Who Am I?
One evening when I was about eleven, my siblings and I waited in a car outside a restaurant. Kids on bikes circled us, calling us "Jew...Jew". Hunh? Their ignorance--we weren't Jews--mitigated the threat, but somehow even as a child I knew that yelling back "We're not Jews, you jerks!" was not the right response. I was a little scared, too.
More recently, my best friend in Lanesborough for ten years at that point (she has since moved) was an observant Jew and daughter of Holocaust survivors. I can't remember the context, but at a social occasion, she referred to myself and another friend with a similar surname, as “the Germans". Hunh? I spoke up--I've never been to Germany and my Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors came to this country in 1750. I don't identify as German. I was an "innocent" Quaker!
The kids on bikes scattered when my mother appeared. My friend and I remained very close. But these two incidents are linked in my mind. Am I Jewish or German, both, or neither?
3/27/2021 08:46:13 am
Hi, Chris. Didn't know that the surname Erb was "German." The brain has so much input that it simplifies data into categories. The boys and your friend were trying to put you into handy, prejudicial categories. Interesting that your friend hadn't abandoned the "German" category.
4/3/2021 10:28:52 am
Chris, what parallel events at different times of your life! I imagine you can relate to the feelings of "others" when taunted by racist remarks. In addition, I think what's hard about it is feeling observed, categorized, and seen as different. Who am I? is a good question in this context. But I trust that you know the answer.
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