moderate is the Jew who touts their progressive values, but turns a blind eye to the abuses by Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and his government. The white moderate is the Republican in Congress who chastises Trump for his behavior, but falls in line and votes with his agenda. The white moderate is the person who says “all lives matter,” but ignores police abuses against people of color.

The white moderate is still an ingrained part of our society and it is a dangerous one at that. King put the white moderate and the white supremacist on comparable levels and he was absolutely right to do so. It’s not enough for people to live their lives to the fullest extent; we must critically examine our society and our campus.

Recognizing the white moderate is important, of course, but how do we counteract the inaction and complicity of the white moderate? I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do know that breaking the silence surrounding these issues is always a good first step.

Confront the white moderate. Call out hypocrisy. The response, for instance, to the play The Good Samaritan is an example of this. As Professor of Spanish Clara Román-Odio said in an email to the student body, the play is a “lamentable expression of ethnic insensitivity and evident ignorance of the contributions and value of Latinos to our nation.” People are not staying silent about the controversy and this is key.

And it worked. Wednesday afternoon, Professor MacLeod sent out an email saying that she had decided to cancel the play.  It seems that MacLeod has taken the criticisms into account and will work on the play more. She said that she will “be in conversation with directors and playwrights from the professional LatinX theater community” which is a good first step. Of course, this is a step that should have been taken previously. Professor MacLeod wants to learn and I can appreciate that.  That being said, if she truly desires to learn about the issues at hand, she needs to follow through. Adelante has invited her to the panel discussion about the play and she should go.

Nate Rosenberg ’18 is a religious studies major from Lancaster, Pa. You can contact him at rosenbergn@kenyon.edu.

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