Ann Arbor Jews prepare for white supremacist speaker at UMich

In anticipation of Richard Spencer’s likely speech on UMich campus during 2018 spring break, Jews in Ann Arbor are preparing. The visit raises an array of  issues for the University and the community. On January 10, 2018 Spencer’s team sued the University of Cincinnati in a scenario similar to what’s happening in Ann Arbor.

Jews in Ann Arbor are adopting a variety of approaches to preparing for Spencer. The comment feature on this blog post is open so that you can weigh in on your reactions to these.

In mid-December the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor sent out a letter, co-signed by the leadership of most Ann Arbor congregations including AARC, which urged us to prepare for Spencer’s appearance here. The letter says in part, “We are reaching out to Ann Arbor city representatives, the Ann Arbor Police Department, and to the University with the aim of collaborating on effective measures to ensure the safety of our community’s people and institutions…”

Many UM students and faculty are taking an activist approach which eschews collaborating with the police. The Detroit Jewish News reported on protests here. The Stop Spencer at the University of Michigan campaign is bringing together many constituencies targeted by white supremacy and rising white nationalism. Their statement of organization reads:

Richard Spencer has invited himself to speak at the University of Michigan. We have preemptively created this protest event (date to be determined if and when he comes to campus) to get people thinking about what they will be doing when a prominent white supremacist and his supporters arrive on campus and in our community.
We support a diversity of tactics being used against Spencer. We are not interested in telling people what to do on this day, nor do we see it as our role to do so. #StopSpencer is not planning any official protest or event.
Safety is our primary concern. Any form of protest that does not center the needs and well-being of marginalized people is not one that will be effective in protesting Spencer, who will be targeting those same folx. We call on you to critically reflect on your actions, and what groups you choose to work with, in order to understand the potential impacts (harmful or not) on others.
The fight against white supremacy, racism, police violence, Islamophobia and antisemitism is ongoing work. Richard Spencer’s visit is merely a symptom of the white supremacy that is institutionalized in this University, our local government, and local and state police forces (ie the Ann Arbor Police Department). We condemn the history of collaboration between white supremacists and police, which specifically occurred in the 80s and 90s in Ann Arbor. We ask that you acknowledge the legacy of local resistance, and lend your resources to groups already involved in the fight against white supremacy.
We encourage you to leverage your privilege, power, or capacity to take collective action against Spencer in any way you are able. We believe it is imperative to dismantle white supremacy in all its forms.
In solidarity,
Stop Spencer at the University of Michigan

Recently, Jewish students have organized the ad hoc Ann Arbor Jews Against White Supremacy, which is aligned with the campus Stop Spencer campaign.

Two upcoming events of interest:

Stop Spencer at the University of Michigan Town Hall Meeting,

Saturday January 13, 2:30-4:30 in the Anderson Room at the Michigan Union. The purpose of this event is to learn about Richard Spencer’s potential visit from Stop Spencer organizers and community members. For facebook info on the Town Hall.

And specifically for Jews (though everyone is welcome), on Saturday January 27, 7-9pm, a havdallah “to resist antisemitism and white supremacy.” Location to be announced. The purpose of this gathering is to join together with “members of the Jewish community in Ann Arbor for community-building, story sharing, and organizing for the first of a two-part Havdallah gatherings!  Richard Spencer’s visit to the University of Michigan is harmful to our Jewish community. It also deeply affects (Jewish and non-Jewish) people of color, queer, trans*, and two-spirit folks, Muslim people, immigrants, and other groups targeted by white supremacy.” For facebook info on the havdallah.

This post is open for comments. What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Clare Kinberg says:

    A comment from Alan Haber:
    A challenging question, what do I think? White supremacy — whites are special special and entitled to special place and the right to congregate as they like — has a race focused nationalism in some ways similar to Jews chosen specialness merged with Zionist nationalism and tolerating high handed treatment of “others” in Israel and Palestine.

    I make this connection because the possible benefit (silver lining if we seek it) of the Spencer initiative, is a University and community opportunity to educate — far and wide, deep and high — about racism, its learning and unlearning, and the histories of inner group relations, pointing in more harmonious directions.

    If there is significant education around this white racist intrusion into our local quiescence, the needed vision is of peoples living together in varied arrangements, sharing in common the quality of the human race, deeper than differences. Revisioning Israel and Palestine in this way could be a contribution our community could make in challenging the racist nationalism of Richard Spencer. …and to a better Jewish future too.

    Anyone interested in pursuing some such effort in this direction, please be in touch. alan, megiddo@umich.edu, 734 657 8083

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