Rockets are fired from Gaza towards Israel PHOTO COURTESY OF IRANINTL.COM

Black America is not monolithic. We are human beings who have the capacity to reason intellectually and soundly. We can be political while being apathetic and come through when least expected. Ask President Joe Biden. Or better yet, ask former president Donald Trump and the Republican legislatures in 20-plus states who decided to trash the voting laws they had on the books for tighter voter registration and voting mandates that target Black voters. There are moments in our culture where we move in sync. And there are moments where we diverge in collective thought.

We awakened a week and a half ago to the same horrific news that the world did. We tuned into our favorite media outlets to become informed about the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel like everyone else. But because we were not quick enough to criticize or condemn Hamas for former NBA star Amar’e Stoudemire, our collective morality and outrage is questionable, and we are “cowards”?

Stoudemire said in a now deleted social media post, “For all y’all Black Lives Matters supporters ain’t saying nothing, (but) well let me figure out exactly what’s happening before saying anything, f*** you.” That statement was very telling. It revealed the raw rage and pain of Stoudemire who converted to Judaism in 2020, has a strong kinship to Israel, and was granted Israeli citizenship before his conversion. “All you Black Lives Matter people who always have something to say and always supported everything else and you quiet now, f*** too,” Stoudemire ranted. Are we somehow at fault because we have mostly remained radio silent in our public opinion and thoughts about the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel?

There is no other segment of the world’s population, outside of the Indigenous Peoples of North and South America, who has experienced what terrorism feels like to the core than Africans and the African descendants of the enslaved." Right here, at home in the United States, Black Americans daily face potential threats of terrorism, and unfortunately, the stark reality is that each one of us could find ourselves a tragic victim of an act of terrorism in any place, at any given time. We are not insensitive to the senseless slaughter of Israeli women and children, the Israeli elderly, and the Israeli and American individuals being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. Our collective memory is as long as time … it remembers and embraces empathy.

While we are in a state of collective shock, horror, and pain, we also feel the pain of the innocent people living on the Gaza strip, two million to be exact, half the population comprising children, who are now paying in the most horrific manner for the politically inhumane misstep of their political power structure. Yet as we observe Israel at war with Hamas, and by proxy, millions of Palestinians, is it really that simple for Black America, the descendants of the African enslaved, the survivors of the Transatlantic Holocaust, to choose a side?

Our silence in the opening moments of this war speaks volumes. Stoudemire was half correct in his assessment. Black Lives Matter, the physical organization, has not released a statement condemning Hamas’ terroristic acts against Israel. The Chicago chapter of Black Lives Matter made controversial headlines last week when it came out in support of Hamas, but quickly walked back its alleged support of the group. Accusing Black Lives Matters and its supporters of somehow being soft or blind to what is happening in the Middle East is unnecessary and inaccurate.

If the question is why Black America has remained in a neutral, holding position, however, one must be ready for the response. Fear of retribution is not a part of the equation. The answer is complex and as complex as it is, it is indeed complicated.

The history that Black America has with European and American Jews is not a good one. It’s thorny at best. In Israel, African Jews are not treated with dignity and respect and are ceremoniously dismissed as not authentic in Jewish heritage and lineage. In 2012, it was revealed that female Ethiopian Jews who immigrated to Israel, at Israel’s invitation, were given Depo Provera, birth control shots, against their will, without consent, or information, at Israeli medical clinics. This was a governmental plot to control the African Jewish population in Israel, some experts suggest. After a lengthy investigation, Israel’s Health Ministry instructed medical professionals to cease this practice. Black Americans, or Black Hebrew Israelites, who have repatriated to Israel, too, have found that integration within Jewish society is a difficult process fraught with confusion and pushback.

On the other side of the coin, Black America has a thorny relationship with those of Middle Eastern heritage who originate in Syria, Turkey, Iran, Iraq and now Egypt. Why? The colonization of Africa and the slave trade. The strenuous relationship between Middle Eastern Americans and Black Americans can be both seen and felt within America’s urban cities where Black Americans live, and Middle Eastern commerce thrive. One can point to the unjustifiable outrage that Arab Egyptians have for those who connect ancient Egypt to Blackness. Egyptian Parliament member Ahmed Belal was quoted this past spring about an exhibit in the Netherlands which made that connection that it “attacks Egyptian civilization” and “distorts Egyptian identity.” But isn’t that the beauty of colonization? The colonizer gets to rewrite history, and the colonized are stripped of their own heritage.

It is not that Black Americans are not empathetic or sympathetic to the horrors of terrorism and the devastation that it leaves in its wake. Our collective silence does not mean that we do not care. What it means is that there are too many variables to take a stand with one side against the other. We should not be villainized or raged against for consciously and collectively remaining on the sideline of a war that both warring parties would prefer us not to be a part of in the first place.