We must learn to mourn together by the Forward

Let the pandemic be a time when we learn to grieve together and fight hate

When we step out of our homes in the morning, we assume we will come home at the end of the day. We leave a crockpot with dinner cooking on the counter. We have laundry we’ll fold or bills we’ll pay or a Netflix binge waiting. On February 23, Ahmad Aubrey went out for a jog and never came home.

The murder of Ahmaud Arbery bears all the classic signs of a modern-day lynching: Two white men followed him in their truck while a third filmed. His killers hunted him, killed him, and created false, trumped-up charges to justify their public execution of an innocent man.

They claimed to believe that he had robbed a local property, but the owner, Larry English, was not involved in the shooting and insists there was no robbery. English denounced Arbery’s murder - and is now facing death threats. It took over two months and enormous public outcry for Arbery’s killers to be arrested. Without the release of a video documenting the murder, they may never have been charged at all, escaping justice like untold numbers of white male domestic terrorists who lynched thousands of black Americans throughout American history.

This nightmare is far too common. Too many Black people in America are leaving their homes and not coming home because of racist violence. They’ve been killeddriving a car, buying skittles, listening to music, watching television, and sleeping in their own homes.

These stories are personal to me, as the Jewish wife of a black Jewish man and the mother of a black Jewish child. We’ve had frightening moments that still haunt us. Black Americans and their families are forced to confront these fears with every new hashtag amplifying the racist murder of a black American.

Which families will be next to mourn? What innocent black Americans will lose their lives to systemic racism and violence? How do we keep our families safe from day to day? How do we live with that fear? How do we make that fear meaningful? On a seemingly normal morning, will my husband walk out the door and never return home?

The Jewish community is facing its own frightening questions about our own safety. While we mourn Ahmaud Arbery’s murder and wrestle with the overwhelming history of racist violence and systemic oppression in America, we are also facing rising anti-Semitism. The ADL’s annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents in 2019 was the highest the organization has ever recorded. There was a 12% increase in overall anti-Semitic incidents and troublingly a 56% increase in anti-Semitic assaults.

2019 saw anti-Semitic hate crimes take lives in California, New Jersey, and New York. We are still mourning Mindy Ferencz, Detective Joseph Seals, Moshe Deutsch, Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, Lori Kaye Gilbert, and Joseph Neumann — all killed by anti-Semitic hate crimes in 2019.

Opinion | Let the pandemic be a time when we learn to grieve together and fight hate

Jews of color are facing both rising racism and rising anti-Semitism. Asian-American Jews are facing rising anti-Asian racism and rising anti-Semitism. Black Jews are grappling with rising anti-Semitism and systemic racism. While history and the manifestations of anti-black racism, anti-Asian racism and anti-Semitism differ, the mourning and rage and hopelessness and deep desire for justice are shared.

There is so much grief in this moment of American history. Unfortunately, the coronavirus crisis hasn’t ushered in a new era of compassion and justice — far from it. We have seen an increase in extremist rhetoric and an additional spike in anti-Semitism. Reports of hate crimes and harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are surging.

Decades of research show that black Americans receive inferior healthcare to white Americans due to racial bias. Racial bias has already been found to affect black Americans’ access to treatment and testing. Black Americans are disproportionately likely to die of COVID-19. Predominantly black counties are experiencing a three-fold higher infection rate and a six-fold higher death rate than predominantly white counties.

We are not “in this together.” The COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating hate and deepening inequities. It is also exposing them, and when hate and injustice are exposed, it can create new opportunities for change.

Opinion | Let the pandemic be a time when we learn to grieve together and fight hate

We are all mourning. We are grieving from behind our screens at home, without the comfort of sitting shiva or protesting. We are all fearful someone we love won’t come home. What can we possibly do with all of this grief and all of this fear?

We have to lean into it. We must sit with it. We must embrace it as much as we can bear to. We are all mourning, and we need to find new ways to mourn together, grieve together, and demand better for everyone. We need to fight for each other, side by side and confront America’s brutal history and cruel present.

We should acknowledge that the brutality and cruelty we seek to confront is not anecdotal, but systemic. We need to come together in our grief and create a better America. We need an America where Ahmaud Arbery comes home at the end of the day.

We must talk about injustice and hatred because there is so much more death that waits for us in silence than in raising our voices.

Carly Pildis is an organizing and advocacy professional living in Washington, DC.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

Let the pandemic be a time when we learn to grieve together and fight hate


Carly Pildis

Carly Pildis

Carly Pildis is an organizing and advocacy professional living in Washington, DC.

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