Jewish groups should work for justice, not toxic race theories

Americans were relieved by the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. Still, the JCPA and ADL shouldn’t join with partisans and radicals to exploit it to push a racialist agenda that hurts Jews.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Credit: ADL.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Credit: ADL.
Jonathan S. Tobin. Photo by Tzipora Lifchitz.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

It’s been nearly 11 months since Americans first viewed the awful nine-minute video that depicted the last moments of an African-American man named George Floyd. The images of a police officer named Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck as his life expired horrified the nation. The tragedy sparked national outrage at an act of brutal misbehavior. That sense of outrage also spawned a protest movement that sent millions into the streets to protest what many believed was evidence of racism. Sadly, it also led to hundreds of “mostly peaceful” protests that turned into riots involving looting, arson and casualties, as well as the deaths of both law-enforcement personnel and civilians.

Now that Chauvin has been tried and convicted on three serious charges, including second-degree murder, the verdict ought to give the country closure on a disturbing incident. That’s especially true since, as has become a regular feature of American life in the last year, storefronts were boarded up in anticipation of new rounds of rioting had the jury acquitted Chauvin on any or all of the counts against him. That’s why, instead of riots, there were celebrations and expressions of relief, both at the avoidance of violence and the pleasure at seeing justice done.

But for those whose main interest in the case was not so much seeing justice done as it was to exploit it to advance a radical racialist agenda, any satisfaction at seeing Chauvin convicted was secondary to other concerns. For many of those associated with or supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, which Floyd’s death elevated from the margins to mainstream acceptance, the priority was to push back against the notion that the justice system had succeeded.

It’s true that the outcome of one trial, just like the enormous progress towards racial equality under the law that has taken place in this country over the course of the last 60 years, doesn’t mean that racism is dead. Prejudice persists and should be opposed vigorously wherever it raises its ugly head. But for racial hucksters like Al Sharpton, Marxist academic Ibram X. Kendi or New York Times columnist Charles Blow and many others who share this agenda, the notion that justice is possible in America in 2021 is inconceivable because they believe that the United States is an irredeemably racist nation beset by an epidemic of police killings of young black men. The fact that such allegations about the police have been conclusively debunked means nothing to them. The same applies to the falsity of the claim that police are never held accountable for their conduct.

Yet the BLM mantra about “systemic racism” in a country that elected a black man to the presidency twice and whose vice president is also a woman of color routinely goes unrefuted in the mainstream press and is seconded by many politicians.

Ironically, the Chauvin verdict has led to a revival of the absurd movement to abolish, defund or “reimagine” the police. That mad idea briefly seemed to take hold of the public square last summer, but even in Minneapolis, where the City Council voted to defund the cops, many were forced to retreat from it in the face of a massive upswing in crime, and resignations and retirements from police departments around the country.

The dynamic of demonizing the police was on full view the day after the Chauvin verdict when a video of an incident in Columbus, Ohio, in which an officer shot Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old African-American girl. Few paused to find out the facts before speaking or tweeting about the case since it fits perfectly into the BLM narrative of racism. But, like many other BLM martyrs, like Jacob Blake or Breonna Taylor, the truth undermines the talk about it being more evidence of “systemic racism.”

Bryant was in the act of assaulting another black teenager with a knife. The Columbus officer, as a full video of the incident showed, acted both wisely and courageously, and almost certainly saved Bryant’s victim from serious injury or death. But the only black lives that matter to race-baiters are those that can serve their extremist political agenda. So some will go on lying about the story, while others will simply blithely ignore it and continue pushing their doctrines, regardless of how much they are distorting the truth.

While we have come to expect this sort of advocacy from radicals, mainstream journalists and politicians, it is especially disappointing when the same false narratives are taken up by those who are tasked to defend the interests of the Jewish community. Instead of praising the justice system, some are repeating the same disingenuous attacks on it, the police and the character of the country in much the same way as the likes of Sharpton or Kendi.

For the Anti-Defamation League, a post-Chauvin verdict statement in which it said, “It is long past time for our country to tackle systemic racism, reimagine what public safety looks like and create transformational change,” employed the same disingenuous talking points as BLM activists. The same was true of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, which issued a statement sounding the same notes about “systemic racism” and the need to “transform law enforcement.”

What’s so discouraging about this is not just the way groups that represent the Jewish community to the rest of the country are now not just supporting BLM ideology, but how they are weaving its ideology into their own agendas. It’s that in doing so, they aren’t merely following fashion; they are also actively undermining their own missions.

The risible demands about “reimagining” or “transforming” the police—a more politically adept way of supporting the “abolish” or “defund” strategies—is a direct attack on institutions that have been under siege for a year. The impact of this campaign on public safety has already been disastrous, most particularly because they have had a devastating impact on minority communities that are most in need of more, not less or reimagined police.

The talk about “systemic racism” is inextricably tied to critical race theory, and its catechism of “white privilege” and “white fragility.” Rather than advance equality, these ideas promote “equity” in which all people are seen solely through the prism of race, and divided between those who are “privileged” and those who are “victims,” and therefore are more deserving of fair treatment. As such, Jews are falsely classified as “white” and “privileged.” That both disadvantages Jews and gives a permission slip to anti-Semites who can spread hate in the name of intersectional “justice.”

In this way, organizations whose main job is to defend the Jewish community have bowed their knees to woke ideology and are directly enabling those who attack both Jews and Israel, another target for BLM abuse.

Such groups now value their alliances with fellow liberals more than their Jewish brief. In doing so, they are not so much pursuing intercommunal dialogue as they are prioritizing leftist policies that are fundamentally illiberal. Rather than pursuing genuine social justice, they are merely playing politics to the detriment of the people they are supposed to represent as well as those with whom they sympathize.

Just as bad, they are willing to smear any group that dissents from their slavish parroting of BLM doctrine, like the Zionist Organization of America, as racists.

All decent people wanted justice in the George Floyd case, as well as an end to racism. However, it is, long past time for these mainstream groups to either repudiate their outrageous embrace of toxic critical race theory or be repudiated by those Jews who understand the difference between fashionable woke ideology and the truth about America.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

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