Jan Kalish, contestant #19, has a question for Lady Liberty



We’ve left the ways that you can respond to our prompt oblique, and we have received everything from personal memories of childhood, poetry, confrontations in later years, fiction, and now here is a blend of recollection and editorial opinion by Jan Kalish. Please consider entering this conversation yourself, by leaving comments for each author, and by submitting your own story or response to our prompt.  Contest details are on our home page.

The Superior Race?

by Jan Kalish


Somehow, Caucasians got the idea that they are the superior race, and in this country it has become extremely obvious to many of the “Christians,” that they are the chosen ones, especially now. Whites, and in particular, many rich men believe themselves superior to everyone else and can treat them anyway they want.

Before World War II, my father grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, to a poor Jewish family. He worked on Wall Street when it crashed, and survived the Great Depression, when families were kicked out of their homes with all their furniture out on the sidewalk, selling apples on the corner to make ends meet.

World War II started, and when it became known what the Germans were doing to the Jews, my father immediately joined up.  He wanted to kill Nazis. His high IQ put him with the intelligence staff.

Around this time, some German Jews somehow managed to book a ship to take them out of danger. But they were turned away by Great Britain, Canada, and most notably, the U.S. They were forced to return to Germany where the Nazis met their ship and immediately transported them to Auschwitz to be exterminated. What happened to our “Give me your tired, your poor. etc?”

My father’s was the fourth boat to land at Omaha Beach, D-Day, and the horrors of that day haunted him all his life. When they had the 50th anniversary of D-Day, he had nightmares every night and would break down crying.

My father met my mother in London, and they fell deeply in love. They got married, and he sent her to NYC to escape the continuous bombings of London. It was a treacherous passage in U-Boat territory, but she safely made it to Lady Liberty, and to her new in-laws.

After we won the war in the European Theater, my father returned home to New York. They got settled, and my father went out looking for jobs. He interviewed brilliantly, and would then go on second and third interviews, at which time each employer told him the job was his but for one formality. “What kind of name is Kalish?” they would ask. Without skipping a beat he replied, “If you are asking if I’m Jewish, I am.” “No. no,” they’d tell him, “that’s no problem.” But coincidentally, the job that was supposed to be his wasn’t. This happened time after time for many months. Eventually, he did find employment but was always harassed because he was a “Jew,” a “Kike,” etc. This caused him and my mother so much pain.

This is just one example of how destructive the racism, sexism, and religious intolerance this “great?” country of ours is. From the time we exterminated almost all the native Americans, violently kidnapped slaves, sexually harassed women and gays, and persecuted immigrants, we ceased being great.

There are no superior races. There are good, compassionate, highly aware people, there is the opposite, and everything in between.

80 thoughts on “Jan Kalish, contestant #19, has a question for Lady Liberty

  1. Lady Pafia Marigold says:

    Historical, personal & chemistry lessons, which I did not know before, presented in clear, thought provoking, unbarnished, but intimate ways is my review. Thank you, both author & editor, for knocking me off my presumptive pedestal of what “a gentleman’s agreement” meant to employment discriminations against Jewish people in the past & how essential both Lady Liberties 1 & 2 are to who we can be as a nation. Thank you for making history so vibrantly relevant with its lessons being seized as an opportunity towards a better & better justice of a torch lit, burning equality & a book open to those yearning to breath free.

  2. Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

    I think these constant diatribes against “white people” are getting a little tiresome. Who, exactly, is a “white person?” Every fairer-skinned ethnic group immigrating here faced prejudice and disdain and was labeled with its own disparaging epithet. There is no spreading cancer-like plague of “white people” upon the earth.

    The average “white person” is, more often than not, regarded in Asian countries as a sad mongrel of no discernible lineage.

    Prejudice and contempt for the other are endemic human afflictions. It would be good to recognize that as we try to evolve to a genuinely higher plane.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

      And I think it’s worth noting that the Torah, the foundational document of my people, is the source for the prejudice and contempt expressed by those Christians who are less, in practice, followers of Jesus than of the Old Testament.

