February is Black History Month, which is a great time to bring attention to the fact that Larry David and Oprah Winfrey have more in common than one would expect.
Both Jews and blacks share a common historical background; they were victims of discrimination in the United States. I don’t have horrible family stories about being a descendant of a slave or a victim of Jim Crow Laws, but I am a descendant of Holocaust victims, so I can understand holding a grudge.
In the 1930s, Jews in Germany went into hiding, left the country, or were forced into concentration camps. At the same time, racial segregation in America’s South was banning blacks from using public restrooms, eating in diners with whites, and receiving the same educational opportunities as whites.
This is where the Jews and blacks unite. Jewish refugee scholars began teaching at black colleges. White Americans could easily target blacks because of their physical appearance; German Jews gave themselves up as soon as they spoke with their foreign accents which set them apart from Southerners.
Consequently, Jews weren’t considered on the same social level as white Americans, but were embraced more than blacks.
Through their understanding of discrimination, the black college students and refugee scholars connected.
Ironically, the Jews fled Germany for America under the promise of equality and democracy and entered another hostile environment. Under Adolf Hitler, Nazis performed shocking acts of cruelty. Seeing photographs of emaciated, mangled bodies piled in concentration camps and photographs of white crowds cheering at black lynchings allows both sides to see the discrimination of their own and sympathize with each other. Both blacks and Jews have recognized the similarities in the plight suffered separately by each group. Martin Luther King said, “Millions suffered agonizing death in the middle passage in a holocaust reminiscent of the Nazi slaughter of Jews, Poles, and others.” The Jewish refugee scholars became the professors at black colleges where the professors had to escape the brutality of Nazis and the students made their own escapes from slavery.
Black History Month is about race relations and the progression the country has made. The relationship between the Jews and the blacks brings attention to their acceptance of one another despite differing religions.
Growing up in an environment where people of different races never conflicted made Black History Month a non-event.
However, the religious discrimination I’ve witnessed, especially against Muslims, must be acknowledged and ended. Race is an issue of the past; it’s time for Americans to end racial and religious discrimination.