I was introduced, at a slightly older age, to prejudice. Well, maybe I was just more aware of it by the time I was in 7th grade, especially because it was directed towards me.
This girl. She was a grade older than me and one of the rougher kids. She wasn’t thrilled with the fact that my locker was next to her boyfriend of the moment. She was even less thrilled with the fact that she caught him flirting with me.
She blindsided me.
I was opening up my typical, standard, puke orange middle school locker. I had my lock dangling in the palm of my hand, and I was manipulating the numbers with my other. My book bag was between my knees. Suddenly…I was being punched in my back. Numerous times. Hard.
My books and my body lay in a heap on the floor, with this girl on top of me. Punching me.
The English teacher had to pull her off of me. I never had a chance to hit back. I’m not sure I would have even known how.
Each punch she threw, she also was spewing out hateful words like “kike” and “filthy, dirty Jew”.
I didn’t get hurt. I did, however, get a taste of reality.
Some ignorant people don’t like Jews. We are sometimes used as an excuse. Scapegoats. It was a quick, harsh lesson in the ways of the world.
She didn’t like that I was Jewish and that her boyfriend was talking to me. Both reasons were good enough for her to want to hurt me. She wouldn’t ever admit the fact that she was jealous though.
The funny thing is, she was half Jewish. Her mothers side.
She was given a suspension. I was given lessons on how to punch hard.
I never had to. She never bothered me again.
That wasn’t the last time my religion was used like a curse directed at me.
I was standing at the bus stop. It was 6:40am. Fall, so it was a brisk morning. I was shivering along with a couple of the other neighborhood kids, hopping from one foot to the other to try to keep warm.
My across the street neighbor. A girl I used to play Barbies and have sleepovers with. An old friend.
She came running, breathless. She only had a couple minutes to spare before she would have missed the ride. She looked at me, panting. Giggling. Unaware that there were other people standing there whose attention she had as well. And she says, “You know what? I have the funniest thing floating through my head. Go fly a kike. Go fly a kike.”
She was laughing. I was stunned. I don’t think I even responded and I’m pretty sure that the bus came and saved me from stuttering a stupid insult back at her.
There have been other incidents. Ignorance. Stupidity. And outright hatred.
Because of religion.
Then today. On Twitter, Scary Mommy let us know that her new Nanny. One who came to her with glowing credentials. Told her that her son looked like a “Jew boy” and blushed when told that is indeed, EXACTLY, what he is.
Really though? What does it mean to “look like a Jew”? Dark curly hair? Dark brown eyes? Horns. A forked tongue.
My mom. 100% Jewish. She has blond hair and blue eyes. She. Is a “Jew Woman”. My kids. They have light hair and light eyes. THEY. Are Jew Boys and Jew Girls.
I have been told. On way more occasions than I like to remember, that I “don’t look Jewish.”
This made my heart sink. For her. And for us, the Jews. For humankind.
No matter how many years go by.
No matter how many horrific things happen. In the name of religion.
No matter what.
This prejudice. This…ignorance. It follows us. Like a forked tongue and horns.
Skin color. Religion. Hair cuts. Bad teeth.
Not a good enough reason.
It scares the shit out of me.
Like a quote I saw many years ago on the wall of my 8th grade Social Studies class…
“History repeats itself because no one listens the first time.”
And there is way too much bad that can happen again, all in the name of religion, because of deaf ears and closed minds.
Let’s see if we can’t make a change in this new decade, eh? Let’s see if we can keep history from ever making the same mistakes again.