There’s nothing inherently bad about choosing to worship in a community or place where the vast majority hails from one ethnic group. Even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s often-quoted “11 a.m. Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week,” centered on America’s then-legally enforced policy of segregation that denied African Americans the right to choose, without fear of repudiation or physical harm, wherever they wanted to worship (and by extension work, live, learn, etc.) now guaranteed under law for all citizens.
Neither should we view neighborhoods and wards dominated by one race or one faith community as places founded upon or fueled by prejudice, bias or a debilitating fear of the other. Still, here in the District, an increasingly-wider, unchecked chasm between Blacks and Jews that many have either denied or ignored has taken centerstage in the midst of the current D.C. elections. Further, it’s something that demands our attention and the need for a carefully-developed strategy that will result in both healing the divisions which currently threaten the overall health and future of our city and bringing together all who proudly refer to themselves as Washingtonians in newly-formed alliances.
Two candidates, the Baltimore-born incumbent Elissa Silverman, who’s white and Jewish, and the challenger, Dionne Reeder, who’s Black and a native Washingtonian, both seek the same at-large seat on the D.C. City Council. Only one of the two women, both of whom we believe to be more than qualified for the position, can win. As for voters who must chose, we urge them to consider the platforms and goals of each candidate. Who do you believe would do a better job representing the city and the people who live here? That, not differences of race or religion, should be the focus and the sole issue at hand.
We can do much better than to follow the leader, moving lockstep with politicians on the national scene who have embraced bigotry and the insertion of stereotypes to lead conversations and form opinions.
Those who live on opposite sides of the Anacostia River, Blacks and Jews, know very little about one another. The time has come for us to get to know our neighbors — all of our neighbors.