For a person of color in America, the term person of color can be both useful and divisive, at once a form of solidarity and a badge of alienation. There’s a flattening effect, too: A multitude of ethnicities and cultures, with their own color-coded nuances, get crammed into the initials P.O.C. Among its many virtues, Mira Jacob’s graphic memoir, GOOD TALK (One World, $30), helps us think through this term with grace and disarming wit.
"We have to feed our children positive images and tell the stories of our past because the nation would not be what it is today without those ancestors."
As a black Jewish writer, I obviously want to read books written by and highlighting the stories of Jews of color. That’s easier said than done, though. It’s not that these stories don’t exist — Jewish literature is an amazing, rich genre of diasporic Jewish stories.
By age 22, I had not read a popular fantasy with a character that looked like me. There wasn't the sea of materials that there were for my white friends.
While there are now several books on the Bene Israeli and Baghdadi Jewish heritage of Mumbai that are more extensive in terms of research and even visual documentation, Robbins and Sohoni’s Jewish Heritage of the Deccan: Mumbai, The Northern Konkan and Pune combines luminous photography and brief commentary.
Two excellent books accompanied me through the darkness of these last months. The first was Wesley Lowery's "They Can't Kill Us All," a devastating front-line account of the police killings and the young activism that sparked one of the most significant racial justice movements since the 1960s: Black Lives Matter.
The authors’ main focus is on what they call "diverse Jews," and their primary study relates to the United States. They estimate that "at least 20 percent of the Jewish population in the United States is racially and ethnically diverse, including African, African American, Latino (Hispanic), Asian, Native American, Sephardic, Mizrachi, and mixed-race Jews by heritage, adoption, and marriage" (21).
Cheryl Lynn Greenberg, in Troubling the Waters: Black-Jewish Relations in the American Century, reopens the question of whether there was a “golden age” of cooperation between Black and Jewish groups from the 1940s-1960s. And more interestingly, she asks whether the subsequent decline and disrepair of that partnership is permanent.