Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reprimand at York

Engage is reporting that York University has officially fined and reprimanded the ringleaders of the student mob which created a hostage scene in which Jewish students were forced to barricade themselves in the campus Hillel for their own safety. Jewlicious has more background.

I noted at the time that, while the putative dispute had nothing to do with Israel (instead focusing on the York Federation of Students support for an on-campus strike), the ringleaders nonetheless tried to argue that the Jewish membership of the anti-YFS contingent was solely motivated by a desire to oppose pro-Palestinian groups on campus -- one advocate bluntly stated that "The public positions put forward by this campaign cannot be taken at face value." This, of course, justified an angry mob chasing a largely Jewish group across campus with cries of "die, bitch, go back to Israel" and "die, Jew, get the hell off campus."

The assertion that any and all Jewish political agency is a facade for "Zionist" ends is hardly isolated. We've all heard how the (Jewish) neoconservatives' pressed to invade Iraq for the benefit of Israel (whether Israel actually benefited is, of course, left unclear). Most conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the media/banks/financial markets/entertainment industry assume that these are subject to Zionist manipulations. The very statement which spawned the Livingstone formulation was likewise over a controversy that had nothing to do with Israel, until Mayor Livingstone declared that "I don’t believe a word of it" -- it being the possibility that Jewish groups would oppose an anti-Semitic statement directed at a Jewish reporter for reasons independent of one's position on Israel. The idea that Jews might have additional reasons for being uncomfortable with the Chas Freeman nomination was treated as being an utter absurdity. "Anti-Zionist Zionist" Steve Cohen wryly noted that simply noting the existence of anti-Semitism on the left rendered nullities all his public statements opposing Zionism as "platitudes". I could go on, and on.

This assumption is utterly lethal to Jewish participation in the political sphere. When tied in this way to presumed Jewish deception and malfeasance, there is literally no way for Jews to assert political opinions without watching them be pre-emptively dismissed as "Zionist". Cohen demonstrates that even opposing Zionism doesn't immunize from this treatment, but conditioning Jewish political participation on them disavowing Zionist ideas (as we saw in Venezuela and South Africa) would be anti-Semitic in of itself (the mid-century National Review did not cease to be racist just because it found George Schuyler).

The ringleaders of the York riot are, predictably, crying about how they are being victimized for "stand[ing] up against racism." They show virtually no awareness of how deeply their actions re-entrenched it. A violent mob organized around the fundamentally anti-Semitic idea that Jewish activists don't have any beliefs but Zionism (and if they say otherwise, they're lying)? That's the core of racism, staring you in the face.

7 comments:

PG said...

I'm pretty sure the core of racism requires the idea not only that all members of a particular race have only one belief, but that the race is inherently inferior to another race. George Schuyler himself seems to have made a similar error: that seeing blacks as not exactly the same as whites would necessitate blacks' being seen as inferior to whites. (Like separate leading to unequal, practically true but not theoretically necessary.)

David Schraub said...

I'm not sure violently marching against a group -- even if one doesn't believe them to be inferior per se -- wouldn't be the core of racism, but since in this case its motivated by what is essentially a claim of inherent Jewish deceptiveness ("they say they're doing X, but don't believe them! It's always about Y!") makes it hit your definition too.

Charlie H. Ettinson said...

Thanks for this post. I had not been aware...

I would say that racism need not be predicated on one race being inferior or superior. Rather, what matters is that certain assumptions are made about an individual based on their adherence to a racial group.

All Asian’s are good at math, for example, is a racist statement. It seems like it's a positive attribute, to be scientifically gifted, but it's not true. It's a stereotype and is racist. The same would be true by saying group X is good at sports, or Jews have a superior ability to create and control wealth.

PG said...

Charlie,

I agree that even positive stereotypes about a race are "racist," but my belief (and I'd sort of thought David's as well) was that the core of racism is in subordination of a racial group. If someone hires me because he assumes I'm good at math due to being Asian, that's racist, but it's not the kind of core racism that leads the same person to refuse to hire a Latina because Mexican women aren't good at abstractions like math.

David Schraub said...

I think subordination is the core of racism, but I don't think inferiorization has to be a part of that (though of course it often is). "We need to restrict the rights of Jews because left unmolested they'll take over the &%*ing planet" is pretty core racism, though it is a charmingly optimistic assessment of our abilities.

Charlie H. Ettinson said...

I must admit, I'm not really sure I know what you mean by the core of racism. In my view, it's racist merely to assume certain things about an individual because they belong to a certain group. I don't think something needs to be negative to be racist.

Also, PG, I would disagree with your example about hiring an Asian or not hiring a Latina. In both cases, the hypothetical employer is a racist. Just because in one case the Asian reaps benefits while the Latina is disadvantaged does not change the fact that in both cases, the policy is discriminating on the basis of racism. In both cases, the hypothetical employer would be wrong in making such assumptions based only of the racial origins of the candidate and could well end up not hiring the most mathematically skilled employee.

PG said...

Charlie,

You said, "I don't think something needs to be negative to be racist."

Nor do I, as you might have seen from my saying, "I agree that even positive stereotypes about a race are racist."

However, positive stereotypes about a race are generally less damaging than negative ones. It is racist to hire an Asian on the stereotype that we're good at math, but I'm not as damaged by that as the Latina who is refused employment based on racial stereotyping. Racism isn't something that just exists on an abstract plane where all acts of assuming things based on race are equally injurious. It's this type of thinking that leads to the question "Why aren't there European-American studies departments?"