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Debrief: candid thoughts after our conversation with Glenn E. Martin
Episode 2619th May 2022 • Conversation with the Rabbi • Rabbi Michael Beyo | PHX.fm
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Immediately after recording the podcast episode with Glenn E. Martin (Ep. 25), Rabbi Michael Beyo and Dr. Adrian McIntyre continue the conversation and let the recorder run as they share some candid thoughts and personal views about racism, sexism, and more.

Conversation with the Rabbi is a project of the East Valley Jewish Community Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, neighborhood organization that has served individuals and families inclusive of all races, religions, and cultures since 1972. Visit us online at https://www.evjcc.org

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Transcripts

Announcer:

From PHX.fm, this is Conversation with the Rabbi, featuring open, honest dialogue and sometimes unconventional perspectives on the world we all share.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

What do you think?

Adrian McIntyre:

I think it was great.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I'm shaking. I think that I'm going to be fired as soon as my board listens to it.

Adrian McIntyre:

I understood from our conversation yesterday, and from our conversations in the past, how important it is to you that truth is important, that hypocrisy is angering, even, I think to you.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Yeah.

Adrian McIntyre:

And it probably should be that way to more people to be quite honest. If we were all a less tolerant of hypocrisy, we'd have more interesting conversations. So you say you're shaking and you think you're going to be fired. Which part of it do you think ...

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

No, no ... as I said yesterday, this is the first time that I'm having as open as possible of a conversation about this topic publicly.

Adrian McIntyre:

Yeah.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I don't know how a Jewish liberal person will hear me.

Adrian McIntyre:

Right.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Will they think that I am a racist? Or will they understand what I'm trying to say? That is my question mark. As I said, I have no ... reparations, reparations, okay! So we add another $10 on our tax bill for the next 10 years. 300 million people add another $10, blah, blah, blah, blah, or whatever. 10, 15, 100. I don't know. Again, I'm not an economist so I do not know what the economics of it will look like. Or you give scholarships to everybody, whatever. It doesn't bother me, because if it is the right thing to do, it's the right thing to do.

Adrian McIntyre:

Yeah.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

The point that I don't understand is that the white people in this country had a 400-year head start. Okay. So the Zulu in Africa had a thousand-year head start versus the Burundi ... I don't know, another tribe. So you can't think ... Those are structural things within history that you can't undo one and not the other. It's ...

Adrian McIntyre:

I think it came through very clearly in your conversation with him that you are open and exploring this and just kind of wrapping your head around it. I don't think anything egregious happened here. I actually think it was great because it's messy. Like, what are we going to do? It's a lightning rod topic.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

It's tough. It's difficult.

Adrian McIntyre:

And it's the most important. It's the most important.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

The best part of all of this, for me, if I can say, okay, what did I win? "Win." You know, it was not a competition, but what did I win out of it? It is he was completely taken aback when I said, "I have no problem with the reparations."

Adrian McIntyre:

Right.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Because he came from a point of view that he thought that I'm not really understanding their suffering. No, I understand. And if the reparations are needed, they are needed. My issue is, so somebody has a head start from you, so what? So it's going to take me 200 years until my great grandkids will have the same type of wealth as the Kennedys. Who cares? Why is that important?

Adrian McIntyre:

I think we got stuck a little in the conversation. There became a point where the same things were being said a couple different times.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Yes.

Adrian McIntyre:

But I don't think inherently anything in those exchanges was problematic.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I'm trying to understand. Me, as a Jewish person, I don't come to you and say, "Hey, you did not go through antisemitism. Therefore, you are 10 steps ahead of me. Therefore, give me something." No, I will never dream of that.

Adrian McIntyre:

Right. And I suspect that this has as much to do with a kind of political and economic ideology, that by the way, I am a hundred percent sure you will also find in the Black community. I guarantee you will find Black politically and economically conservative people who will say, "We don't want a handout. There's no dignity in this. It's not what we want. You could say that, but you don't speak for me when you say that." So I know there's a complexity on this issue that it's not always going to be reflected by the advocates for it.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Okay, I understand.

Adrian McIntyre:

And when he said at the end, there's plenty of folks in the Black community that say, "You don't speak for me," it's not only the color of his skin that they're going to refer to.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I understand.

Adrian McIntyre:

I think we have to remember that the conversation doesn't have to do all the work on all the things, right?

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Sure. Sure. Sure.

Adrian McIntyre:

But on reparations, it's interesting, because we did get kind of hooked on that topic. If you and I -- this is a stupid undergraduate philosophy type hypothetical -- if we had a time machine and we went back to some point in the late forties, early fifties, I don't know. We went back to Nuremberg. We went somewhere after the immediacy of the Holocaust had turned into the aftermath of the Holocaust. But it's still in that tumultuous moment of "now," which was a long now, right? It hasn't ended, probably. And we were having this discussion with somebody who was a passionate advocate for reparations for the Jewish community in Europe. It's not possible to really answer this, but what do you think your position would be at that time?