      I stopped going to services after the age of fifteen or so because I couldn’t find much of spirituality in the constant supplicating of God to smite everyone else except the Jews.
      Find me a culture free of prejudice and I’ll be inclined to think they were likely taught by aliens. This is our common human condition.

  3. Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

    …and I think your father’s experiences–meaningful, poignant and ironic–would have been better served, artistically, without the editorializing. In my view you have drowned the message that needed no elaboration; the truth spoke for itself.

  4. Jan Kalish says:

    Sarah, I find your comments smug and rather off-putting. This story was a love letter to my father, but also outrage that I carry for anyone who places themselves above others, even intellectually. This is a time for people to come together as one global community. We are all one family under God with no one person, race, or religion superior to others.

  5. Jan Kalish says:

    Sarah, I find your comments smug and rather off-putting. This story was a love letter to my father, but also outrage that I carry for anyone who places themselves above others, even intellectually. This is a time for people to come together as one global community. We are all one family under God with no one person, race, or religion superior to others.

  6. Jan Kalish says:

    Through sharing experiences, opening our eyes to what others are going through and have gone through, to a willingness to help in any way we can, we can do our part to heal humanity. We all have a responsibility in this human drama. It appears though, that you would rather “school” others on the appropriate vision to have, that you see yourself beyond this human tragedy, and are thus not aware or willing to be aware of how others are suffering right now. Acknowledgment is the first step. Not only do I talk the talk, I walk the walk. How about you Sarah?

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

      Many of the sort of “white people” you castigate under one large umbrella were killed or maimed in the struggle to defeat Hitler, too.

      It is a universal human struggle, and always has been, to rise above and beyond labels and borders. No group is more guilty or more noble than any other. I’d expect you to be appalled if anyone wrote, here, about “black people” in a way that attempted to deny that “black people” are all individuals and react as such to life; some in better ways than others.

      • Jan Kalish says:

        Sarah, don’t put words in my story that aren’t there. I just think you love to hear yourself talk. Be aware of the barriers you put between yourself and others when you do so.

        • Jan Kalish says:

          Ask yourself if you are coming from an open, compassionate place that allows true communication both ways or are you shut down to only your thoughts.

          • Jan Kalish says:

            We all have things to work on to truly better ourselves. I have found that being willing to be humbled is the first step to self change.

        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

          “Somehow, Caucasians got the idea that they are the superior race, and in this country it has become extremely obvious to many of the “Christians,” that they are the chosen ones, especially now. Whites, and in particular, many rich men believe themselves superior to everyone else and can treat them anyway they want.”

          It’s these words in particular that I am responding to. Surely ascribing to any group–especially an artificially-created one–a collective guilt is the antithesis of the purpose of this contest.

          • Jan Kalish says:

            Really? I thought the point of this contest was to write about abuse and unsavory treatment of others? Which I did, and just because I didn’t pontificate as you think should makes my story no less relevant. People in this world have been grouping together artificial groups forever.

          • Jan Kalish says:

            Really? I thought the point of this contest was to write about abuse and unsavory treatment of others? Which I did, and just because I didn’t pontificate as you think should makes my story no less relevant.

          • Jan Kalish says:

            The white race, generally and more specifically white men, generally and more specifically Christians have for all the ages abused everyone else at some time.

          • Jan Kalish says:

            There are wonderful white males of every religion, but history has shown generally that the above group have pulled the strings. I believe there are good and bad people in every strata. Nowadays is a great example though of the white male abuse. Excuses to all good men because I am not talking about you.

  7. Michael Stang says:

    Since this contest began, I have delved into research that would prove a culture free of prejudice. I step on the same old toes: Kings and Queens are benevolent, god-like, and human to the masses who live in peace and prosperity. If I am lucky enough to part the curtains behind the word “prosperity,” synonyms of subjugate spill onto a landscape of carnage. The eyes of the dead tell me what they have heard. “You will die so that I may live.*”

    *Gods of War
    By Pink Floyd

    • Lady Pafia Marigold says:

      I’ll suggest to you Michael, the Hopituh Shinumu (Hopi) Nation. “The Peaceful People” suggest the word “Hopi” means “behaving one, one who is mannered, civilised, peaceful, polite, who adheres to the Hopi way.”

