Features /

At least Wiley taught me a lesson. Sort of.

7 Sept 2020

George Aminoff

At least Wiley taught me a lesson. Sort of.

When Wiley’s repulsive anti-Semitic tweets first came to my attention, a sickening feeling began to reacquaint itself with me – one that had become all too familiar. It was a feeling which accompanied my outrage over a human being’s blatant discrimination and their disregard for the harmless principle that all people should be treated equally. Most horrifying of all, this was discrimination targeted at the group of people whom I am a proud part of: the Jewish community. The manner in which Wiley doubled-down on his bile made me feel violated, victimised and vulnerable. I was exasperated by social media sites refusing to swiftly boot off Wiley from their platforms.


Despite the fact that this mindset subsided (aided by the increasing levels of support from non-Jewish people and public figures in society – though I wish this were greater in number), my dismay over how people can be so prejudiced still burns intensely. This will continue to be the case while such undignified behaviour, to say the least, still exists. This is also why I and a large number of fellow Jews were willing and passionate in our belief that Black Lives Matter.


Such campaigns remind me that one of the most reassuring things for minority groups is the solidarity shown by other minority groups. This is why Wiley’s behaviour was not only offensive and wrong but deeply unprincipled from a man who is a Black Lives Matter advocate and who, therefore, seemed to be in favour of equality. It completely undermines the push for equality if one is going to apply double-standards to different groups in society. So, when the movement is undermined, it acts as a roadblock for causes which I’m also a passionate advocate of. My point is that if we are to tackle hatred and bigotry, then we have to stand up to all forms of it whenever, wherever and however its ugly head is reared. This way, our message will be given even greater credibility and so will garner more support, which is how required changes can ever take place.


The alarm bells ringing due to Wiley’s behaviour also led me to realise that education is the primitive way of tearing racist poison away from its roots. In this case, Wiley’s aggressive attachment to ridiculous conspiracy theories about Jewish people was clearly borne from his lack of exposure to the Jewish community and their interests. Namely and most seriously of all, understanding what anti-Semitism is, the implications of it and how high its levels have reached. Without this, age-old tropes have the potential to spread like wildfire, such as the ‘theory’ that “Jewish people are the law” and implying that they control society’s wealth, as spouted by Wiley. Not only are these comments a gross generalisation, but they are detached from the reality that extreme poverty is actually rife within certain parts of the UK’s Jewish Community.


It is also vitally important for Jews like myself to share the first-hand anti-Semitic experiences we have had in order to raise awareness of the problem and garner more empathy. These would be instances like when I was walking past some schoolboys a few years ago whilst wearing my kippa (Jewish skull cap), only to hear some provocative comment about Hitler audibly mentioned by one of them. For me, moments like this are what make your insides lurch. For others, it leads to them fearing for their safety and so undermining their right to live a life of dignity. Even if this is not the case, they still clash with your principles and create internal fury about the outrageous behaviour.


Undoubtedly, other Jews have experienced considerably worse – often in the form of physical violence. It is this sense of dehumanisation, which is what makes our community desperate for solidarity and public demonstrations of support by leading figures. This is also the case when we are gaslit by social media users for the terribly offensive act of complaining about racism.


Being a member of JSOC (Jewish Society), I’m very much aware of the anxiety that fellow members have over hostility towards our community from within certain sections of the University. That’s why we highly appreciate all the warmth, support and reaching-out that we receive from any other society, particularly after ‘Wiley’. We just want to be able to walk campus without feeling intimidated, just like any other minority group shouldn’t.


As a side point, there is definitely media content out there which would help people understand aspects of the ‘Jewish experience’. For instance, the Netflix series of ‘Unorthodox’ perfectly displays the difficulties that some Orthodox Jews live through during their lifetime. I haven’t seen the show myself (I plan to in the near future), but I’ve read its description and seen the trailer, as well as hearing positive reviews from other people.


Either way, the plot of Unorthodox certainly debunks the idea that Jews are this monolith of privilege and wealth, and who ‘do not know what suffering is’ – another trope I’ve encountered via social media. Believe it or not, Jews actually have their own unique life struggles, just like any other regular person! I guess I’m trying to highlight the impact that ‘education’ will potentially have on people who have harboured anti-Semitic and racist generalisations. Hopefully, more and more people will realise this and make it impossible for politicians to resist making the reforms required.


For those who deem me to be idealistic, nothing will change if we don’t start being more hopeful. This may be seen as a cliché, but it still couldn’t ring truer.

Image by ShutterStock