By Jenn Ross
One of the components of the 2022 Jewish Council for Public Affairs Conference was the screening of a powerful documentary, Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America. Former ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jeffery Robinson’s groundbreaking talk on the history of U.S. anti-Black racism is interwoven with archival footage, interviews, and Robinson's story, exploring the enduring legacy of white supremacy and our collective responsibility to overcome it.
A “talk back” with Director Sarah Kunstler and Robinson followed the screening. Kunstler described her experience of hearing Robinson speak as “life-changing” and that compelled her to produce this documentary. I was not surprised to hear this as I found Robinson’s style to be informative, moving, and honest. Although the material is very challenging, I found it to be very accessible for viewers who are new to racial justice or already committed to the work.
One of the many reasons why learning about and engaging in racial justice is important (both to myself and our larger community) is that it often intersects with issues that affect as Jews. Although the film focuses on exploring the truth and history about anti-Black racism and white supremacy in America, the ongoing work of the filmmakers uncovers the truth about other systemic hatred. The Who We Are project’s website and Facebook page states that the real objection that the Tennessee school district had for removing Maus from its curriculum was that the book exposes teenagers to the truth about the Holocaust.
I found it shocking that the 1921 Tulsa Race massacre was a relatively unknown part of American history until it was portrayed in the HBO series Watchmen. Robinson addresses this travesty as well as other lesser-known and well-known aspects of Black history. It addresses fallacies around important issues, such as the removal of Confederate statues.
Overall, watching Who We Are is two hours well spent. If you haven’t already seen it, you can purchase a copy and learn more at the whoweareproject.org. Let me know if you would be interested in attending a local screening and discussion together with other community partners – with enough interest we may be able to bring this learning opportunity to Harrisburg.
In the meantime, I hope you are as excited as I am about the return of the Edward S. Finkelstein Harrisburg Jewish Film Festival on May 19! It launches at the JCC with the first two episodes of a four part miniseries The New Jew. The film festival is in hybrid format this year, with the ability to watch most films in person or online. Details about this community gem can be found on Page 1 and at hbgjff.com. See you at the movies.
As always, please feel free to reach me at 717-236-9555 x 3104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.