        • Lady Pafia Marigold says:

          I will engage you one last time only Ms. Akhtar and no more in order to say that I pity the bitterness in your heart towards others written so hatefully. I refuse to recent your ugly statements of judgments only because you are not qualified to make them of my life or the lives of others who you cannot comprehend. I pray you find peace from and are able to forgive, someday, what you perceive others have done to you in your lifetime by learning to love yourself without any need for validation of your own worth. I am through with you and your toxic “diatribes”, because I love myself as I am.

          • Jan Kalish says:

            Yeah Sarah, an entry could be written about your attitude towards others. It is what is inside someone that makes them beautiful and great, not superior opinions. If you want to change the world, try being nice.

    • Jeff Switt says:

      Actually the lyrics are “And you must die so that they may live.” But the idea is the same.

      Also the song is “Dogs of War,” not “Gods of War.” 🙂

  8. Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

    It is surely unproductive–and not conducive towards honest dialogue–to ascribe to an artificial category of people a collective crime against others.

    And if Ms. Kalish excludes Jews from the collective noun “white people,” as her essay seems to do, then are she and I now to be seen as “people of color?” Or as inhabiting a category unique unto ourselves?

    Regardless of the cultural norms shaping every ethnic group, each member remains an individual, able to freely choose how to act. I’d thought the purpose of this contest was to allow individual voices to contribute to a painful but necessary dialogue.

    • Jan Kalish says:

      It is, but you may not be aware of how obnoxious and superior you come across. You attack and then are surprised when your “victim” responds. There are much nicer, open ways of commenting. Get out among the people. You’ll learn a lot.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

      Even with my imperfect grasp of American history taught, in my day, imperfectly, I am aware that Union troops killed and maimed in the struggle to permanently end slavery in this country did not consist entirely of Jews and blacks.

      There’s one human truth–that power corrupts. It is an equal-opportunity vice. No group is free from it, regardless of foundational ideals where those may be expressed. In every circumstance where a previously-oppressed group has achieved its own power, it eventually uses that power not only for good, but for ill. This is the constant human condition against which we must constantly struggle.

  9. Michael Stang says:

    Revisit the film “Space Odessy 2010” where it dawns on the Ape that he can use the bones lying around on the ground as weapons against other apes to get what he wants. Of course this irreducible epiphany developed along the same lines that, as a race, mankind did. Thinkers just give it names and conditions so the learned can further complicate the matter. Don’t be fooled, think for yourself, your time is running out. (I can’t belive I just said that, but there, there you have it. Unhinge yourself from the group-hug and jump the cliff alone. It is the only way you can do anything about anything.)

    • Lady Pafia Marigold says:

      Actually Mr. Stang, the ape scene is in “2001: A Space Odyssey” near the beginning of the film. The significance of the bone being hurled upward as a segue from pre-man to rotating space station in orbit around Earth is one from violence as the answer of gaining what you want to what peaceful cooperation establishes. It is not the continuation of us versus them, but we work together to create. We see this on the station between nations & on the moon base and in the initial investigation of the monolith from another civilisation. “2010” is the next attempted mission to Saturn of the failed mission in “2001” & a joint effort.

  10. Lady Pafia Marigold says:

    Michael, I would cry for you, but I am too happy & grateful in life to & you can be too. Why am I so positive? Because I believe that while time will run out for the body I wear, it won’t for my eternal spirit of light. I believe that the soul passed on to me over many, many lifetimes will soon be made angelic. Happiness flies above the needless cynical cliffs of despair, victimisation, fear & defenciveness. I believe we are all created as sacred, in love not indifference. Evil is a man-made defiling & denial. We have free will choices of how we behave. I alone am responsible for whether I uplift others, ignore them or harm them.

  11. Jan Kalish says:

    You may think that I, a white woman, who isn’t Jewish is a racist. But to the contrary, I am horrified and ashamed of what’s happening in this country, and I open my heart and peace garden to all people.

