A Personal History of Blacks and Jews Part 2 – by Marceline Donaldson

Today, United Fruit is a huge corporation, but that Black/Jewish beginning is almost lost in history. In today’s world it would be seen very differently from what it actually was. It was beginning to lose that history when I was growing up because Jews were beginning to call themselves “white” and the general U. S. society could not see such an alliance and friendship as one amongst equals as existed between the man who founded United Fruit and the man who was responsible for a serious part of its early growth. But when I was a small child, the stories and the talk were about how United Fruit would not have existed or grown as it did without the friendship and working together of those two men – the Jew and the Black. Back then Jews were not hired to work regular jobs. In fact, it is within my lifetime that banks went from hiring no Jews to now hiring Jews for jobs up and down the bank ladder. Jews back then had to either start their own company or find some other independent way to make a living. That is what Mr. Zemurray was doing. Looking back into that history from today, it is easy to re-write it so that its real beginnings are “cleaned-up”.

When I became an adult the relationship between Blacks and Jews remained, but had changed. There were many Jews around Martin Luther King and the Black civil rights movement. They were there because they were experiencing bigotry because of their Jewishness; they were struggling to overcome the “n” word and all that it implied; and they were fighting for the freedom and equality of both groups. In many places where you had to fill out forms, it was clear that Jews could not fill out and check “white’ as many do today.

All throughout the Jewish community in this country and abroad there was that alliance. Sadly, it has substantially diminished because many Jews see themselves as a part of the Northern European-ancestry group and discriminate against Blacks the same way they do.

Before we get too ‘sanctified’ I think I need to point out here that there are many Blacks who have taken the same route. The more money the more they feel “different from” those with the same skin tones and the more justified they feel in doing to other blacks what was done to them and/or their ancestors.

What the Rittenhouse case surfaced is the fact that there are still many Jews working in civil rights groups with Blacks to gain equality for both groups and so the two Jews who were killed by Rittenhouse. They were not bystanders they were participants in a movement which they and their families saw as important. They had been trained, apparently, as children not to be bystanders to benefit from the sacrifice of others, but to be participants in bringing about a world where we all enjoyed equality and took responsibility for each other.

The Court system in this country, from the smallest court to the United States Supreme Court, has grown from its beginnings to where it is today, laced with bigotry and put in place to maintain the superiority of the Northern European-ancestry male, especially over the slave.

One need look no further than the Plessy decision at the end of the 19th century which brought into being “separate but equal” as a doctrine we have had to live by and which continued and put in stone the separation of the races with non-‘white’, none Northern-European-ancestry people as those who had to be controlled and kept in an inferior place. When society could no longer keep those inequalities then the Court stepped in to make sure white was also “better than”, “superior to”, and all those other terms by which we have lived almost from day one of this country’s founding.

Brown vs the Board of Education came along and reversed the Plessy decision and we all rejoiced. However, the rejoicing became muted as we saw what that meant institutionally/structurally.

An integrated educational system has never been a reality, in spite of the Brown decision. Real estate interests, amongst others, were employed to keep that from happening. Even today, separate neighborhoods and thus segregated schools are the norm – which is one way we found around the Brown decision. What did happen was the promotion of a group called the Black Muslims or Nation of Islam which promoted the Jews as evil and tried to promote Blacks as “better than.”

The real “better than” people allowed and promoted such groups because they would cause the split between Blacks and Jews that this Northern European-ancestry group had been trying to bring about, but couldn’t because of the long history of such cooperation. They did manage to do a great deal of harm to that relationship and did help to spin a tale, even though not true. It put a lid on real equality for generations to come.

Jews often didn’t help because many tried to move into the “better than” group and did everything they could to hide and move ahead without their Jewish identity showing.

The one place it was clear the “better than” people could not lose was the Court system. Lots has been happening in this Court system under our noses and we are just now awakening to the damage done. The “better than” group has been able to structure into its system what is needed to maintain bigotry. The loudest verdict so far is the Rittenhouse verdict, but more is coming. The Republican Party has focused intensely on “stacking” the Court with judges who would maintain a system of inequality where they and those like them would always win and the others would increasingly be denied their rights.

The judge, the defense attorneys, the prosecution all worked together like a well oiled machine – set up from the start of slavery and has just been given an overhaul after the shock of the general voting public having elected an African American president. It is clear the concern before that was not as strong as it is today. Not even looking at the fact that the general population in this country is now about to turn majority-minority. That was true in the south during Reconstruction. There were blacks elected to Congress, to their state legislatures and in all areas of the south. That was not so true of the north. The majority of citizens in the south were black and mostly former slaves.

Violence raises its head quite high today – as it did when there was a threat of African Americans gaining equality. The huge threat in Tulsa-Black Wall Street – brought the ancestors of those who are the white terrorists of today out to kill Blacks who seemed to be gaining equality and in fact, had achieved more than they and/or their families had achieved in terms of education and finance.

Today that is also beginning to be true as you look around at the condition of today’s minorities and so we are attacking and attempting to eliminate generational wealth of minorities, health, property and more of those considered “less than” and we are doing it through a corrupted Court system.

Take a close look at your Courts. Many incorporate a mafia where all else fails. In Massachusetts who was head of the Court system? The brother of Whitey Bulger, an organized crime boss of the infamous Winter Hill Gang. The problems we are facing in the Courts in these United States are much larger than we will talk about, write about or attempt to rectify.

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2 thoughts on “A Personal History of Blacks and Jews Part 2 – by Marceline Donaldson”

  1. Thank you for the update Marceline. Our “interesting” times are prompting new updates, perspectives and issues – glad that you are sharing yours.

  2. This note is to bring up to date the Part 2 article about the Taylor and Zemurray families. Friendship and work relationships leave their mark. I recently discovered a part of the Zemurray family in an Episcopal Church – strong, entrenched members, fairly right wing politically. My family? My es-husband was Jewish and my children have quite a bit to deal with as they go from part of their family in the Episcopal Clergy and part Jewish. The business relationship is clear. What happened historically on the personal level has only recently become clear to those of us remaining.

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