April 26, 2007 - A cnn.com piece reports that Israel announced it will plant a forest of trees in honor of Coretta Scott King, the wife of slain civil righs leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It's such a postive healing step for relations between African-Americans and Jews as well as a healing balm for the areas scrorched by Hezzbollah rocket attacks last year.
Anti-Semetism has always troubled me. Our next door neighbors were Jewish in the suburban Bethesda, Maryland neighborhood in which I was raised. As the oldest son in the only African-American family in the area I always found that a genuine closeness and comfort existed between our two families. Mrs. "J" (their last name begins with J and ends with a Z, but I'm protecting their privacy) would always happily offer a ride to school to my younger brother or me if we needed one. During holidays, my mother always sent my brother or me over to their home with fresh baked bread to honor Hannakuh. I can't count how many games of Kick the Can we played with the two kids Jenna and Paul during long summer evenings.
That was my experience with Jewish people growing up, not seeing them as Jewish but simply as the nice people who lived next door. In the 1980's and early 90's when a new wave of Black Nationalism and Afro-Identity swept through popular culture via music, there were some really uncomfortable periods for African-American/Jewish relations. I got really bored with the tedious, Anti-Semetic rants from people like Khalid Muhammed and Sister Souljah who often used the media spotlight to demonstrate their contempt for Jews.
Don't get me wrong, I loved Chuck D and Public Enemy, but Sister Souljah always came off as a loose associate of the group, but she had no real musical talent of her own who seemed desperate for attention. Frankly she was such a moron I never took her Anti-Semitism very seriously - it was based on ignorance and anger; and shed light on her own personal fear and insecurity.
Jesse Jackson calling New York Hymie-Town didn't help. Nor did it help when a car in the motorcade of a popular Brooklyn Rabbi struck and killed 4 year old Gavin Cato; an African American child wo lived in Crown Heights. The subsequet protests between members of Crown Heights black and Orthodox Jewish residents horrified the nation and divided New York City.
But there are many of us, Jewish and African-American who have never bought into the media's common stereotypical Spin of Jewish-Black relations. History makes it clear that the ancestors of Jews and Americans of African descent share a common bond in being used as slave labor and scapegoated for societal ills.