Professor Max Reichard’s well-intentioned letter of June 13 raised an alarm-bell for me. When he writes, “we, all of us white people, are the woman in Central Park. We are all Drew Brees,” he crosses a line into the realm of collective guilt.
I am the son of a Hungarian Jew who immigrated to the U.S. in 1924 to escape anti-Semitism. I spent much of my career studying and teaching German history, where anti-Semitism raised its destructive head. I learned of patriotic Jewish Germans and Hungarians who fought for their countries in World War I and contributed much to the cultural richness of those countries. Yet all of this ultimately counted for nothing because they were all Jews.
No one can deny that systemic racism exists in the U.S., and that white people like myself have benefitted disproportionately from it. Yet when our language makes no distinction between beneficiaries and perpetrators, we have a right to feel threatened.
Those of us like myself who have been raised since childhood not to judge people on the color of their skin risk been lumped together with overt race-haters like those who marched in Charlottesville. If we are all Drew Brees, are we all neo-Nazis as well?