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I don't know what my position would've been at that time. I can tell you a few data points. Number one, when Ben Gurion agreed to reparations to the state of Israel from Germany, that created a political crisis for his government. There were as many Jews in Israel that wanted reparations as many that did not want, because they said, "You cannot buy me. You cannot buy the suffering of my people. You cannot repair the damage done." And so there were many that said, "Absolutely not." And also throughout the Jewish world, you have many individuals that never accepted money from Germany or Austria. And there were others that did accept it, et cetera, et cetera. So even within the Jewish world, that was a very contentious issue. Should we accept or should we not accept? It reminds me a little bit on the concept of, should we as a medical community benefit from the experiments done by Mengele? Those are serious questions that ethicists ask themselves. Those are deep, ethical questions that I don't think that there is one and only answer. Just like with equity. I don't think that necessarily my current position is the one and only position that could exist. My argument against what he was saying, whether we call it equity or something else, is I will never say, "it will take me so much longer to reach where they are." That is something that I don't understand. I understand the concept of reparations, that they can come and say, "Let's create a fund, a $3 billion fund, that will give scholarships to college for the next 10 years to A students. You need to work hard to become an A student. But if you're an A student, you get college." I don't know. I'm just ...

Adrian McIntyre:

Spit-balling, throwing ideas out. I actually think that the crux of what you're saying also can be connected to what I was trying to insert in the middle of the conversation about this tension between the personal life history. I was born in November 1973. My life started at that point. And so the advantages and disadvantages that I have faced really only begin there. What happened before November 1973 is irrelevant. It doesn't affect me. And yet my life trajectory has unfolded in an environment where those historical effects are still very real and have given me unearned advantages. This is what my mother did not understand.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Right. And how do you measure that? How do you measure the fact that I come and belong to a people, to a nation, to a culture, that has been hands-down persecuted among the worst of all. And at the same time, I personally was born in an affluent family. I had affluence throughout my life. And then I suffered failure in some businesses that made me go almost homeless. And then I rebuilt myself from the ashes from being almost homeless. Not almost. You know?

Adrian McIntyre:

It's these two interlocking levels.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Right. So should somebody give me something? Do somebody owes me something? Nobody owes me a dime. For me, as Michael, nobody owes me anything.

Adrian McIntyre:

Right. Here's the interesting thing. Your example of Ben Gurion is important because there were people working for, advocating for, making the arrangements, the negotiations, right? Like this stuff, it devolves to bureaucracy.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

One hundred percent.

Adrian McIntyre:

Same with the South African example. Not only the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which of course gets a lot of coverage as it should, but also the very, very important but boring work of rebuilding a government in a country where every governmental structure was connected to apartheid. How do we build a government for South Africa that is reflective of the population?

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

And do they have equity in South Africa today?

Adrian McIntyre:

I have no idea. I don't know. It's not my ...

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Oh no. Far from it.

Adrian McIntyre:

But look, stick with what I'm saying. This required debates and memos and meetings and and and and ... to then try to create policies. So here we are in our country right now in the middle of the same messy thing. I think we should talk more about this. Some people are advocating for racial justice, equality, equity, inclusion, all of those things. Great! Advocate, speak as loud as possible, as articulately as possible. Here are the challenges, the pushback, whatever. Other people are advocating for the other. At some level, all of this stuff has to devolve into practicalities of: are we going to pass a law? Is there going to be a committee? Who's going to be on the committee?

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

It has to go into the implementation, yes.

Adrian McIntyre:

Personally, that's the boring part. I don't want anything to do with that. I'm grateful that there are other people ...

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Right.

Adrian McIntyre:

I'm going to be one of those people talking at a high level about what I think is the right thing to do. And other people are going to be responding to me at a high level saying that's ... you know. But at the end of the day, if it's going to be anything meaningful, it's got to get into management, governance, laws, policies.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I think that ultimately, when it comes down to, the disagreement between me and Glenn on this issue of equity is like this. He's saying he deserves a booster or whatever it is because others are ahead of him and because the others persecuted his people. My question then would be to him, do your people need to give reparations to those that you persecuted back in Africa? Because whoever came here, they persecuted others.

Adrian McIntyre:

Well, yes, and ...

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Maybe not on an individual level, but slavery did not start with taking innocent people from Africa to this continent.

Adrian McIntyre:

Yes and no. Yes, you have a valid point, and it starts to break down.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

That's exactly my question. Let's find the Amalekites and send them checks because of what the children of Israel did to them.

