Maybe the world doesn’t quite see it this way but when Bari Weiss resigned her plum job recently at The New York Times, it was one of the most significant news stories of the year.
While many people fantasize about telling their boss to take this job and shove it, as the old country song goes, Weiss’s decision to actually do it was much more than a stalk-off by an individual fed up with her supervisor or health care plan.
For some, Weiss had come to symbolize things much bigger than herself. For one thing, she has been a voice for centrist political values in an era when citizens have become ever more radicalized. Secondly, she has been an outspoken opponent of anti-Semitism.
Weiss’s stance in the center was something she pointed to as a problem with her colleagues. In her detailed resignation letter to publisher A.G. Sulzberger, she wrote that at the Times, “Lessons about the necessity … of resisting tribalism … have not been learned.”
Further, she claimed that “the truth [at the Times] isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.”
Because of this candor, she said her colleagues referred to her as “a Nazi and a racist.” She said her friends at the paper were badgered and that co-workers used the company intranet to harass her.
Those to the left of Weiss made it no secret that she would have to go if the Times was to be truly inclusive, and they posted axe emojis next to her name. Some of the paper’s writers used their Twitter accounts to call her a liar and a bigot.
What has caused her the most trouble, however, is her outspoken opposition to hatred aimed at Jews. Weiss recently published an acclaimed book, “How to Fight Anti-Semitism” (Crown Publishing). The subject also came up often in her journalism, which prompted at least one of her colleagues to chastise her.
“Writing about the Jews again,” he said.
Weiss had to brush off these biases and prejudices just to get along, when in fact her many accomplishments should’ve made her a superstar.
Of course, there is nothing new in women finding a hostile environment at work. We now know it happens all the time.
What makes Weiss’s case so interesting is that the hostility aimed at her is coming from the social justice warriors themselves. The people criticizing and harassing her have protected women by publicizing the #MeToo movement. They have made the eradication of racism in America a priority by endorsing Black Lives Matter. And they’ve spoken out against Confederate statues and other symbols of hate.
And yet, these are the very people harassing Weiss.
As a Jew, it is hard not to wonder if her problems aren’t really about who she is. If a prominent woman of color were harassed at work for speaking out about abuses aimed at the black community today, it is likely that her tormenters would be rooted out and fired.
And rightfully so.
But Bari Weiss is Jewish. She is a Jew who speaks out about Jewish issues. And for many, that simply doesn’t rate.
The double standard is palpable.
Last May, Weiss’s own newspaper reported that anti-Semitic incidents surged in 2019. We all know about the most violent and ugly of these attacks — the shootings, the machete attacks, the bricks to the head. And yet many of us know through hard experience that many people on the left simply don’t equate anti-Semitism with racism.
These days when I walk around my North Baltimore neighborhood, I see a proliferation of signs with political statements that are taken to be axioms. Among them is, “Love is love.”
But I wonder if the people behind the doors also feel that “Hate is hate”? In front of one of those houses, down the street from my own, is a car parked with an anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) sticker.
From her platform, Bari Weiss never stopped reminding us that all blood is red, and that anti-Semitism is no better coming from the left than the right.
Now that she’s been pushed off her pedestal like some relic from the past, I wonder how we will ever replace her.
Jack Gilden is the author of “Collision of Wills: Johnny Unitas,Don Shula and the Rise of the Modern NFL” (University of Nebraska Press). He is finishing his second book, about the racehorse Spectacular Bid.