Tag Archives: racism

Five myths about anti-Semitism

Yair Rosenberg at https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-anti-semitism/2017/02/03/a8de59e2-e884-11e6-b82f-687d6e6a3e7c_story.html?utm_term=.48188b21aac5: “For a phenomenon often dubbed ‘the world’s oldest hatred,’ anti-Semitism is not well understood.”

Jews in the US are annually subjected to the most hate crimes of any group in the US, even though we comprise only 4% of the population. In France, Jews are target of 51% of racist attacks, even though Jews comprise only 4% of the population.

Anti-Semitism crosses boundaries of left and right.

It’s OK to criticize Israel. Jews in Israel and everywhere in the world criticize Israel. But if you hold Israel to a different standard than other countries, congratulations, you’re an anti-Semite! The United Nations is a particular offender here, its “Human Rights Council has condemned Israel more often than all other countries combined, including Syria, North Korea, Iran and Russia.”

I quibble with the author’s fifth point — that anti-Semitism is unique among prejudice in that it harms the oppressors as much as the oppressed.

That’s because it often takes the form of a conspiracy theory about how the world works. By blaming real problems on imagined Jewish culprits, anti-Semitism prevents societies from rationally solving them. In one of the most famous examples, Nazi scientists shunned Einstein’s advances as “Jüdische Physik,” as opposed to “Deutsche Physik,” enfeebling their understanding.

As Bard College’s Walter Russell Mead has put it: “People who think ‘the Jews’ dominate business through hidden structures can’t build or long maintain a successful modern economy. People who think ‘the Jews’ dominate politics lose their ability to interpret political events, to diagnose social evils and to organize effectively for positive change. People who think ‘the Jews’ run the media and control the news lose the ability to grasp what is happening around them.” For this reason, Mead has warned, “Rabid anti-Semitism coupled with an addiction to implausible conspiracy theories is a very strong predictor of national doom.” This is one case where the hatred ultimately destroys the hater.

Partially true, but it is also true that societies based on bigotry are handicapping themselves no matter what the nature of the bigotry. Oppressed populations are, by the nature of oppression, blocked from contributing to the society as a whole to the fullest extent they might. And every oppression has its unique problems. Antebellum white American Southerners lived in terror of slave uprisings and had to devote considerable resources into policing the enslaved populations. The slaves themselves had no incentive to work harder than necessary to avoid the lash, and every incentive to undermine the system. In any society where members of an oppressed minority are closed to business, members of that minority will often turn to crime when they can’t get ahead any other way. And so on.

But, yeah, many societies, sadly, do manage to prosper, for a while at least, despite racism, whereas widespread anti-Semitism in particular seems to be a symptom of a society in its death throes.

The Dilemma of Jewish Privilege

Joshua Ladon writes at https://newrepublic.com/article/150241/dilemma-jewish-privilege about Jewish privilege, anti-Semitism on the left, and Jewish racism:

I am visibly Jewish. I wear a yarmulke; I have a beard. My tzitzit—ritual fringes—occasionally sneak out from under my shirt. I speak Hebrew-inflected English with my wife and children, all of whom have non-English names. I am an easy mark for anti-Semites. As a descendant of those who fled the Russian Pale of Settlement in the 1890s, I am also visibly Caucasian. With a cap, I look like many bearded white hipster dads in the San Francisco Bay area.

All of this is to say that I appear both white and “other” at the same time. I carry with me privilege constructed by the peculiarities of American history, the great possibilities provided for my people in 20th-century America, while also carrying the millennium-old consciousness of marginalization. I could easily hide my Jewishness, but choose not to, as a result visibly presenting my Jewishness while also enjoying the benefits of white privilege. When someone I do not know points out my identity, even simply by calling out, “Shalom,” I immediately tighten up. Will this be another encounter in which I am publicly harassed or screamed at? Last year, a car slowed down and a passenger yelled, “Fuck you, Jew!” Even when the person simply wants to extend an open hand, public attention toward my minority identity brings risk and baggage.

Unlike Ladon, I present as non-Jewish by default. I don’t look or act Jewish. But what he writes is true of me as well. Being Jewish in Trump’s America is being white and non-white — at the same time.

Anti-Semites on the left want to hold all Jews responsible for Israel’s sins.


Oh, Hillary. No. Just, no. These refugees are fleeing wars that profit the West, supported by the West, but now the West wants to wash its hands of responsibility for those wars.

Month by month, I am becoming more and more baffled by why I enthusiastically supported the Clintons.


Donald Trump’s apparent coziness with anti-Semites is difficult to reconcile with Jared and Ivanka Trump. Jared is the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, and Ivanka converted to Judaism to marry him. They’re not just Jews – they’re Orthodox Jews, who observe the Sabbath every Saturday. And they are also, seemingly, the only people Donald Trump fully and completely trusts, both in business and personally.

I don’t think Donald Trump is himself racist. He doesn’t believe in anything but Donald Trump. I’m reminded of John Goodman’s line in the Big Lebowski: Nazis were awful people, but at least they stood for something. Donald Trump stands for and believes in nothing but Donald Trump.

