Monday, March 19, 2012

Toulouse school shooting UPDATED

Yes, following this. And, other than that it's incredibly upsetting, I don't have much to say at this point. Whether the killer was Muslim and using French-Jewish school-children as a stand-in for Israel; a white-supremacist; or a nut aware that anything to do with Jews and violence gets attention, it's obviously too soon to say. I'd advise against coming to conclusions along the lines of, this is what Jews get for living somewhere as anti-Semitic as France (when, if your goal is not having your children shot to death at school, it's really the U.S. you'd want to avoid), as well as, this is really just about Israel, and if Israel only behaved itself, this sort of thing wouldn't happen (wrong because this didn't even happen in Israel, and because this sort of thing most certainly did happen in France before 1967 and 1948). In other words, I'd avoid explanations... at all, at this point, but especially ones that pretend that "the Jews" somehow bring such things upon themselves.

I'll weigh in again once more info. emerges, but that's about it thus far, from the French news as well.


So, a couple things about the response thus far. Much has been made of the fact that someone who may have been the same shooter also killed French black and Arab paratroopers, and that this did not get the same attention, thus proving a) Judeo-centrism in the Jewy Jewy media, and/or b) a racist indifference to crimes where the victims are non-white.

When it might be relevant a) that murders of young schoolchildren, and that would be three of the four Jewish victims, get more attention, all things equal, than murders of adults ("The suspect pursued his last victim, an 8-year-old girl, into the concrete courtyard, seizing and stopping her by her hair, said Ms. Yardeni, who viewed surveillance footage of the killing."), and b) that French Jews - as a photo accompanying the NYT piece suggests, although this is of course more complicated than complexion - are not all that white. Race is a construct, and indeed as constructed in France, the equivalent of the U.S.'s "whiteness" is looking ethnically French: pale skin, light brown or dark blond hair, certain facial features. French Jews, many of whom are of North African origin, with of course some exceptions, do not.

Now, one might counter that in the U.S., where Jews tend to be Ashkenazi, and where "white" basically means not in one of the categories officially considered of-color, most Jews are white, ergo, American media respond in horror when victims are or seem "white" by American standards. To which I'd counter a) that if Jews are "white" in the U.S., so too, often enough, are Arabs (which isn't to say there isn't anti-Arab bigotry, again, these things are complicated), and b) that however Jews are viewed in the U.S., if we are to believe that a neo-Nazi, white-supremacist sort chose Arab, black, and Jewish victims, by the standards of the place where the crimes occurred, all of the victims come from groups that would fall into the category of visible minorities.

But back to the marginally less awkward question of parochialism in response to tragedy. It would seem a natural enough human impulse - not necessarily a calculated, political move - to be more upset when a small-scale tragedy strikes closer to you than when a greater one does further away. This sort of thinking shouldn't, of course, determine policy, but as a reaction to share privately, or an emotional outburst on a newspaper comments page, what can you do? But the important thing to remember, in this case, is that the tendency to respond more to tragedies that hit close to home is not a uniquely Jewish trait. We should not confuse the fact that non-Jews are and for ever so long have been disproportionately obsessed with Jews, with the altogether normal fact that Jews pay attention to Jews. Everyone pays attention to their own kind.

1 comment:

Britta said...

This is very sad. I hope they catch the person who did it.