Anti-Semitism Is Racism: Reflections On Wiley's Words And Actions

Anti-Semitism Is Racism: Reflections On Wiley's Words And Actions

This is a societal problem, and one of the many that need addressing...

I have never really talked about my religion publicly, outside of my own community that is. Not because I’m not proud of it — it’s probably the thing I’m most proud of — but because I know that some people hold prejudice against Jews and I didn’t want to unearth it. I didn’t want to see the reactions, or the silence, or the excuses.

I also know that growing up in London and being able to hide my minority status, both in my appearance and my name, is a massive privilege that I do not take lightly. But given my feelings around Black Lives Matter, including reading and listening even more to better understand the Black experience, it would be absurd to not speak up for myself.

I’ve had an unsettled feeling since this whole Wiley saga began. It’s not so much the specifics of what he said (because honestly none of those abusive comments are original) but for me seeing a musician who has hundreds of thousands of young fans and followers spew such vitriol is worrying. Not least because the number of supportive comments and likes Wiley’s posts garnered was deeply concerning. This is not some swastika toting white man in another country, this is someone much closer to home.

Even though the Labour party, previously a haven for Jews and other minorities, became a place where anti-Semitism was tolerated, it didn’t feel as sharp as this (cf Panorama, Is Labour Anti-Semitic?).

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Wiley is someone who exists in a music industry that I am a part of, feel comfortable in, celebrate and support. Therefore, when I see the same people I once admired, interviewed or worked with not engaging with this issue, or worse, minimising its importance, I feel deeply anxious.

It’s concerning how many people have dismissed these comments because ‘we already cancelled him’, or because ‘he has mental health issues’, or because ‘he’s not smart’. It doesn’t matter if all three of these statements are true, it does not make his comments mean or hurt any less. The lack of condemnation for Wiley’s words that I have seen is disappointing, especially from those who are frequent activists for other causes.

My entire family were immigrants three generations ago, and what my ancestors endured and fled from in Eastern Europe was nothing short of genocide. This is only a snapshot in the centuries long history of Jewish persecution, and even after six million Jews were killed only two generations ago, we are seeing the rapid rise of the Alt Right, including Neo-Nazis and anti-Semitism in Europe and the US — synagogues being attacked, worshippers being killed, tombstones and shops being vandalised.

This is not an isolated issue and it’s far bigger than one person revealing their true feelings. It is a haunting echo of what we experienced less than 100 years ago.

I have tried to consolidate my thoughts into three points:

Firstly, racism is racism. It doesn’t matter which minority you belong to, hateful speech and actions are wrong.

I am aware that I cannot compare my everyday and generational experience to those with darker skin - but crucially, this is not a competition. Racism comes in many forms, and understandably manifests in different ways because of completely different histories spanning millennia. If you are anti-racism, then this is a cause you should be supporting.

Secondly, the reaction to Wiley’s abuse has been questioned by many.

From the government, the police, mainstream media and social media platforms, there are a lot of opinions flying around. I have seen people minimise anti-Semitic abuse because the reaction is seemingly ‘better’ than that for other racist statements. Whether this is true or not (because this is not a competition) this categorically does not detract from what was said.

How any of these institutes or companies reacts to racial abuse is clearly something that needs addressing. We know this, we do not dispute this. We do not control what is or is not published, this only perpetuates the myth of ‘Jews in power’ further. There are plenty of anti-Semitic tropes published frequently too.

Unfortunately, systemic racism is alive and well, but please don’t let that distract from genuine racial hatred that is being stated by someone in the public eye.

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Thirdly, there is a massive knowledge gap between understanding what being anti-Semitic and anti-Israel means. The two have a clear relationship, but there are plenty of Jews who don’t agree with the current Israeli political situation. It was pointed out to me that Diaspora Jews have drawn Judaism and Zionism together so closely that no wonder others interconnect them too. We need to do a better job educating on it. It is one of, if not the most, nuanced and complex political and religious situations in the world, and it deserves an entirely different conversation.

But in an effort to put it simply, if you don’t believe the State of Israel should exist at all, or worse, want it forcibly destroyed, this is anti-Semitic.

However, you can question and lobby for a different situation than the current status quo and still support the Jewish people — and many Jews do. If this situation has delivered anything useful, it has shown a desperate need for communication about all of the above, and much more.

There needs to be greater empathy for the prejudices that exist within our world, whomever it is against. This is not just a Jewish and Black communities problem, this is a societal problem, and one of the many that need addressing.

We are so much stronger together than we are apart. Let’s not allow the divides that exist become even bigger, and encourage engagement in these uncomfortable but vital conversations.

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Words: Nicola Davies

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