No Room for nazis in Skateboarding, Check Rollerblading They Have Vacancies
I’ll turn 37 in 1 month. And it has taken me my entire life to begin to understand what it means to be Jewish in the USA. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I realized: I’m not white. White people have been forcing Jews out of our homes, stripping us of our belongings, and killing us en masse long before the holocaust. Nobody taught me that Jews aren’t white, and I didn’t learn it by cultural diffusion either. It didn’t come from a Jewish person who I respect or admire–it came from me ceaselessly trying to understand who I am. That same line of inquiry led me to another potent conclusion. Coming to terms with the reality of the holocaust meant accepting that I had never felt safe in my entire life up to that point. I realized that I live in a world with people who killed 30% of all the Jews alive, some of whom were my blood. In my early thirties I realized another latent pitfall of the contemporary Jewish experience in the US: my family history is a mystery to me. Most people can trace their lineage back across many generations. For me, there is no family history beyond my great grandparents. I have no idea who my ancestors were, where they were, or what they did. I, like many other Jewish people my age, am an untethered vessel bobbing through the ether of humanity with no hope of ever being grounded in the familial foundation that forms the basis of my peers’ identities.
I am still wrestling with the holocaust on a regular basis, and I don’t know if that will ever stop for me. That’s not because I haven’t dealt with the holocaust sufficiently, it’s because the holocaust is a singular issue unlike any other. The holocaust has transformed Jewish people in a way that separates us from all other people on Earth, and it has left many of us reluctant to trust non-Jews. Even though I would like to say I can be at ease and trust that I am safe in the USA, because of the holocaust I am always tinged with enough disbelief to question whether or not I should actually be at ease. And the real work of being Jewish in the USA comes in covering up that disbelief, pretending that I feel completely safe, and creating an identity that lets me interact with a society governed by the same white people who have been killing Jews since before the holocaust.
When people assert that it’s ok to use nazi propaganda in the way that Jason Jesse has, I get agitated. Racists who don’t want to publicize their hate, but wish to assert their power, insist that the swastika is merely a symbol of disruption, a subversive tool of great value being used against an uptight establishment. This is false. Swastikas are a symbol unique to nazis, the only thing they signify is hate and death for non-whites. Swastikas don’t subvert any institution, they just cause pain. In Germany you go to prison for swastikas because Germans have a clear understanding of how hateful rhetoric can quickly escalate to something much more sinister and malicious than disrupting the status quo. Somehow our nation saw the need to defeat the nazis, yet our government allows our citizens to continue the work of the nazis on our own soil. I truly don’t understand how swastikas haven’t been outlawed.
Jason Jesse’s apology letter wasn’t bad, or offensive. But his APOLOGY was not believable, because in the comments section of his post racists began asserting that Jesse’s apology was unwarranted, and racists made derogatory comments. None of those comments endorsing the values that Jesse had just supposedly denounced were addressed by Jesse. He just let a bunch of other racists do the talking for him. However, I know he was policing his instagram because he blocked me after I asserted that he needed to do more if he wants Jewish people to actually believe the words he said. If he has truly changed, wouldn’t he want to have a dialogue with a Jewish person who is skeptical of his apology? Shouldn’t I be one of his first allies, rather than a person whose existence he can’t bare to see on social media? Which only makes what is obvious to minorities apparent to everyone else: he’s still doing racist shit.
I’m not here to pull a character assassination on anybody, but I’m absolutely here to speak up for Jewish people, and anyone else who is being slighted by the close-minded and regressive values of the skateboard community. Pros, photographers, artists, and company owners who should have pushed Jesse to do more instead set about patting him on the back in the comments of the post, right alongside the racists who were denouncing the apology. This has become something much bigger than Jason Jesse, and it’s about something much bigger than racism. Skateboarding has always been a home for outcasts, and that’s what makes it great. But we’ve never really policed our own community through any measures other than skating: if you skate you’re in, and if you don’t skate you’re out. But things have to change. Skateboarding can no longer be a home for all of the outcasts. The racists, homophobes, xenophobes, transphobes, and various iterations of normalized hate are not welcome in skateboarding. This is one denunciation that mainstream society is getting right, and we don’t have to provide a home for the scum.
If you’re with Jason Jesse on this one, you’re about to be on the wrong side of history, but it’s not too late even for Jesse. Stoke Much is here to reinvigorate the most essential element of skateboarding: participation. Skateboarding doesn’t belong to anyone. It has evolved in diversified times, and it has incorporated influences from practitioners all around the world. We need to remember that skateboarding isn’t exclusive to Southern California anymore than hip hop is exclusive to the Bronx. There are no rules in skateboarding, and similarly there are no rules to who can’t skateboard. Why is it that the skateboard industry can easily recognize the talents of a skater with no legs–big props Felipe Nunes, and Og De Souza–and yet appreciating the talents of a woman is still somehow a faux pas? It’s time to grow up guys. For too long the values of a small group of close-minded men have set the standards for the skateboard industry. That is over right now. Stoke Much is a magazine for all skateboarders, and we are here to create something that everyone can participate in. So, if you’re not comfortable sharing skating with the kind of people we like–all people–it’s time for you to leave, because your time just ran out.