Adrian McIntyre:

Yeah, right. Then here's my question. Why is that important? Is it related to the hypocrisy thing?

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I'll tell you. I'll tell you. If he would've said because equity is I moral imperative and these are the reasons why. One, two, three, four. Then, I would've said, okay, either I agree or disagree. But you're making a moral argument. You're making a just argument. His argument was monetarily.

Adrian McIntyre:

An economic advantage and disadvantage. I got it. I see where you're saying.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Right. And that is where I don't understand. If somebody comes to me and says, "Because it is wrong to have done that, therefore you need reparation," okay. There can be also military consequences because America have not recognize the pain and suffering. And therefore we need to do a reconciliation. Fine. That's a moral argument, just like Germany was destroyed. And it was rebuilt.

Adrian McIntyre:

The Marshall Plan, right.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Exactly. That's a moral argument.

Adrian McIntyre:

And this is where actually I suspect the fact that a rabbi, a scholar, a theologian, a leader of a religious community, who also is a businessman, a nonprofit CEO, et cetera, et cetera, is going to have a different standard for what the claim needs to be than an ex-convict, secular, social justice advocate who started some organizations and had some success and has been paid to speak, and now has a real estate investment company who's trying to build Black wealth. I actually think it would be useful to reveal this different starting point in the conversation, because if you were not a rabbi, but we're a Jewish real estate investor, and then your primary lens was looking at it from the perspective of, hey, my mission in life is to empower Jewish families to build wealth, you might come at it from the monetary point of view.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Yeah. Maybe, maybe. But if you would've said it's a moral imperative, we need to address a wrong, even if it is with $1, okay. But he said, it will take me 200 years to give to my children what the Kennedys have. But who says that you have to give what the Kennedys have?

Adrian McIntyre:

Except for that seems to be what he wants.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Fine. But then you cannot demand it based upon suffering that you did not suffer.

Adrian McIntyre:

I think this is great, because it reveals ... we didn't get there in the actual conversation with Glenn, but I think we could have, revealing the presuppositions that informed the position. I think that's helpful. I think clarifying, look, I want to hear the moral imperative because then you have my attention, and him realizing, oh, you're right. I come at this from the monetary advancement point of view because that's the work I'm doing now and committed to. I want Black people to have more money.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Because he wants his children to live exactly like the Kennedys. And I was like, you will never be able to achieve that because in every society you have those who have more and those who have less. If I have an aspiration or I hope that my great grandkids will have a trust fund, okay. Then work hard. And this country gives opportunity to work hard and to advance and to create a trust fund for your great grandkids.

Adrian McIntyre:

I don't think we're going to find convergence on this one. I really don't. And I think it's super helpful to have some of these issues come out in the open. One of the opportunities we have with this show, as we have some of these more interesting conversations that don't just follow a typical interfaith framework, I think there's an opportunity for this show to get beneath the surface of things. I think we've started doing that more. I think you and I both are inclined in that direction. And what that means is we're going to have to figure out ways to be even more comfortable with the lack of agreement, which I think you are inherently. You are.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

I am okay. I am okay. And again, I understand that I come to this specific topic with the baggage of ignorance for all the reasons that I mentioned. It's okay. So I'm learning. And as I said, it bothered me, and I have to be honest with you. It bothered me when he said at a certain point he felt like I'm a racist. Why? Why? Because I disagree with you?

Adrian McIntyre:

Here's what I don't think he said fully, but I think he meant. Now, I don't know that he meant, but I think this is what he meant. I think he meant he's trying to be mindful of his own kneejerk reactions and the ways in which it would be easy for him to justify something to himself about the conversation. "Well, look, this guy, clearly ..." In other words, I think by sharing that with us, which he didn't have to do, I think he was trying to acknowledge what it looks like in practice to be dealing with oneself between your own ears at the same time as you're having these conversations.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Just like if somebody disagrees with Bibi, I say, oh, you're an antisemite. That is basically what you're saying. That it's similar to somebody calling everybody an antisemite, just because they disagree on something about the state of Israel.

Adrian McIntyre:

Right. If I was having a conversation with somebody and we started talking about the Palestinians in some way, shape or form, and somehow the conversation came around to this, and all of a sudden they jump straight to the Holocaust. We're not talking about the 40s and 50s. We're talking about something else, right? But if someone goes straight to the Holocaust in response to a conversation about current challenges, it would be easy for me in my own head to go like, "oh crap. All right, this is clearly this person, blah, blah, blah." And then to disengage. And then I have made up a stereotype in my own mind about that person, but I didn't actually hear them out because I decided this is who they are. But that's not right. That's not fair for me to have made that judgment in my head. And I also think it's an acknowledgement of the conversational environment we created with Glenn that he was even willing to say that. Because he was trying to -- I don't think it came across this way to you, necessarily, maybe it did -- I think he was trying to own it and tell one on himself by saying that. He was trying to say, "I'm sitting here listening and there's moments when I have this emotion welling up and I catch myself."

