White Supremacy and Jews as Racialized Other – The Good Men Project (blog)

Embed from Getty Images Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!

The estimated 1500 neo-Nazi white supremacists blared out this disgusting chant as they marched with their Tiki Torches in hand through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia in protest of the scheduled removal of a statue commemorating Civil War General Robert E. Lee. This march was reminiscent of similar events held throughout Germany, and in particular, in Nuremberg during the Nazi era.

So why do self-described white supremacists target Jews, many who appear white? The answer, stemming from a long and complex history, is quite simple: Though Jewish people are members of every so-called race, even Jews of European heritage (Ashkenazim) have been and still continue to be racially othered by some dominant Christian European-heritage communities in some quarters.

For this reason, members of white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups engage in religious, ethnic, and racial bigotry against all groups they consider non-white, including Jews. In other words, anti-Jewish prejudice and discrimination (a.k.a. anti-Semitism) is a form of racism.

The Racialization of Jews

Looking back on the historical emergence of the concept of race, critical race theorists remind us that this concept arose concurrently with the advent of European exploration as a justification for conquest and domination of the globe beginning in the 15th century of the Common Era (CE) and reaching its apex in the early 20th century CE.

Biologists and geneticists tell us that there is often more variability within a given so-called race than between races, and that there are no essential genetic markers linked specifically to race. They assert, therefore, that race is an historical, scientific, biological myth, an idea, and that any socially-conceived physical racial markers are fictional and are not concordant with what is beyond or below the surface of the body.

Though biologists and social scientists have proven unequivocally that the concept of race is socially constructed (produced, manufactured), however, this does not negate the very real consequences people face living in societies that maintain racist policies and practices on the individual, interpersonal, institutional, and larger societal levels.

For millennia, some Christian theologians distinguished Jews as different from and inferior to Christians on religious grounds. A number of passages within the Christian Testaments were used to give justification for persecuting Jews. For example, Matthew 27:24-25, and in 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16:

[T]he Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and drove us out, the Jews who are heedless of Gods will and enemies of their fellow man.All this time they have been making up the full measure of their guilt, and now retribution has overtaken the good of all.

They also often equated Jews to the Devil:

And Jesus said: If God were your father, you would love me[but] your father is the devil and you choose to carry out your fathers desires (John 8:44). The Jewsare Satans synagogue (Revelation 2:9). I will make those of Satans synagogue, who claim to be Jews but are lying frauds, come and fall down at your feet (Revelation 3:9).

Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), born Carl Linn, (also know as the Father of Scientific Racism), a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, developed a system of scientific hierarchical classification. Within this taxonomy under the label Homo sapiens, (Man), he enumerated five categories based initially on place of origin and later on skin color: Europeanus, Asiaticus, Americanus, Monstrosus, and Africanus.

Linnaeus asserted that each category was ruled by a different bodily fluid (Humors: moistures), represented by Blood (optimistic), Phlegm (sluggish), Cholor (yellow bile: prone to anger), Melancholy (black bile: prone to sadness).

Linnaeus connected each human category to a respective humor, thereby constructing the Linnaeus Taxonomy in descending order: Europeanus: sanguine (blood), pale, muscular, swift, clever, inventive, governed by laws; Asiaticus: melancholic, yellow, inflexible, severe, avaricious, dark-eyed, governed by opinions; Americanus (indigenous peoples in the Americas): choleric, copper-colored, straightforward, eager, combative, governed by customs; Monstrosus (dwarfs of the Alps, the Patagonian giant, the monorchid Hottentot): agile, fainthearted; Africanus: phlegmatic, black, slow, relaxed, negligent, governed by impulse.

Later, although Charles Darwin himself did not assert this, some of Darwins successors, referred to as Social Darwinists, hypothesized that Jews no longer were simply a separate religious, ethnic, or political group, but rather, like black Africans and other groups (including homosexuals), Jews were throwbacks to earlier stages of religious and human development. Social Darwinists forwarded a so-called racial hierarchy placing Aryans on the top, black Africans at the lower end, and other races (including Jews) at various points in between.

In Europe, by the late 19th century CE, Judaism had come to be viewed by the scientific community as a distinct racial type, with essential immutable biological characteristics a trend that increased markedly into the early 20th century CE.

Once seen as largely a religious, ethnic, or political group, Jews were increasingly constructed as members of a mixed race (a so-called mongrel or bastard race), a people who had crossed racial barriers by interbreeding with black Africans during the Jewish Diaspora. If Jews were evil, as thought by many, this evilness was genetic and could not be purged or cured. Jews converting to Christianity, therefore, could no longer solve the Jewish question.

