It is a mark of an oppressed people, the cautionary approach to good news.
An example: “The baby is growing so fast. She’s going to be big and strong!” — Good news – immediately followed by the word “kenahora,” literally, “no evil eye,” — may the evil eye stay away from her.
There is disagreement over whether kenahora is a Yiddish word or Yinglish, whether it came from Jews in Europe or from the Lower East Side of Manhattan. But everyone agrees kenahora springs from the cultural expectations of a persecuted people, that good news is always followed by something worse.
Other, more optimistic cultures render more of less the same kenahora idea as “knock on wood,” or “may it be God’s will,” the hope that what seems to be good news, be real.
Progressives who follow America’s radical right as journalists or scholars agree the recent news has been very good – several of the leading personalities and several of the most important institutions of the racist, anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi right have disappeared or acknowledged defeat…political cockroaches killed by the disinfectant of sunshine. But Progressive have known disappointment before, so…Kenehora. May the roaches stay dead.
The alt-right neo-klan confrontation with police and counter-demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, was designed to show the world “Who we White Supremacists are (in a good way.)” Of course, it did the opposite. It showed several sorta-credentialed personalities of the far right alternately boasting and whining and madly, mindlessly, relentlessly hating. Even after a counter-protester was killed. Hate. Hate. Hate. Before a media audience way beyond the wildest dreams of the people who staged the event, the message was, hate out of control.
Then, Donald Trump upped the ante. The only man in the world who couldn’t see a difference between haters and hate refusers, tried to give cover to the Skinheads of the Confederacy.
For many people, Trump forced a choice: Will I stand silently by a defender of racist, Jew-hating neo-Nazis or reject him by leaving my – sometimes very important — job in his administration?
As this question and some answers to it were repeated over several news cycles, ordinary people faced a bigger choice: are abhorrent ideas acceptable for public consideration or must I reject them?
By many outward signs, the massive public exposure of the Charlottesville rally and its aftermath and President Trump’s sympathetic vibrations, have spurred widespread rejection of and a not a few defections from the alt-right leadership and rank and file.
“Imploding” is how Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, describes the alt-right. “The self-inflicted damage, the defections, the infighting are so rampant, it’s to the point of almost being pathetic.” This is how Beirich celebrated the good news with Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post.
But to our guest today, Donna Minkowitz, Beirich sounded the “kenehora,”– if the evil eye doesn’t change good news to worse. Because all my metaphoric cockroaches are not dead, in fact some are running for public office in 2018.
“This is a Trump phenomenon,” Beirich told Minkowitz. “In the past, white-power groups saw no hope in electoral politics. Now, she says Trump and a new clutch of racist candidates, are “reengaging white supremacists in the political system.” Not so good news.
Donna Minkowitz is an American writer and journalist. She became known for her coverage of gay and lesbian politics and culture in The Village Voice from the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, for which she won a GLAAD Media Award. Newsweek Magazine listed her as one of “30 gay power brokers” in the country in 1993. Minkowitz grew up in New York City and graduated from Hunter College High School in 1981. She is the author of the memoirs Growing Up Golem and Ferocious Romance: What My Encounters With the Right Taught Me About Sex, God, and Fury. She wrote “Election 2018 Is Off to the Racists” for The Nation Magazine.