But Trump’s core, most loyal supporters are racists, and Trump knows it.


Taking Trump voters’ concerns seriously means listening to what they’re actually saying

Dylan Matthews, Vox: Trumpism isn’t about economic anxiety. It’s about racism. Contrary to popular belief among journalists — and political watchers like myself — Trump supporters are generally more affluent than the general population. The actual profile of Trump supporters: Racists, and people who always vote Republican (two separate, but overlapping groups).


A professor is under fire after saying Black Lives Matter is racist like the KKK

Douglas Muir wrote in response to a message in support of Black Lives Matter: “Black lives matter is the biggest rasist organisation since the clan. Are you kidding me. Disgusting!!!”

Putting aside the guy’s politics, how does a semi-literate like Douglas Muir get a job as a professor at a university? I count six errors of spelling and punctuation in sixteen words.

(Kristine Guerra, The Washington Post)

The truth about “political correctness” is that it doesn’t exist

“Political correctness” is just another way of saying that the views of people who disagree with you are frivolous, stupid, and don’t deserve to be considered or discussed.

Amanda Taub, Vox.com:

I, personally, think that the name of the Washington Redskins is racist and hurtful to Native Americans, and should be changed. So if someone asks me what I think of the debate about the team, that’s what I say. By contrast, Virginia legislator Del Jackson Miller likes the name and wants the team to keep it. But rather than making an argument on the merits of the name, he referred to the entire debate as “political correctness on overdrive.” In other words, he’s saying, this is a false debate — just another example of “political correctness” — so I don’t have to even acknowledge concerns about racism. (Miller, in fact, claimed that it was literally fake, an issue trumped up by a “rich member of the Oneida tribe.”)

Christian blogger faces fury over post about  white daughter’s marriage to black man

Derek Hawkins, The Washington Post:

When Gaye Clark prayed to God to send her daughter Anna a “godly, kind” husband, she got exactly what she asked for.

Glenn was a devout Christian who volunteered at church, mentoring kids in an after-school program. By day, he worked as an applications developer for Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and he was well on his way to becoming “a great dad and a good provider,” Clark said.

Glenn was a gentleman, too. Clark noticed that he’d hold doors open for Anna, even at the grocery store. Her daughter seemed happy, she said.

But there was one thing the 53-year-old mother was hung up on: Glenn was a black man with dreadlocks.

Clark, a white freelance writer and cardiac care nurse from Georgia, confessed in a blog post Tuesday on the website the Gospel Coalition, or TGC, that she initially struggled with the idea of her daughter marrying an African American man. In it, she explained how she ultimately came to embrace her daughter’s decision, and offered some advice for parents like her to consider if they, too, are hesitant about a child’s interracial marriage.

Clark was uncomfortable with the prospect of her daughter marrying a black man — with dreadlocks! — but she got over it because she realized he’s great and she loves him like the son-in-law he is. She advises other mothers in her situation to get over it too.

Clark took her article down after getting hate mail from white supremacists (which you’d expect) but also scolding from progressives because cultural appropriation I guess?

Clark deserves less judgment here and more respect.

The Singularity is a white person’s problem


Rich white folks worry about the Singularity, but AI is already making problems for the rest of us.

Kate Crawford, The New York Times:

According to some prominent voices in the tech world, artificial intelligence presents a looming existential threat to humanity: Warnings by luminaries like Elon Musk and Nick Bostrom about “the singularity” — when machines become smarter than humans — have attracted millions of dollars and spawned a multitude of conferences.

But this hand-wringing is a distraction from the very real problems with artificial intelligence today, which may already be exacerbating inequality in the workplace, at home and in our legal and judicial systems. Sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination are being built into the machine-learning algorithms that underlie the technology behind many “intelligent” systems that shape how we are categorized and advertised to.

Software used to assess the risk of recidivism in criminals is biased against blacks, as is software used by police departments across the US to identify hotspots for crime. Amazon’s same-day delivery service was initially unavailable for ZIP codes in predominantly black neighborhoods, “remarkably similar to those affected by mortgage redlining in the mid-20th century.” And women are less likely than men to be shown ads on Google for highly paid jobs.

Thanks, Cory!

White discrimination

White TV anchor fired after racial comments fights back with discrimination lawsuit

In March, a white award-winning broadcast news anchor in Pittsburgh posted on her professional Facebook page what she claimed was a heartfelt call to action on the perceived black-on-black crime epidemic in the United States, particularly in the city she’d covered for almost 20 years.

The post came two weeks after she covered a mass shooting at a backyard barbecue that left four people injured and six dead, including a pregnant woman, in Wilkinsburg, a majority black borough. The district attorney called the heinous crime calculated, planned and one of the “most brutal” he had seen in his 18-year tenure.

Police did not immediately release names or descriptions of the suspects. When WTAE-TV anchor Wendy Bell took to Facebook, there had been no arrests.

Yet the veteran journalist drew her own conclusions about the perpetrators anyway, comments that were decried as racist and demeaning — and that eventually cost her her job.

