It is so deeply frustrating.
After all the horror of last week, watching the unthinkable happen, scared for the future of this democracy, I still feel like people aren’t willing to name the truth when they see it.
This article is an example of how news outlets generally describe Qanon: “a conspiracy theory that Satan-worshipping pedophiles control the government.”
Here’s how they should describe it, per the Anti-Defamation League:
“Several aspects of QAnon lore mirror longstanding antisemitic tropes. The belief that a global “cabal” is involved in rituals of child sacrifice has its roots in the antisemitic trope of blood libel, the theory that Jews murder Christian children for ritualistic purposes. In addition, QAnon has a deep-seated hatred for George Soros, a name that has become synonymous with perceived Jewish meddling in global affairs. And QAnon’s ongoing obsession with a global elite of bankers also has deeply antisemitic undertones.”
So the word missing from the first description is “anti-Semitic.”
I’m assuming you’ve seen the photos of the man in the “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt at the Capitol insurrection. I’m not sharing them here.
When I started writing my novel about a girl fighting anti-Semitism—pennies thrown at her, a fake bomb threat to her synagogue—some of the earliest feedback from people was “are you sure you’re not exaggerating?” Even after the synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh. Even though I based some incidents on my own childhood. (I didn’t include the names I was called in the novel. I’d sooner let them die than pass them on to a new generation.)
The interesting thing was when I started asking my family about *their* experiences with anti-Semitism. We’d never really talked about it. Here’s a sampling: a co-worker saying “d’Jew” all the time as a joke. Asking for time off to attend services and getting pushback. Being expected to work on Shabbos (Sabbath is on Saturday for Jews, remember). Prayers from the New Testament before school plays. Tests scheduled during the High Holidays. Jokes about money, jokes about being cheap. Being told “you don’t look Jewish!” like it’s a compliment. Losing friends when they found out you were Jewish. Comments about how “the Jews are taking over everything.” And the most unprovable part, the quiet exclusion: left out of gatherings, not invited to parties, not part of the social circle at work.
That’s just from my immediate family. Imagine how many other people have stories.
(Side note: There is no such thing as “looking Jewish.” There are Jewish communities all over the world, and we come in every single skin tone. And that doesn’t even factor in interfaith families or converts.)
You can draw a line between incidents like that, and the guy wearing the Auschwitz sweatshirt at the Capitol. The line is shorter than you think.
We can’t address these issues, we can’t fight ignorance and hatred unless we’re willing to be honest, with ourselves and each other, about what that hatred really is. And obviously, the same goes for all other types of hatred and bigotry.
Comments turned off for this post. If you agree, though, or you’d like to learn more, there are a lot of good resources at the ADL’s site. Read a book about someone different than you. Find a nonprofit that could use your help. Have those uncomfortable conversations with people who keep saying things that aren’t true, or making “jokes” that were never really jokes. You have more power than you think.
Thanks for reading.