Update: The Dog Food/Jewish Aisle…

A month and a half later.

Pug in fluff. Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

A month and a half ago, I published The Dog Food/Jewish Aisle of My Local Grocery here on Medium. It was curated into Equality, Religion, and Humor, so it got a lot of reads and a lot of responses.

Here’s the piece, if you haven’t read it yet:

So, how long do you think it took for the store to move things around?

How long till they put the Jewish food back with the other human food? I’ll get to that at the end of this piece. For now…

Most of my feedback was supportive, like Judith K. Lang Hilgartner’s:

Elena Tucker’s:

and Pamela Fender’s:

But some people just don’t get it.

Here’s a comment I got today, from someone who, from the looks of it, joined Medium just to berate Devon Price (for being honest with their mom about how much they were hurt by her Conservatism) then took some time out of his day to tell me I’m wrong as well:

Why not take the manager’s word on this before assuming blantent (sic) antisemitism? It was a mistake and they planned to rectify it soon. With the long history of antisemitism I understand why Jewish folks see this even where it doesn’t exist but I hate it when my Jewish friends automatically assume something is racist when it could be not. I’m a white, male, atheist and I just don’t ever hear anti-Semitic talk in my circles, ever. There is a lot to cry about in this world but I suggest you give people the benefit of the doubt.

Okay, it’s not the worst comment in the world (his comment to Devon was worse). He didn’t call me any names.

And my (Jewish) brother‘s response was similar: Give everybody the benefit of the doubt!

My response:

Okay, I’m in Washington State. Yeah, there aren’t a ton of Jews here. I agree it was probably overlooked in the original plan, like the manager said.

But, as with other issues, like sexual harassment, our culture concentrates too much on intent rather than effect. That’s the whole deal with microaggressions: I know it’s not okay, but if I let them know, it’s so easy for them to tell me I’m crazy, to try to brush my concerns away, to say they didn’t mean any harm, and that’s supposed to be the end of that. And by the end, I mean not the end. I mean, leave everything open for it to happen again, and again, and again.

This is getting better. People are acknowledging microaggressions, acknowledging that just because someone doesn’t personally experience the pain their actions cause, that pain might still be real. Progress. Yes, progress that helped me feel like maybe, just maybe, I could find the courage to speak up.

But, it was still hard. And that’s what I wanted to convey with my essay:

My essay was mostly about the trauma we internalize (if we’ve suffered prior antisemitic treatment), whether it was the store’s intention or not.

And this goes farther than just antisemitism of course.

As I said in my essay:

Why is it so hard to speak truth to power? Why do I even view these men at the grocery store as having power over me?

My super-white town could’ve just as easily left Black hair care products out of their new store plan. If those had ended up with the dog food, I would have spoken up as well.

I brought up this hair care comparison to my brother. He said, “But the Black hair care stuff should be with the hair care stuff.”

My reply: “Right, and the Jewish food should be with the food.”

It’s been a month and a half since I talked to the manager.

Nothing has changed. I was out of town all month, wondering from time to time if my complaint had made a difference. I just got back to town and went to get some groceries. I saw the manager, and I averted my eyes, feeling bile in my throat, embarrassment, fight-or-flight feelings right away.

Deep breaths.

I did my shopping, trying not to think about it. Went to check out. And there it was, in the very same place: Dog food and matzo ball soup. A month and a half later. Together forever?

I thought about taking a picture — I even got out my phone — but there were people everywhere, and I didn’t want anyone to see me.*

I just wanted to shrink teensy tiny and disappear.

It’s not about intent (except when it is). It’s about the pain our carelessness causes each other, and how easy it would be to listen to others, and to try to do better.


* 12/30/2018 Update (to an update):

The Dog Food/Jewish Aisle of My Local Grocery. Photo Credit: Author.