  12. Jan Kalish says:

    Michael, in today’s world it is only when we come together that we can make things better for all.
    To me, going it alone is a selfish. The “I don’t want to get involved” attitude has helped create the miss we’re in. Instead of being “I/me” conscious, we need an “all of us” conciousness. Nonexclusive.

    • Michael Stang says:

      With all due respect, Jan, I must disagree. History has proven to me, again and again, that coming together is, in fact, the seeds of disaster.

      I have found on the road less traveled, the higher road–the road above all this nonsense–beings of singular effort who do more good with their energies than those who see man’s salvation through a perspective of congregation…

      • Michael Stang says:

        …and don’t dance around with the word “nonsense”, bashing it against the walls as trivial. Would you do the same with the word “death”? As far as the human race is concerned, racism is a social disease. However, I submit, to be free of the crime a solution out of the box is required. We have seen the horrific struggles from pulling together as a team-Tanks in the Streets. Perhaps it is time to cut the snake from your own heart.

        • Jan Kalish says:

          Michael, while you write a flowery poetic comment, you are merely satisfying your need for intellectual stroking, while at the same time using up air. I have no snakes in me, for I have faced my worst. I presume that you have not by tune of your tone.

          • Jan Kalish says:

            Most people have been doing their own thing for so long that they have lost sight to what is and has been happening to others around them, and lost sensitivities to and compassion for others who may be strangers.

          • Jan Kalish says:

            These are evil times we are facing and the only way we can overcome this is by coming together supporting each other WITHOUT tanks ( and I know not where you got that from), but with compassion, openness, strength of convictions, and perseverance.

          • Jan Kalish says:

            Almost everyone is being hurt by the oppression in this country, particularly those of skin color beyond white, religions beyond christian, females, gays, lesbians, transgenders, immigrants (a category we all belong in by migration chain), and naturalized Americans from other cultures and countries of recent.

          • Jan Kalish says:

            To spend bits of time alone to recoup your energy and gain insights is a very healthy thing to do, but, to artificially put oneself beyond what is happening is to be complicit.

  13. Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

    I think it worth observing, too, that entries arguing any point of view for consideration in a contest on a literary website can fairly be evaluated by readers on these criteria: the quality of the argument and the quality of the writing.

    If statements are presented as facts, then those facts should be verifiable. If statements are, on the other hand, the opinion of the writer, that should be clarified.

    And though quality of writing will always be subject to, you know, subjectivity in the reader, it cannot be overlooked.

    • Thornton Sully says:

      this is the general guideline that I hope to follow: most operative words: quaity of the writing and the quality of the argument. But to this I would also add–the passion of the writer

        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

          …and that despite the democratic nature of an open call for submissions, readers are not required to abandon their critical faculties at the door–expressed, of course, with as much dispassion as possible considering the topic under examination.

          • Jan Kalish says:

            Sarah, I feel that you have defined the very quality of your comments that are found offensive, you are dispassionate, and the subject matter of this contest is a very emotional topic. While I am sure I have not your skills in writing, on this topic I have compassion enough for the both of us. Yes, this is a writing competition that is democratically open to us pedestrian folks, that in no way demonstrates any superiority on your part for the subject matter.

          • Jan Kalish says:

            In fact, I suggest you get off your high horse and look around you and see what’s happening in the country, right now, and forget this contest. It is time for action.

  14. Lady Pafia Marigold says:

    As a Utopian, 3rd Wave Feminist, pacifist, Butterfly Spirit with only 2% of me remaining human, I look at the differences in butterflies & humans with awe for butterflies & mixed feelings of fear & hope for less spiritual humans. Humans have brought healings of longer, better quality lives as well as endangering our shared environment, murdered, enslaved, tortured, divided their own against themselves through ego, priviledge takings, apathy & violent intent. Your ancestors never possessed the potential to end life on Earth as you do. As a different species by spirit, I resent that you threaten the survival of all life on Earth.

