Monday, May 06, 2013

Not so post-racial after all

-Count me among those who had no idea that in 1887, some Germans founded a colony in Paraguay based around the idea of Jews being awful. 1887. I need to remember that not everyone else is over-steeped in modern Jewish history, and thus not everyone is thinking, huh, so a year after Drumont's La France juive. Hitler didn't take power until 1933. The Dreyfus Affair? 1894-1906. 1887! Asylum-seekers, it seems, from the Jewish menace. Which is an often-forgotten angle, right? Anti-Semites weren't - aren't - just people who think they're better than Jews. They're people who think they're being oppressed by Jews.

-A reader sent me this story about being Jewish in a U.S. prison. It should be read in conjunction with Nick's post here (discussed here). Sample passage:
It is an inviolate rule that different races may not break bread together under any circumstances. Violating this rule leads to harsh consequences. If you eat at the same table as another race, you'll get beaten down. If you eat from the same tray as another race, you'll be put in the hospital. And if you eat from the same food item as another race, that is, after another race has already taken a bite of it, you can get killed. This is one area where even the heads don't have any play. 
This makes it difficult for me, of course, to fit into the chow hall. Jews, as we all know, are not white but imposters who don white skin and hide inside it for the purpose of polluting and taking over the white race. The skinheads simply can't allow me to eat with them: that would make them traitors of the worst kind — race traitors! But my milky skin and pasty complexion, characteristic of the Eastern European Ashkenazi, make it impossible for me to eat with other races who don't understand the subtleties of my treachery and take me for just another [white person]. So the compromise is that I may sit at certain white tables after all the whites have finished eating.
There's a whole lot to say about this, but one interesting takeaway is the reminder that anti-Semitism is listed separately from racism for a reason. The problem for anti-Semites is sometimes that Jews look different (the affront to blondness - see above), but it's also sometimes that Jews don't look different.

-And in more "traditional" racism, the cure to the late-20s, where-is-my-life-going Westerners' blues is apparently treating African women and children like zoo animals. Writes a British advice columnist:
Visiting some of the most challenged areas in Africa, rechristened by Bob Geldof the "Luminous Continent", you're surprised by an infectious degree of joy among women and children that's in direct contrast to their circumstances. Whether it's at a refugee camp in Chad or a malarial ward in Mozambique, kids kicking an air-filled plastic bag in lieu of a football in the slums of Nairobi or market women in central Monrovia packing up after an 18-hour day, the laughter is irresistible. 
Here we struggle to achieve similar degrees of happiness, pop antidepressants to get through the day and squander time living vicariously through soap-opera storylines and celebrity elevation and decline.
While snap-out-of-it advice may have been called for in this particular situation (or not - some funks are deeper and more biochemical than others), it's unclear what this digression adds, yet abundantly clear what it detracts.


Miss Self-Important said...

Solution to the Jews feeling lonely in prison problem: more Jews must be imprisoned to promote greater cross-racial understanding, or at least populate a Jewish table for this guy so he has someone to eat with. Any volunteers? (Also, are all the whites in prison skinheads? Don't non-skinhead whites commit crimes?)

Also, Skokie!

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Yes, I'd had a similar thought re: underrepresentation. On that front, what are you gonna do?

Re: all whites in prison being skinheads, as a matter of fact, I recently listened to some radio show about this, and apparently once in prison, for protection, one more or less has to join up with a gang, and if one is white, that gang will be somehow "Aryan"-affiliated. So it's not that everyone who ends up in prison had white-supremacist leanings on the outside.

Matt said...

Have you read Wilhelm Marr, Phoebe? Perhaps being German and pre-Nazi (about the same time as above), he didn't seem as vital to look at him in any depth? Or Shulamit Volkov?

(If you google, you can find Marr's works online, helpfully preserved by bigots.)

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


Perhaps I wasn't clear - I did know that anti-Semitism going by that term began in the late 19th C, and that Marr coined the phrase. My point was that those who haven't been in grad school for this topic for 500 years might assume anti-Semitism was invented in 1939, maybe 1933. I do not, however, know this Shulamit Volkov you speak of.

Matt said...

Volkov wrote a history of German antisemitism from about 1880 to WWI or so, focused mainly on the difficulty at the time of understanding the debate over antisemitism.

I hadn't at all figured you were unaware of prior German antisemitism, or even that you were unaware of who Marr was. But I wondered if you'd read him, mostly because it's not the sort of antisemitism that I think most people would assume would precede the rise of the Nazis.