For the past month, the big news coming from the D.C. City Council has been some member’s reaction to the allegation that Ward 8 Council member Trayon White is an anti-Semite and that both his accusation of the Rothschilds controlling the weather and his donation to the Nation of Islam require a council reprimand.
We are not accusing the council of neglecting its other legislative duties but what has led the news in local media, we believe, has caused the council to bleed with responses calling for disciplinary action in return.
While we concur that all forms of discrimination are both unacceptable and offensive, as a Black-owned newspaper that has covered racism and discrimination’s impact on African Americans throughout history, our ears are keenly sensitive to discrimination when we hear or see it. Thus, we cannot agree with those who accuse White of disliking Jewish people. We accept his apology as sincere and we believe that the visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum by White, accompanied by his staff, should have unfolded as a private moment where questions could be asked without the fear or possibility of judgment or criticism.
We are inspired by the response of At-Large Council member Elissa Silverman whose words rang truthfully in a statement she released last week: “The Nation of Islam does needed anti-violence and economic empowerment work in communities like Ward 8.” Further, she acknowledged the “challenge” she and others of her faith face: that Minister Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, espouses “anti-Semitic rhetoric which in no way can be tolerated or condoned.”
But Silverman didn’t end there. The former reporter who traversed the city for many years on behalf of the Washington City Paper and The Washington Post, knows first-hand that D.C. is a divided city. She spoke of it in terms of, “… a lack of understanding about Judaism and the history of anti-Semitism not only in Ward 8 but throughout our city.”
We would go further to say, but for events like the recent observance of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., understanding life from the lens of a Black man, woman or child and the history of slavery, Jim Crow and civil rights are equally misunderstood.
Silverman issued a challenge to the Jewish community to become “more a part of the civic discussion we are having about inequity in our city that particularly impacts Black residents and work collectively toward solutions.” We agree and accept our role to ensure that Council member White and others, including us, support that effort in order to make this city a model worthy of others to emulate.