Some of my Israeli in-laws are in town for a few days, which has been…interesting. And at the end of a long week, I almost lost my shit. Basically, they have spent the entire week shopping and when we propose to do something else, they go along with it at first. But then, when we’re half way towards our destination or whatever, they change their minds and say they want to go shopping instead. They also want to take a cab everywhere, insisting that it’s somehow cheaper than the bus. Apparently math works differently in Israel.
Anyway, so last night, they took a cab back to our place and apparently the cab driver got a little lost or didn’t know where we lived and then told them that his cab broke down and dropped them off at a street corner not too far from our place. My sister-in-law, in ending the story, said “He’s Arabic.”
Ok, first, no. He’s Arab. At least, that’s how I learned it, Arabic refers to the language. Arab refers to the people.
Second. How the fuck did you know? Are you really that good at telling a person’s cultural/linguistic identity just by looking at him (I know she didn’t ask)? Because I know a lot of people aren’t. A good friend of mine (Arab) told me a story of being in the subway and seeing a couple sit across the train from him. They started talking about him and making fun of him in Arabic. My friend was pretty goodnatured and smiled at them with a smile that tried to convey “yeah, I understand every word you’re saying!” But they just made fun of him more. So when he eventually reached his stop, he wished them a good day in Arabic. (I want this story to be true so bad!) But there’s actually a better chance, statistically, that the cab driver was Pakistani. I guess they all look the same.
My issue is, how do I deal with this? I just ended the conversation and walked out of the room. I don’t want to get into a discussion with someone who thinks that racist and Israeli are synonyms. And the more I would argue my point, the more it would come clear that racism is so intertwined with her politics (I know. I’ve been down that road before). It’s just so disheartening. And what I don’t get is how holding any stereotype about any group doesn’t justify another person holding a stereotype about another group. If you truly believe that all Arabs are ____, then you must also believe that there is some sort of trait inextricably linked to their faith or heritage. Which would mean there are traits inextricably linked to faith or heritage or skin color. And if you believe that, how can you be puzzled or upset when other people hate you for being Jewish?