On Past Black-Jewish Relations "We should pause to wonder that there exists such a subject at all: Irish-Jewish relations? Japanese-Jewish relations? Somehow none of these strike us as hot-button issues of the day. We are all caught in a network of inescapable mutuality, Dr. (Martin Luther) King observed. This network of mutuality wasn't meant to be some ballet between two ethnic groups, but something that embraced and implicated everybody in this nation. . . .
As Cornel West . . . at Princeton observes, there was no golden age in which blacks and Jews were free of tension and friction. Yet there was a better age, where the common histories of oppression and degradation of both groups served as a springboard for genuine empathy and principled alliance. Dashed hopes on both sides have exacerbated the rift. . . . What's clear is that in the post-civil rights era, a once-powerful political consensus fractured."
On a Future Course of Action "Where do we go from here? . . . The penitential gesture will only get us so far. . . . Breast-beating, sackcloth and ashes, we don't need. Honesty and good faith we do. Neither racism nor anti-Semitism should be regarded as indelible dyes. In a society deeply riven by sexual, ethnic, racial and class divisions, we should perhaps all think of ourselves as recovering sexists, racists and what have you. What counts then is not purity of soul, but simply the desire to do better. An attitude of zero tolerance would foreclose the very possibility of inter-ethnic dialogue. . . .
David Dinkins struck a chord with many blacks and Jews alike when he asked a year or so ago, "Is there to be no forgiveness? Ever?" Because if there's not, then it's not going to work. And why is it that those least forgiving of offense are so often the most illiberal on matters of race and matters of tolerance whether ethnic, sexual or otherwise. . . . What you don't find is the sense of mutuality that we desperately want and that we desperately need. Make no mistake about it. The Meir Kahanes nd the Louis Farrakhans of our day do voice an authentic sense of outrage, but they corrupt that outrage through their own failure of moral imagination. It doesn't have to be that way. . . .
Black anti-Semitism hurts blacks, first and foremost, because it compromises the moral credibility of our struggle against racism. But equally as important, because it leads to the politics of distraction and distortion. . . .
There is a relationship to explore . . . between racism and anti-Semitism, and the ways that such ideologies have traditionally been enlisted to divide and conquer, separating disadvantaged groups from their real shared interests. . . . As a black intellectual, one thing is clear to me, anti-Semitism is not going to help our people in our struggle against injustice, against poverty, against AIDS, against violence in our own neighborhoods.
So why make excuses for it?
Looking Ahead * Tuesday: Henry Kendall, chairman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, will discuss "Global Resources and the Human Prospect in the 21st Century: A View From the Scientific Community," at the Biltmore Hotel at noon. Sponsored by the Los Angeles World Affairs Council; call (213) 628-2333.
Announcements concerning prominent speakers in Los Angeles should be sent to Speaking Up, c/o Times researcher Nona Yates, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053