Stefanie Fox | Truthout | January 22, 2016
Artwork depicting how “pinkwashing” decontextualizes Jewish Israeli gay rights from the reality of Israeli apartheid, made for Dean Spade’s film Pinkwashing Exposed: Seattle Fights Back. (Image: Micah Bazant)
Only 26 percent of white Americans supported Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1966. As a white Jewish American, I try to hold on to that truth more tightly even than the sepia-toned memory of Abraham Joshua Heschel at King’s side. What can I learn, what can I use, in organizing for justice today, with the knowledge of how rare white solidarity with the Black-led struggle for freedom was and is. As a white Jew, it feels critical to interrogate where and how King’s adversaries and their legacy might be alive today in our world, in our movements, in ourselves.
King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail is a touchstone for me in facing this question. In it, he writes:
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action.”
It gives us a chance to question: Where am I behaving like the white moderate who King so brilliantly takes to task? Where is my community choosing comfort over the urgent need for action? Where do we want negative peace? Where do we question the tactics of the oppressed in their struggles for freedom?