Although this blog is about my year living in Israel, this entry is focused on what has been going on in Ferguson, Missouri. They are related. They are related because the outrage in Ferguson is allegedly about racist violence. So why is the response…racist violence? And why are people who should know better trying to prove their own bona fides by justifying the racist violent response? Or even any violent response?
It is very much like those who denounce Israel for being an “Apartheid State” insisting that peace will only be achieved by creating a Palestinian State where no Jews can work, live or breathe.
I feel like I am watching the same awful and absurd movie in a different language. What’s worse, most others watching the same movies don’t or won’t recognize either their absurdity or their awfulness.
When I was in law school, back in the mid-to late 1980s, we had a workshop one day entitled “‘Isms’ in the Classroom.”
Yes, we were already (or still? Or maybe just again) into sessions about feelings, even at august U.S. law schools.
The workshops were intended to address different sorts of negative attitudes and how to deal with them, given the disparity in power between the professors and the students, as well as between the majority and the minorities.
The title of one of the workshops I attended: Racism in the Classroom.
I’ve never forgotten something that happened during that workshop. I recall the incident very clearly, almost as if I am watching a close-up scene in a movie, the kind where the camera pans over a large room filled with people, then slowly focuses in on just a few, while every one else goes out of focus.
I was sitting one row over to the right and just behind a first-year classmate who was complaining about a particular criminal law professor and his use of a racially charged slur in class. The professor was using the offensive term in order to explain to students how the legal defense of “provocation” works.
If someone used a racial epithet or other seriously offensive charge against a person and that person responded with some sort of physical assault, the person charged with the assault could claim he was provoked, in certain circumstances, and a successful showing of that provocation could mitigate the defendant’s culpability.
So the professor, in providing a scenario in which the provocation defense could later be invoked, used the racial epithet repeatedly.
My classmate was infuriated by the professor’s use of the term.
I understood what my classmate was saying, and I also understood why the professor used the term in the example – in context, the term is precisely what could move a judge or jury to come to a finding of provocation.
But still, it is such an offensive term, couldn’t the professor have figured out another way to get the point across?
Anyway, I was sitting there, just off to the side of the complaining law student. I was nodding my head in sympathy, when all of a sudden, I felt as though I’d been kicked in the stomach.
“I mean,” my classmate said, “the words just seemed to trip so comfortably off his tongue.
“There are so many more Jewish students than blacks here, he should have used the word ‘kike,'” he spat out.
“What?” I was flabbergasted. I asked him why, if he found the racial slur unacceptable, how could he possibly think it reasonable to use a slur against a different minority group? Or, really, anyone?
And, you know what? the words just seemed to trip so comfortably off his tongue.