Wednesday, January 04, 2012

"Jews were slaves too. You don't hear us complaining about it all the time"

I just ended up finding this video via a link on Twitter, and I'm entirely sure anyone who watches it will guess what follows. But I'm also thinking no one likes clicking on video links (I don't as a rule), so here's what it is: "Shit White Girls Say... to Black Girls." It's a response to a quasi-misogynistic comedy video series (I can tell you from having put in the requisite one minute here) called "Shit Girls Say." The original is a man in a wig, pretending to be a "girl," and saying the kind of "girl" things that provide the humor in "men are like this, women are like that" comedy. (Women: bad with computers, kinda into shopping.) The response is a black woman in a blond wig, saying things that begin with, "Not to sound racist," and then proceeding to sound racist. Clueless-racist. Think can-I-touch-your-hair, inappropriate use of "ghetto," etc. A clever idea, and for the most part well-executed.

Except for this one bit, that comes early in the short segment, and half ruined the rest of it. The "white girl" says, while shopping for a quilted (skit stand-in prop representing designer) handbag:

"Jews were slaves too. You don't hear us complaining about it all the time."

Hmm. Why, so early in a segment about white privilege, do Jews get singled out? Where have we seen this before? Why is white privilege extra worth calling out when it comes from Jews? Or is this an accusation of a specifically Jewish privilege?

Caveats, disclaimers, preemptings of theoretical commenters: Yes, if a Jewish person made this remark, it would be tone-deaf and idiotic. (If nothing else, if Jews are going to play the competitive-victimhood game, which would itself be tone-deaf and idiotic esp. in this context, wouldn't they bring up the Holocaust, not ancient Egypt?) No, Jews have not had it and do not have it as bad as blacks in the U.S., by any standard other than the have-we-had-our-President-yet one, and heck, France had Leon Blum in the 1930s and we all remember what a great sign that was about that country's goodwill to Jews in that era.  Sure, there probably are Jews walking around who would need that explained to them. So we're clear, the point of this post isn't to provide moral support to the "Jewish" character's preposterous assertion. Nor is it to join forces with the touchy, (presumably) white You-tube commenters who are crying reverse racism, saying, we're not all like that, when that's obviously beside the point.

In principle, the video is about the behavior of white Americans, white privilege, the cluelessness that comes from whiteness. Can-I-touch-your-hair privilege, and I'm kind of doubting terribly many Jewish girls make this request. (On one somewhat humid day in high school, a definitively-unhyphenated-white classmate asked me, as pale as they come, if I was black. Or, if anecdotes don't convince, consider the expression "Jewfro.")

Yet in the video, Jewishness is held up as somehow exemplifying white privilege. It's saying that Jews who speak out about anti-Semitism are not only similar to or even a subset of defensive White Rights types - as opposed to, say, a subset of Victim Olympians of all minority groups - but the very epitome of that behavior. Woven into one anti-racist message, there's this other... straightforwardly racist message, albeit directed against a different group. The JAP, perhaps using daddy's credit card to buy the latest Chanel, playing the victim. Rich, whiny Jews. And their women especially.

Shorter and mathematically iffy version of the above: It's not that Jews altogether lack white privilege, and Jews (Jews who are not black, that is) certainly possess not-black privilege. It's that given that Jews have on average maybe 85% of the white privilege possessed by whites generally, certainly not 100% of it, it's problematic to attribute 150% of white privilege to Jews.

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