First, some thoughts about the title of this article: The phrase “Black Lives Matter” was coined by Black women — Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. Some activists have warned that the meme “All Lives Matter” might defuse the intensity and importance of recognizing the continuing (and in some ways worsening) racism in US economic, cultural, and political systems. If “All” is used to replace “Black,” it might indeed help people pretend that racism is no longer an issue. But where both “Black” AND “All” are used (and “Green” besides), I think that says two things: Racism remains rampant in the structures of our country, and other aspects, forms, and targets of the Disease of Domination are also worsening.
From the beginning of our reporting on and encouragement of the resistance to one specific aspect of racism that arose out of Ferguson, The Shalom Center has connected the issue of racist police violence with the broader issues of mass incarceration; torture; and political disfranchisement of the poor, old, young, Black, & Hispanic (all heavily intertwined with racism); along with hyper-enfranchising of the ultra-rich and the burning of the Earth (which have racist results but go beyond race in attacking their victims). — We have pointed out that the “Pharaohs” of our social system are behind them all — that the key issue of domineering, unaccountable power is behind and beneath all the issues.
The burning of the Earth has actually —through Superstorms, floods, droughts, and famines — killed many more Black and brown people than police have. And not just in absolute numbers: the burning has far disproportionately killed and damaged those communities. The truthful equation is: Racism x CO2 = Mass death. Yet it is also true, and crucial to realize, that the same structures of power that impose racist oppression also oppress not only “white” human beings but many other life-forms on our planet — all of them sacred and valuable in themselves and crucial to the health and life of the whole human species.
For millennia — ever since Jews took as central to Jewish identity the story of how a band of runaway slaves toppled Pharaoh’s power and built a new community — the great thrust of Jewish thought and action has been to resist the Disease of Domination.
Sometimes it comes from beyond the Jewish people –— like the Babylonian, Syrian-Hellenist, Roman, Inquisitorial, Tsarist, Stalinist, and Nazi empires; like the racism rampant in American society during and since slavery; like the world-destroying Carbon Pharaohs of Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Unnatural Gas.
Sometimes the Disease of Domination has arisen within the Jewish people – but those outbreaks of Domination Disease have been confronted by Jews who were and are committed to the Prophetic vision of justice, peace, and a rhythm of rest for humanity and the Earth. That began with the ancient Prophets who confronted Jewish kings, and it has persisted to Jews in our own generation who have opposed the Occupation by the Government of Israel over Palestine beyond the 1967 Green Line.
So it is not surprising –- and it is inspiring –- that in America today, Jewish outrage over the epidemic of police killing of unarmed Black civilians has sparked new lights for Hanukkah. In many cities, Jews will be gathering at some public place on the last night of Hanukkah –— this coming Tuesday evening, December 23 –— carrying Hanukkiot (the nine-candled Hanukkah Menorahs) to affirm that Black lives matter. The powerful image of a multiracial menorah is by Zoe Cohen. Her work can be seen at ZoeCohen.com
My own Jewish life began in 1969 with my writing the Freedom Seder, an expression of Passover that reached beyiond Jewish liberation to call as well for the liberation of Black Americans and other oppressed peoples from their modern Pharaohs. So I am delighted by “Freedom Hanukkah,” and The Shalom Center strongly supports these efforts.
We support them both for the sake of justice throughout America, and for the sake of enlivening a new Jewish community that sees our festivals both as expressions of the seasons of the Earth and and as spiritual frameworks for political activism.
The upsurge of new grass-roots Black leadership responding to the police violence in Ferguson and Staten Island has posed demands that go beyond police violence. These demands include ending racism in the mass incarceration of Black men, in the devastation and defunding of public schools that serve Black communities, in the economic injustice that destroys Black families even more violently than white families.
We see these post-Ferguson demands for broad and basic change — uprooting racism — as an expression of the ancient impulse to oppose the Domination Disease. And we see opposition to the Global Scorching that threatens the whole web of life upon our planet as another expression of that impulse.
Indeed, at The Shalom Center we take special note of the pattern in which these two “separate” forms of Domination flow together in an even more repressive way. It is Black, Hispanic, and Native communities as well as poverty-stricken white farmers desperate to sell anything, even their own drinking water, that suffer the most from the Plagues brought on us by the Carbon Pharaohs. Asthma, homes destroyed in superstorms, famine arising from prolonged droughts – all these wound worst the most vulnerable.
Poisoning and burning Mother Earth is intertwined with poisoning and oppressing human beings.
So to say that Black Lives Matter is also to say that Green Lives Matter – for their own sake and because the Green Faces of God breathe out what we humans need to breathe in. Without those Green Faces, no animals, no humans, could live. It is to say that All Lives Matter, and that Domination is deadly and disastrous. It is to look behind and beneath specific issues — even the horrors of racism, even the deadly climate crisis — to see the issue behind them and beneath them — unchecked, unaccountable, irresponsible, deadly Domination. Pharaoh. Caesar.
Long ago, the Torah itself, then the Prophet Zechariah, and still later, medieval Jewish artistry all saw the Temple Menorah as a living, breathing Tree of Life.
We — human beings who are committed to create Community and resist Domination — WE are the light-bearing Menorah of every generation. Our lights are kept lit by the Breath that breathes all life.
We at The Shalom Center are continuing to keep these lights well lit, and we ask your help to do that. We ask us all to join with each other, including us on The Shalom Center’s Board and staff, in the Green Menorah Covenant to grow from the grass-roots new communities of life, resisting Domination.
On the left is a “Donate” button through which you can strengthen our work, make the Hanukkah vision real, and join in the Green Menorah Covenant.