Nylah Burton on Alice Walker’s Anti-Semitism

Walker’s fights with Leventhal are not the only ghosts in this poem. There is also Rebecca Walker, Alice’s daughter. Rebecca and Alice haven’t spoken in many years, and Rebecca has publicly denounced her mother for being neglectful during Rebecca’s childhood. “I came very low down in her priorities,” Rebecca wrote in 2008, “after work, political integrity, self-fulfillment, friendships, spiritual life, fame and travel.” . . .

As a black Jewish woman, I find the white Jewish community’s focus on black anti-Semitism hypocritical and distracting. Its negative impact is often exaggerated, and dwelling on it is counterproductive to racial justice and solidarity. But in an attempt to show compassion toward black people — especially black women — I sometimes find myself burying my own opinions about it at the expense of my soul. Recently, I was at an event where someone implied that Jews were naturally more conniving and exploitative. I shut down the conversation, but I wanted to flip the table in anger. What does that do to the soul of the black Jewish woman, who is often rejected by both the white Jewish community and — more rarely — by the sisters who are supposed to understand her?

Nylah Burton


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