“You needn’t be a criminal profiler to draw a mental sketch of the killers who broke so many hearts two weeks ago Wednesday,” Bell wrote on Facebook, words that were later deleted. “… They are young black men, likely in their teens or in their early 20s. They have multiple siblings from multiple fathers and their mothers work multiple jobs. These boys have been in the system before. They’ve grown up there. They know the police. They’ve been arrested.”

She continued, claiming she found “HOPE” after watching a young, African American bus boy hustling at his restaurant job while Bell was out to eat with her husband and sons. She complimented the teen through his manager, who later passed the praise on to him.

“It will be some time before I forget the smile that beamed across that young worker’s face — or the look in his eyes as we caught each other’s gaze,” Bell wrote. “I wonder how long it had been since someone told him he was special.”

Almost immediately, critics called her words racist and accused Bell of having a white savior complex.

I’m not defending Bell’s statement. But crime reporting is emotionally hard. Was she reporting on the scene or was she reading on the air? How deeply into the story did she get? That matters.

And how the hell are we going to figure out the race problem in the US if we don’t discuss it, and occasionally even say wrongheaded things?

[Katie Mettler/The Washington Post]

Teaching kids about how life is hard sometimes

Birds & Bees [This American Life/podcast]:

Some information is so big and so complicated that it seems impossible to talk to kids about. This week, stories about the vague and not-so-vague ways to teach children about race, death and sex – including a story about colleges responding to sexual assault by trying to teach students how to ask for consent. Also, a story about how and when to teach kids about the horrors of slavery and oppression in America.

No kidding, I had my heart in my mouth listening to the final segment. I was walking the dog in the park in the afternoon around people and I nearly had tears in my eyes for this:

About that Farm Upstate
While it’s hard to explain to kids how babies come into the world, it might be harder to explain that people leave the world too — especially to a kid whose mom or dad or brother or sister has died. There are grief counseling centers all over the U.S. that cater specifically to children. Reporter Jonathan Goldstein visited one in Salt Lake City.

Particularly beautiful and sad: Kids who learn, and learn to accept, that their father or a sibling committed suicide.

I know what you are but what am I?

Donald Trump doesn’ have a racist heart. But it is cramped and frightened [Michael D’Antonio – The LA Times]

Terrible headline on this article, which proves Trump is a racist and has a 40+ year history of public racist comments.

Trump claims the people criticizing him are the real racists, as does a Trump surrogate speaking yesterday. Like many racists, Trump and his henchman don’t know what the word “racist” means. They think it’s just a random meaningless insult you can throw at people you don’t like, like “cromulent” or “bletcherous.” And, like many racists, they’re fond of the “I know what you are but what am I?” school of debate, popular among 6-year-olds and people with the mentality of a 6-year-old.

“Looting” vs. “finding supplies”

In his recent interview with the LA Review of Books, Cory Doctorow talks about how regular people tend to band together and help each other out in disasters. But the rich fear that the poor will come eat them, and so the rich call out the army, which makes the disaster worse.

Which reminds me of this photo from Hurricane Katrina, which achieved notoriety in some circles:


Two photos, essentially identical, of people wading through chest-high water in the aftermath of the hurricane, carrying bags of stuff they got from stores. The black man is described as a looter. The white folks, in essentially the same situation, are described as “finding bread and soda.”

The photo of the black man was much criticized as being racist. But the photographer claims he saw the man looting the grocery store.

Now I want to know what the black man took. If it’s electronics or liquor, sure, I’ll call him a looter. But if it’s staple food, and there was no one around to sell it to him, well, I’ll say he just did what he needed to do to survive.

And then maybe I’ll read Les Miserables.

Google Image Search for “professional hair styles” vs. “unprofessional hair styles” reveals blatant racial bias

I tried this myself and got pretty much the same line-up. All but one of the women in the “unprofessional hairstyles” row were black. All the women in the “professional hairstyles” row are white.

I don’t blame Google. Google is reflecting the consensus of what websites say are professional vs. unprofessional hairstyles. That’s how Google works.

Professional and unprofessional hairstyles are as different as black and white [Rob Beschizza – Boing Boing]

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Welcome to the finger-wagging Olympics

Donald Sterling has at least a decade of history discriminating against blacks and Hispanics. But he gets trapped on tape revealing those beliefs to his girlfriend, and suddenly it matters.

What bothers me about this whole Donald Sterling affair isn’t just his racism. I’m bothered that everyone acts as if it’s a huge surprise. Now there’s all this dramatic and very public rending of clothing about whether they should keep their expensive Clippers season tickets. Really? All this other stuff I listed above has been going on for years and this ridiculous conversation with his girlfriend is what puts you over the edge? That’s the smoking gun?

He was discriminating against black and Hispanic families for years, preventing them from getting housing. It was public record. We did nothing. Suddenly he says he doesn’t want his girlfriend posing with Magic Johnson on Instagram and we bring out the torches and rope. Shouldn’t we have all called for his resignation back then?

Shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private, intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Welcome to the Finger-Wagging Olympics