A Message to Americans Descended from Once Hated or Feared Groups: Stand Up and Speak Up

by Bob Schwartz

The majority of Americans are descended from national, ethnic or religious groups that once were—and may still be—hated and feared by other Americans. Italian-Americans. Irish-Americans. African-Americans. Chinese-Americans. Japanese-Americans. Mexican-Americans. Jewish-Americans. On and on. This means you, too, Mayflower-Americans. Your Pilgrim ancestors were refugees from religious persecution.

This is the message: Stand up and speak up in the face of a growing tide of “Americanism” that translates to hate and fear of “the other.” You and your ancestors were that “other” (ancestors may even mean your parents). Don’t do it because it is the right thing or the American thing to do, though it is. Do it because if you and your family are lucky enough to have transcended that pernicious nonsense, there but for grace go you.

There is a special part of this message for my Jewish-American brothers and sisters. If I say “how dare you!” that may sound too shrill. So let me instead say “you of all people should know better.” Those who want the Holocaust to be eternally remembered don’t seem to completely understand what “Never Again” means. It isn’t that we should never allow mass extermination of much of Jewry. It isn’t even that we should never allow the mass extermination of any group.

“Never Again” means never allowing anyone, including ourselves, to express our baser selves in ways that diminish the humanity of anyone. Because if you believe in divinity then you believe in the divinity of humanity. And if you diminish anyone with shouts and protests and politics and prohibitions, based on no more than identity, you have denied their humanity and their divinity.

And your own.