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Okay.

Adrian McIntyre:

That's my take.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Yeah. I don't know if he meant it in that way or "I think you're racist, but because I am so cool, because I am so awesome, I brought that sentiment down, so to be able to continue our conversation."

Adrian McIntyre:

No, no, no. I actually think there's something different here. But I think this is ... again, my interpretation. Remember, you started this conversation ... you even said to me yesterday, "I am not a racist." He started this conversation by saying to us, "I think everyone's racist." So I actually think on this issue, it's that only. He's ...

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

We would need to define what is a racist.

Adrian McIntyre:

Exactly. Yes.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Because if a racist means that I think, aspire, desire, want, act, or any of these verbs against another person due to their ethnicity, religion, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, then no, I'm not a racist.

Adrian McIntyre:

This is why racism is hard to talk about in this country, because we have collectively come to understand racism as the explicit words and deeds of hateful people. And because we are not hateful people, and we associate the label racist with the explicit words and deeds of hateful people, if somebody implies we're a racist, we have a very strong reaction. Denial, defensiveness ...

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Correct. That I'm not. But if you tell me that I care, gutturally, more for my family than somebody else's family, yes. That I care gutturally more for the Jewish people than those that are outside. Yes. Now, do I act upon it? Well, depends in what situation.

Adrian McIntyre:

That's right. It's very situational. This is why I feel like it's so hard to have these conversations with ordinary people, because we don't have time to do the nuance, and the nuance matters.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Nuance matters tremendously.

Adrian McIntyre:

It matters. And, and here's where I think would be an interesting starting point. Not now. I define racism as an anthropologist in a very specific way. And by the way, this definition puts me more on Glenn's side of things insofar as I think everyone is racist. I think racism is the mistaken belief that these biological differences have any inherent significance whatsoever. In other words, even to say that I am Black and you are white is to be racist because it means you have bought into some of the assumptions, the baggage, that comes with that, and that's biologically not valid and we don't deal with that. And so therefore we carry forward a lot of baggage that we don't necessarily realize we're carrying forward. So it's very much like biologically, and I've said this to you before in one of our follow up chats, people don't realize how much variation there is in human sexuality. They literally don't know. They think there's the penis and there's the vagina, male and female. It's binary. And everything in the way we talk, and the way we think, and the way we act assumes that's the case. Turns out that's not true. So genetics and body parts -- the two layers of biology -- there is a huge spectrum of variation and difference. And if you were a doctor and you actually saw all the different kinds of things that get crudely lumped into the category of penis and vagina, you would all of a sudden realize, "wait a minute, there are so many ... this is a spectrum." Male and female as a binary opposition is a linguistic phenomenon that doesn't exist in reality. But it's very real because our language and our constructs make it real race is the same thing. There is no race. There is difference. And there is no race. And it's very real. And again, it gets very pedantic. But somehow to say, look, if we think that blackness and whiteness has any inherent reality to it, we are participating in racist categorizations we probably ought to be careful and think about.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Now add to that mixture being Jewish or not being Jewish. Because you can be a Black Jew. You can be a white Jew. You can be an Indian Jew. You can be a Chinese Jew. You can be a Arab Jew. You can be a Western European Jew.

Adrian McIntyre:

You could be an Umm Kulthum Jew. You could be a Beethoven Jew.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Right. Right. So, as I said, in certain circumstances, my connection to my people will trump other connections.

Adrian McIntyre:

That's right.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Whether they are Blacks or not, whether they're Chinese or not. It's just the fact that they are Jewish, which is another complexity in the mixture.

Adrian McIntyre:

This is why I think finding our way to language that will allow us to be flexible and to kind of quote, unquote, own it all. It would be nice to be able to say yes, there are moments where I'm more racist than other moments. Okay. There's moments when I'm more of sexist than other moments. And by the way, I'm sexist. I'm as feminist as you can get as a scholar. And I'm sexist. Just look at the way I've interacted with specific people in specific situations.

Rabbi Michael Beyo:

Quoting Ali G, I would love to have a feminist experience. And my wife says, it's not what you think it means.

Adrian McIntyre:

That's good. Ali G, gotta love him.

Adrian McIntyre:

If you enjoyed today's show, please subscribe to Conversation with the Rabbi on your favorite podcast app. You can also find the latest episodes online at ConversationWithTheRabbi.com. From all of us here at PHX.fm, I'm Adrian McIntyre. Thanks for listening. And please join us for the next Conversation with the Rabbi.