Nyle Fort is a minister, faith-based organizer, and assistant professor of African American and African diaspora studies at Columbia University. 

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My Experience in Ferguson Changed My View of Israel

by Nyle Fort 04-04-2024

A Palestinian artist paints a mural depicting George Floyd in Gaza City June 16, 2020. Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem.

The story of Zion resonates with the history of African Americans. Blacks and Jews share common legacies of segregation, genocide, and racial domination. No wonder many enslaved Africans understood biblical Israel as a symbol of freedom from bondage. As historian Robin D.G. Kelley explains, the story of Exodus “provided Black people not only with a narrative of slavery, emancipation, and renewal, but with a language to critique America’s racist state.” Exodus was our political compass through the wilderness of slavery. Except we imagined ourselves as the Israelites, America as Egypt, and “Massa” as the Pharaoh whom freedom fighters like Nat Turner and Harriet “Moses” Tubman demanded, “Let my people go!”

But my view of Israel changed when I learned about Palestine in the streets of Ferguson, Mo.