The British psychologist, Francis Galton (1822-1911) a cousin of Charles Darwin was a founder of the Eugenics movement. In fact, Galton coined the term eugenics in 1883 from the Greek word meaning well born. Eugenicists attempted to improve qualities of a so-called race by controlling human breeding.

Galton argued that genetic predisposition determined human behavior. He proposed that the so-called elites in the British Isles were the most intelligent of all the peoples throughout the planet, while [t]he average intellectual standard of the Negro race is some two grades below our own [Anglo-Saxons]. The Australian type is at least one grade below the African Negro and The Jews are specialized for a parasitical existence upon other nations.

Galton asserted that Jews were of a lower racial form, and that they could be easily recognizable by their appearance. He also talked about a supposed cold and calculating Jewish gaze.

The U.S. writer, Madison Grant (1865-1937) codified this supposed racialization of the Jews in his influential book, The Passing of the Great Race, or The Racial Basis for European History (1916), in which he argued that Europeans comprised four distinct races: The Nordics of northwestern Europe sat atop his racial hierarchy, whom Grant considered as the natural rulers and administrators, which accounted for Englands extraordinary ability to govern justly and firmly the lower races.

Next down the racial line fell the Alpines whom Grant referred to as always and everywhere a race of peasants with a tendency toward democracy although submissive to authority. These he followed with the Mediterraneans of Southern and Eastern Europe, inferior to both the Nordics and the Alpines in bodily stamina, but superior in the field of art. Also, Grant considered the Mediterraneans superior to the Alpines in intellectual attainments, but far behind the Nordics in literature and in scientific research and discovery.

On the very bottom he placed the most inferior of all the European so-called races: the Jews. Referring specifically to the Polish Jew, Grant asserted that

the Polish Jews, whose dwarf stature, peculiar mentality and ruthless concentration on self-interest[present themselves in] swarms.

Once seen as largely a religious, ethnic, or political group, Jews were increasingly constructed as members of a mixed race (a so-called mongrel or bastard race).

Analogous to the notion in the United States that one drop of black African blood makes a person black, according to Grant, the mixture of any of the European races and a Jew is a Jew.

By the end of the 19th century CE, the popular image of the Jewish type (portrayed invariably as the Jewish male), according to Sander Gilman in his book The Jews Body, consisted of a hooked nose, curling nasal folds (ali nasi), thick prominent lips, receding forehead and chin, large ears, curly black hair, dark skin, stooped shoulders, [weak flat feet, deflated rump,] and piercing, cunning eyes. In addition, the gaze of the Jew was said to be pathological, searing, cunning, cold, and piercing.

An offshoot of Eugenics was phrenology: the study of the skull emphasizing that its size and shape determined mental abilities and character. Phrenologist practitioners held that a specific section of the Jewish or Hebrew brain was abnormally developed causing Jews to be highly interested in money.

As we know, the Nazis contrived racial arguments as a philosophical cornerstone as justification for their persecutions of Jews, as well as most people of color and people with disabilities. Jews and others they considered descendants from inferior racial stands. Nazi leadership argued vehemently that Jews were polluting the so-called Aryan race. They forced Jews to wear the yellow Star of David as a signifying marker, since to the Nazis, yellow represented a sign of race pollution.

This sentiment extended far beyond the borders of the Third Reich. For example, in 1939, the United States Congress refused to pass the Wagner-Rogers Bill, which if enacted would have permitted entry to the United States of 20,000 children from Eastern Europe, many of whom were Jewish, over existing quotas. Laura Delano Houghteling, cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and wife of the U.S. Commissioner of Immigration sternly warned:

20,000 charming children would all too soon, grow into 20,000 ugly adults.

Once constructed as the Other in European society, Jews and Jewishness while certainly not fully embraced by the ruling elite as one of their own became a sort of middle status, standing somewhere between the dominant position of the White majority and the marginal position of People of Color. And this change in Jewish ethnoracial assignment has occurred only within the last 70 or so years.

Race then must be seen constructed not as a binary with white on one side and people of color on the other, but rather as a continuum. Except by extremists on the racist right, Ashkenazim are primarily constructed in the U.S. today on the white side of the line upon this continuum, and we definitely have white privilege vis-a-vis people of color.

I would argue, however, that we do not have the degree and extent of white privilege in many sections of this country as white mainline Protestants. In fact, in some countries, for example, in Eastern Europe still today, we are not constructed as white. Obviously, so-called white supremacists and neo-Nazis believe this as well.


Photo credit: Getty Images

White Supremacy and Jews as Racialized Other – The Good Men Project (blog)

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August 23, 2017   Posted in: Jews |

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