Since the widely-circulating tweets in question were brought to public attention two weeks ago, many Jewish students on this campus have had to seriously consider questions about safety and belonging. I readily admit I’ve taken this for granted during my three years at Knox. These fears have only grown in the days since, as each day has seemingly brought a new wrinkle to this saga. One day it is made clear that there is no desire for dialogue on one side of the issue, while the next a Jewish professor is harassed at their place of work for speaking out against hateful speech.
The generalizations being spouted cannot be explained away by citing the strict character limit on the social media platform of choice. Writing that “the Jews” are anything is clearly leading to a generalization, and choosing to characterize “the Jews” as “Nazis” is not only a highly problematic comparison, it is also intentionally designed to cause the most pain and hurt for Jewish viewers as possible.
This generalization has been justified by some as a common practice in specific courses, as it is argued that one must be made to be uncomfortable in order to truly engage and grow. There is, however, an incredibly significant difference between calling me out as a white male versus as a Jewish student in America, as one represents a historically privileged and oppressive group, while the other places me squarely in a target identity group that has an entire history defined by oppression. The intersectionality of these issues is incredibly important, yet has not been properly discussed throughout this whole issue.
When Jewish student leaders went through the proper channels to discuss the tweets with their author, they were told to instead blame themselves, as they have not done enough to help oppressed groups on campus. For many Jewish students, it has felt like they were being told that the oppression they face is not notable because there are groups facing harsher realities. It is absolutely true that the black community faces more oppression and hate than the Jewish one, on this campus, nationally and internationally. However, recognizing and acknowledging the oppression of another group does not cheapen or detract from the oppression you face, nor does it give that group the right to do whatever it pleases. In other words, by condemning the dangers Jews inevitably face, one does not imply that the oppression of other identity groups is justified or less significant, whether by individuals who are Jewish or not.
Moving forward, I wholeheartedly disagree with the notion that there is no place for dialogue on this issue, as I believe that productive and healthy dialogue can only increase our mutual understanding and appreciation for hardships each community faces.