      • Lady Pafia Marigold says:

        1)The letters in bold at the end of your story say it best, Jan-“There are no superior races.” 2) “The highest form of wisdom is kindness.”-The Talmud 3)”Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”-“For What It Is Worth”-Stephen Stills. 4) “You shall know them by their fruit. Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?”-Jesus of Nazareth-Matthew 7: 16-20 5) “Fly past the toxic flowers of poison. Land only on those with sweet nectar.”-Lady Pafia Marigold 6)”The only winning move is not to play.”-WORP located at NORAD in “War Games” movie. 7) “All we are saying, is give peace a chance.” – John Lennon

  15. Jan Kalish says:

    Sarah, I would also like to note that it is obvious that you probably never use the word “democratic” in your thoughts or conversations without it leaving an unsavory taste in your mouth.

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

        …and I doubt that the worldviews of the author of this submission and of all posters on this thread are obscure to any thoughtful reader…

        • Jan Kalish says:

          You’re welcome to stop by. About 1000 people have so far and filled out rocks of peace from 65 countries, in over 30 languages, and from every continent but Antarctica. I feel we are family with one God. You presented a overbearing presence in this contest and hurt or offended many. I no longer pull any punches when someone is meanly attacking good people. Let’s say that this is a learning curve for us all.

          • Jan Kalish says:

            Sarah, it’s plain that you don’t like my story and that’s fine. I don’t need your approval. I do resent you telling what I should write about and if what I write is accurate. We can keep this conversation going for as long as you like, but know that I will not accept any crap from you regarding this. I am for the people, the downtrodden, the abused, the disrespected and will no longer accept disrespect.

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

            Relying on evidence-based methods: counting four individual posters to this comments thread, excluding myself and the editor, I have offended a grand total of two of them.

  16. Lady Pafia Marigold says:

    As a woman who was raised partially by an African-American, Christian lady & who lived for years religiously as Jewish wishing to be a rabbi & who later served as a Nun, I suggest that race is not the only division. Religion, borders, governments, culture, class, sex, generation, age, competition & history have divided Earth citizens against themselves. We each struggle for the good life against poverty & priviledge. The priviledge of might makes right inequality in the nuclear, global age is reaching a “tipping point” of non-survival for the human species. We need to heal by uniting with compassionate, inclusive co-existence.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

      I for one would have found a deeper glimpse of your own actual life journey a much more worthwhile and meaningful contribution to this examination of our human condition than the indulging in New Age drivel. You have a lot to say and perhaps a very deep well of pain from which to draw, and I think a different voice would have reached a considerable number of serious readers.

      • Jan Kalish says:

        I take this as a hand reaching out and if it is so, I accept it. By now I am sure that you are aware that I am not a writer, but I am a publishing project manager. The topic of this contest greatly appealed to me, and I could not resist bringing to light the pain my father and mother suffered over religious bigotry. Yes I still feel their pain, and the pain of the holocaust, and all the inhumane treatment and racial/religious/ sexist inequalities and cleansings. I want peace for all and will do whatever I can for that.

  17. Michael Stang says:

    I must return to the botched Pink Floyd lyric, correctly copied, “And you must die so that they may live…” apologies for the redundancy. At first writing, this was offered as a reason of why human beings could do something so horrible to one another. I thought I had my answer. I have stated as well racism is a social disease, it thrives in a hive mentality, the thrill of the greasepaint; that sort of thing. The very thing that horrifies us but does not answer the core logic behind why a white and colored- directed plague exists in the first place. May I suggest something more uncompromising. Hunger.

  18. Michael Stang says:

    …The age-old evil to survive, and who is to blame? You are starved. Another you holds bread and will not share so you kill him/her. Are you to blame for wanting to survive? Are you to blame for making the connection between the bones and keeping others in line so you can keep on eating? Is there further blame for the starved you, taking back the bread by any means?
    Of course there is the modern day to face, but may I suggest we think about what we are up against. This seed is as ancient as we are.
    Good luck.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

      Michael, we must struggle against our nature even to take time to chew the food properly before swallowing. The effort it takes to share…we must all hold the tide back hourly. No wonder everyone’s exhausted. But there’s always someone stepping apart from the crowd with courage and heart. You know–the 36 Just Men who save the world in every generation…

      • Michael Stang says:

        The Bodhasttavas among us, refer to them as you will, go forth through these lands not as gods but as everyday people who have taken the vow to benefit all sentient beings before taking their own deserved rewards. Bodhicitta, the mental gymnastics, is a spontaneous wish fueled by a compassionate mind to distinguish themselves separately, in a committed way. They may be the mailman, if you are lucky, they may be you’re Editor or someone one you already love. What they are, are our stepping stones across the great river. I see you skipping.

