My genetic origin is Central European. Specifically, I'm an Ashkenazi Jew. That means that while some people would see me and think "There's a white guy", but in actuality I know that others look at me and think "There's a Jew". I know because it's happened to me. I've experienced antisemitism. I also grew up knowing that my family were victims of the Nazis. Some of my family fled their homes. One of my grand-Uncles was a German officer in the military before WW2 and was then killed, while his sister (my grandmother)- living in France, fled occupied Paris. My grandfather was 14 when the Nazis took him from his home and put him in the first of what became five different concentration camps. All in all, my large family was killed- with only five remaining. To me, the Holocaust and World War 2 are not historical events of the distant past- instead they live in me as the last line of a family of Jews killed by the Germans and Pols.
Over the last week, FetLife has seen a number of posts about a "Nazi Fetish" in which people dress as Nazis. Based on the posts, discussions and comments, it's clear to me that people participating in this can be broken down into roughly three groups. The first are people who are interests in the Nazi "aesthetic". They are intrigued by the uniforms. The second are people who believe that acting out Nazi-ism is an act of subversion or parody. And the third are people who are using BDSM as a pretense to express their genuine desires.
I can't peer into the minds of people; I don't know which followers fall into which category. I know that all three exist, especially the third.
I'm saddened but not surprised by the existence of racism or antisemitism in the BDSM community. I have lived with this fact all my life and don't doubt that I will continue to live with this fact. Antisemitism is on the rise in the US in the US, and also in Europe. And with hate groups in the US and Europe gaining strength due to the rise of popularism, it's not a surprise to me that those interested in "Nazi Fetishism" are now feeling emboldened to be active and vocal.
What is surprising me is the number of posts and opinions in our community that are stating that I need to "Get over it", "Accept it" or in some cases that "If I'm not comfortable with it, to engage in self-care and not enter the community spaces". I've purposefully omitted linking to these posts because I don't want to engage in an argument about a specific person or nit-pick on the details.
This is problematic for three reasons.
First, no one has the right to tell anyone else how to feel, especially when it comes to hate, fear or being triggered. No one has the right to impose their beliefs on another person.
Secondly, even if we believe that the people espousing these opinions are not antisemitic- having Nazis at our events does effect our diversity as a community- not just for Jews, but also for other minorities who have been oppressed or killed through systematic or institutional violence. In a time when we as a community are working to increase our diversity, having Nazi imagery does the opposite, and the argument that "If you don't feel safe, don't be here" comes across to me as disingenuous as having a cross burning and then suggesting that black attendees not attend if they don't feel safe.
Thirdly and most saliently, these arguments have come predominantly (and thusfar exclusively) from white people. They come from people who do not have the experience of being constant targets. They come from people for whom "racism" is something that happens to someone else. They are coming from people who have the privilege of not having had their family killed just for looking or sounding a certain way. They come from people who do not live with the pain of the Holocaust every day, as I and many others do.
I urge event organizers to take a stand and commit to diversity that includes safety from hatred and bigotry. I am not going to tell anyone what their fetishes can or can't be, but rather what we do and don't allow in our communal spaces that try to foster community and diversity. I am urging such language be included in codes of conduct and that event organizers who stand against hatred and racism to make it known that their events are safe for all.
And I'm calling on my white friends to listen to those of us who are triggered and to take our heed seriously.