Trump supporters near the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021. Some stormed the building, breaking windows and clashing with police. (Photo/JTA-Shay Horse-NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Trump supporters near the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 6, 2021. Some stormed the building, breaking windows and clashing with police. (Photo/JTA-Shay Horse-NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Being a Black Jewish woman in America on Jan. 6

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The first day I moved back to my college campus, I, a Black Jewish woman, watched the news as the U.S. Capitol building was overtaken by white supremacists and Nazis. For a brief moment that day, my heart had fluttered with excitement about the news of a Black man and an Ashkenazi Jewish man representing Georgia in the Senate for the first time in history.

Even though I grew up in Oakland, I come from Southern folks who fled the pervasive racism of the Confederacy. Sens. Warnock and Ossoff represent the legacy, pain and triumph of hardworking, multiracial coalitions in the South demanding equality. I hoped, even if just imagined, that my ancestors would let out a sigh of relief, twinkles of pride would glisten in their eyes, and we would sense that we finally made them proud.

Yet, the news coverage quickly shifted to another unbelievable picture, one filled with no cheers of progress and long-deserved representation. The Capitol was captured, and all I could do was continue to unpack my suitcase. I saw images of white men wearing gigantic animal horns upon their heads, paint smeared on their faces as if they viewed themselves as warriors. A noose hung, and a Confederate flag waved in the air. My social media feed became plastered with individuals wearing shirts printed with antisemitic phrases.

I got up to stick my little mezuzah on the doorpost of my new room, adding to my Magen David necklace around my neck, impressive Afro and skirt that goes past my knees. I recited the traveler’s prayer before the plane took me to the side of the country where individuals — claiming to be patriots — brought violence and terror to my nation.

I thought that if any minority committed even a fraction of these acts, they would have not even made it to the steps — security would have taken them down. But I wasn’t surprised or shocked. America was watching America being shown who it truly is. I was simply witnessing the underbelly of this country being exposed to the entire world.

I spent the rest of the day and the following scrolling through social media to distract and occupy my mind during a numbing quarantine. I eventually came across friends and accounts posting about the importance of language when describing what occurred on Jan. 6, how this insurrection threatened marginalized Americans and how to donate to various social advocacy organizations and individuals in need.

As a Jewish woman, I wondered why the only people acknowledging the blatant antisemitism demonstrated on the steps of our Capitol were other Jewish people. Jewish content creators, activists and everyday individuals were posting about the traumatizing experience of seeing Nazis parading in the revered halls of our Capitol. I became deeply upset that the Jewish community was being ignored, disregarded or, at the very least, not considered during these acts of terror.

As I watch the aftermath, I am still angry that individuals and accounts on social media speak about violence and discrimination in America without mentioning the real harm days like Jan. 6 represent for Jewish people. I understand that Jewish people in this country do not neatly fit into the People of Color versus white binary or any one political affiliation. We are an incredibly diverse community with many different skin colors, cultures and stories.

Yet Americans tend to reduce us to being white and having experienced one traumatic event in Europe, which is taught in schools here and there. These perceptions contribute to the erasure of our identities as Jewish people and the discrimination we have experienced for thousands of years.

To speak plainly, everyone is an activist for equal rights until they have to support Jewish people. Nazis attack us and have always attacked us first and foremost. Jewish stories deserve to be taken seriously by social advocacy movements, and we deserve to live in peace.

I sit in a Black, observant, Jewish, female body that loves Israel, and I prepare for the world to attack me every day. I want the Jewish community to be listened to, I want Jews of color to be heard, and I want to not fear for my life each waking moment.

I say “Am Yisrael chai” with the greatest pride, Black skin and a honey voice.

This piece first appeared in the Jewish Journal.

Tova Ricardo
Tova Ricardo

Tova Ricardo is an award-winning spoken word poet, writer, and Jewish advocate from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a digital producer with the Tel Aviv Institute, a nonprofit that uses social media to promote Jewish and Zionist perspectives. Follow her on Instagram @tovathepoet.