The Linda Sarsour Effect: Why We Leave Jews Out of Our Activism

Linda Sarsour was set to speak on the UConn campus yesterday to celebrate Women's Herstory Month.

If you aren't familiar with Sarsour, she is one of the four women who organized the national Women's March on Washington.  She is a social justice warrior and tireless advocate for tolerance.  Nonetheless, she has been at the center of controversy as of late. 

Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, is a good friend to the women behind the Women's March.  He is also a blatant antisemite.  Farrakhan has made reprehensible comments publicly before, including the most recent "Powerful Jews are my enemy," "The Jews were responsible for all of this filth and degenerate behavior that Hollywood is putting out...turning men into women, and women into men," and "Farrakhan has pulled the cover off of that Satanic Jew."  So to reiterate: he is a blatant antisemite.  To add a new point, he is also transphobic and homophobic.  In short, not a great guy.  

Regardless, Sarsour and her colleagues consider themselves friends of his.  Carmen Perez's Instagram has pictures of her with him (above), Tamika Mallory has referred to him as the GOAT, and Sarsour has spoken at a Nation of Islam event.  The hypocrisy is glaring given their activism and brand of intersectional feminism.  

I sat down with Grant Zitomer, a practicing Jewish UConn student about why we leave Jewishness out of our conversations about intersectionality. 

"Much of social justice focuses on the oppressed vs. oppressor dynamic," he said.  "Most anti-semitism focuses on Jews as oppressors.  You can see how it's in this way that antisemitism creeps into social circles."  

Zitomer, also a tireless advocate for women, the LGBTQ, Palestine, people of color and tolerance in general, said he could not go to see her speak knowing that she has ties with somebody who is an antisemite.  

"I have highly mixed feelings about Linda Sarsour.  The event is focused on women organizing, particularly the logistics of creating the Women’s March- I would be remiss to deny that she was very responsible for helping to organize the marches we’ve seen," he said.  "I think it was appropriate in that respect, but I also struggle with the fact that this person is going to come to campus, and many of my progressive friends are going to see her, they may or may not know about these issues, and a lot of them are going to clap for her."  

He brings up a good point about progressivism, social justice and the nature of people in general.  As activists, we have many blind spots, but it seems that systemic antisemitism is one of our biggest.  How is it that the populations of "woke" people can skim over the struggles of an entire group?  Not only that, but how can we allow someone to preach to us about intersectionality when they have no right to call themselves intersectional?  

Sarsour, Perez and Mallory are mirrors that shows us some ugly things about modern activism.  Twitter culture has allowed us now, more than ever, to blindly follow people who regularly produce content that we agree with.  We build our filter bubbles, and we never really look into who it is that we're inviting into them.  I don't want to assert that Sarsour is a bad person, and I don't want to say that she's a bad activist, but there is evidence that regardless of her message to stand up for all of your sisters, she has let all her Jewish sisters fall by the way side. 

The bottom line is: progressivism has a long way to go.  By definition, it is something that is constantly happening, step by step.  Let's take this next step in shrinking our blind spots, calling out antisemitism when we see it and asking our leaders to do the same.  

 

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