Posts Tagged: discrimination Results 5
I recently wrote an article in the Sisterhood entitled “Why I Check Both White and Jewish,” about white privilege, gentrification and my experience being marginalized as a Jew. My intention was to spark conversation amongst readers about privilege and racial identity in order to work towards dismantling racism both within the Jewish community and beyond, articulated quite succinctly in Sarah Seltzer’s response piece about acknowledging privilege and honoring the Jewish tradition of social justice.
The American legal system decided decades ago that there is no such thing as “separate but equal.” Segregation is just a fancy word for discrimination. And being forced to the back of a plane — or a bus — is the same as saying you’re not good enough to sit in the front.
It is said that when a baby elephant is trained in captivity, it is tethered to a post. It learns that it can move only in a circumscribed space when it’s tied up. After the elephant becomes a large and powerful animal, it could easily uproot the post. But it still assumes that when tethered, it can move only in that same, limited space.
When the first gender-segregated buses appeared on the Israeli roads in 1997, I don’t think anyone could have predicted how far the phenomenon would spread. Today, not only are there gender segregated buses in many Israeli cities — and even on bus lines that go through non-Haredi neighborhoods — but there are segregated post offices, banks, health care centers, police stations, pharmacies, supermarkets, candy stores, conferences, elevators, Luna Parks, cemeteries, city streets, schools, courtyards, tours of historic sites, and the Western Wall. There have been conferences of the Education Ministry and events from a variety of local municipalities that demanded segregation. And there is currently pressure to introduce separate trains and buses as well.
While much of the weekend’s news cycle was devoted to Bibi-Bidengate, another event in Israel this weekend caught my eye: the protest against sex-segregated buses, which fellow Sisterhood blogger Allison Kaplan Sommer writes about here. In the Sisterhood’s earlier coverage of the issue, Elana Sztokman rightly called the so-called “modesty” policy on public buses deeply discriminatory and sexist. Judy Mandelbaum at Salon’s Broadsheet also has a great round-up of the weekend’s protest and the history of the issue.
There’s a fine line between freedom of religion and the basic democratic principle of separation of religion and state, and it can get particularly thorny in a Jewish state. But at the end of the day, the right to practice one’s religious rituals on public property can’t interfere with others’ right to dignity, equality and basic freedoms. When it does, as is the case with the buses, it’s time for the government to interfere.