  19. Shawna S. says:

    All I have to offer is an old Apache adage…
    “Throw a stone into a pack of dogs, the one that yelps is that one struck.”

    So much fencing and complicated language; but naturally such topics as racism draw many types: when the rabbit screams, the fox comes running, but not to help.

    What can any one person do against such sustained anger between cultures? I think until the elimination of the Amygdala can be accomplished, there is little hope for any of mankind. We are all beasts in the end.

    • Lady Pafia Marigold says:

      I have read too much history, met too many humans of peace, justice & equality to agree with “We are all beasts in the end.” The statement is too extreme, because I choose consciously & with conscience to be an honest kindness. The beasts may devour my body, but the angels with reap my spirit & pass on the soul within. I refuse to have any enemy or defend my body against any harm through returning violence for violence in the name of self-defence. I am far more than just an emotional “Amygdala”. I am sacred as is all of us. When I use the word, “Namaste” I mean it, am devoted to its reverence & live it with hope.

  20. Shawna S. says:

    Only compassion, tolerance, and the sovereignty of human rights bear any hope, I think. But of course, I am hopelessly subjective, as are we all in our splendid self-aware isolation.

    In the end, we are alone, and if we cannot overcome the baser nature of the feral animal and learn to live in a communal sense despite our self-willed existence, I am certain nature will sort us out in the end.

  21. Shawna S. says:

    Sometimes empathy is the wiser answer. Brutal honesty delivered in a carefully couched mask of civility is somehow more savage, in my mind, then an honest knife in the bowels.

    To write from the heart is to be naked, sometimes for more minds then bears contemplating. It is bread on the black waters, blood from the heart, and courage from the lonely soul, adrift on the existential sea of awareness, waiting for the mortal coil to unwind.

    Just my thoughts on the matter.

    • Lady Pafia Marigold says:

      When I use the word “civility”, which I do plead for on a regular basis, I am also asking for transparent, objective facts without the emotional reactiveness & destruction which psychologists label, “Borderline Personality Disorder”. This respectful “civility” allows no tolerance for spin, aimless emotions, avoidance of evidence or lack of diligent research in its evidentiary arguments. A “knife to the bowels” is murder not debate. “The lonely soul” solves nothing by remaining “adrift” in isolation. Few people are naturally empathic, so most require understandings which are gained best through mannerly discourse to improve not lessen us.

  22. Shawna S. says:

    As to the entry, it is a naked and compelling piece for me, as I grew up with an appalling first-row seat in an arena of ignorant racist hatred and bigotry in the cruelest imaginable forms, all above board and ‘legal’.

    The woman who rescued me from a very bad place when I was horribly young, comes from the same legacy, and it never stopped her from protecting and teaching me all that I needed to know to find a worthwhile existence.

    Thank you for this brave and vivid experience you have shared.


  23. Sheri says:

    I have loved A Word With You Press for years and so happy to be a part. Thorn is an amazing man. I have been away awhile dealing with a parent with Alzheimer’s. I had no idea that reading a story and all of the comments would lead to a stomach ache. 🙁

  24. Derek Thompson says:

    Thoughts – serve hot or cold, suitably for rehashing:
    This story reminds us that every person’s lifetime is a series of dramas, sometimes played out on the world’s stage and at other times in the theatre of family and neighbourhood. As writers, we want readers to be affected by our work. On that basis, the long stream of comments from those who care enough about the text and the ideas behind them are a positive sign that the writer said something meaningful. Thanks everyone for sharing, especially Jan for sharing her family’s story.

  25. Chuck says:

    I have to wonder sometimes if my last name has gotten in the way of my job hunting. Research supports your anecdotal evidence. I’m sorry for the pain your parents faced.

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