Even though I’ve lived in places where acute anti-Semitism still thrives, including Russia and France, where I’ve purposely avoided divulging my Jewish roots for fear of negative consequences, the lesson that I have taken away is that it is essential to accept one’s ethnocultural heritage but not be crippled by it; one needs to remember and forget at the same time. What does this mean? We all know that we must remember because those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. We also must be wise to the present, and not be blasé towards perhaps diminished but nevertheless virulent threats. Nor should we give oppressive individuals, institutions, and societies a free pass.
Ta-Nahisi Coates remembers history and knows threats better than most (having grown up in a Baltimore ghetto), but he remembers and perceives a very one-sided, narrow view of black history in America: the negatives without the positives. How could he see only the suffering of the civil rights marchers, and not their redemption in victories securing rights and privileges previous generations of African-Americans could only dream of?