By CAROLINE BACHMANN
For the typical white, middle-class, college-aged American, the concept of contemporary racism seems foreign — or even extinct. But for one TCNJ student, the bitter reality of racial prejudice in America today has become a fact of life. A short while ago, Aaron*, a student raised in a conservative Jewish household, began seeing an African American girl named Jessica. After happily dating for a few weeks, Aaron called home to tell his family the pleasant news: he was in a new relationship.
He never could have anticipated his mother’s reaction.
“It was nauseating,” Aaron told The Perspective. “She said, ‘I don’t want you in my house; I don’t want to pay your tuition; I’m cutting you off; I want nothing to do with you.’
Aaron is “a white Jewish boy,” his mother lashed, “and should be sticking with his own.”
Aaron said, “she feels like I’ve somehow betrayed our people, like I’ve spat on the graves of our ancestors. It’s not something I feel like I could combat with logic. It’s emotion; it’s ignorance; it’s hatred. I’m not going to be able to sit down with her and talk her out of it.”
Aaron’s mother, however, claims not to be a racist. “I’ve worked with black people,” she reportedly said to her son. “I don’t dislike black people. But I don’t want them in our family, and I’m disgusted by the thought that our son is with one.”
Recalling a dispute he and a professor had had not long ago, Aaron reflected: “He was telling me ‘You’ve been sheltered; you’re white; you’ve never experienced racism. You don’t know what racism is.’ I said by and large, racism was dying out. But then I come home and find out it’s in my own house.”
“Looking back,” Aaron added, “he was right.”
“I’ve been sheltered from it most of my life by virtue of being a white, Jewish boy,” Aaron said. “But there is more hatred in society and even within my own walls than I ever could have possibly conceived.”
“Our relationship is never ever going to be okay with her,” he said, “but Jessica and I are going to stay together. I love my mom as much as the next person, but if respect for her means I have to accept racism into my heart, I’m not going to do it. I do not want that to be a part of me.”
He explained further, “I’m sickened by it; I’m sickened that the woman who birthed me thinks this way. I cannot bear the thought that I came from a racist mother. That’s in me now – that hatred is in me. Even if I don’t think that way, whatever it was about her upbringing, her life experience – that’s in my blood.”
“Remnants of racism still exist in society,” Aaron concluded. “And they need to be pointed out and fought wherever they are found.”