Rabbi Gil Steinlauf is leading an important development in American race relations, the steady drift of Jews away from publicly identifying as “White.” The history of Judaism and Whiteness in America is a complicated one, and Steinlauf’s hackneyed historiography is far from the full story. In the Old South, the (largely Southern European and Western European) Jews were firmly on the White side of the racial binary, and Southern Jews even played a generally supportive role in the Civil War.
As Ashkenazi Jews trickled, dribbled, then flooded into the Mid-Atlantic cities from Eastern Europe, the relationship between Whiteness and Jewishness that exists today began to take shape, one in which they publicly identify with the host population when it suits them (and when it suits their attacks on the host population), while privately identifying as “other.” For historical reasons, White Americans struggle to distinguish between racial and ethnic identity. The overwhelming majority of racially White immigrants and settlers assimilated, making it so that one’s color was generally synonymous with one’s ethnic identity and loyalty.
For well over a century, Jews have enjoyed a unique double-standard relationship where we consider them within our circle of civic altruism and yet they don’t merely exclude us from their own circle of altruism, they consider us enemies to be vanquished. The small, isolated, and historically curious pockets of settler-stock Jewish Americans who were limited exception to this trend were handily defeated by the wealthy and powerful New York Jews during the Leo Frank affair, the historical moment when Jews decided in an organized manner that they would not assimilate, would not integrate, and would not view White Americans as allies, partners, or brothers.
The Anti-Defamation League was founded to guarantee that the Jews “never again” fall prey to the “Silent Holocaust” of being loyal to the American identity. Jewish Privilege means clearly and explicitly stating that you’re more loyal to Israel and your Jewish identity than you are to your host country and its host identity, then denying a platform to any White Americans who would dare to echo the very same statement.
The value of claiming Whiteness has dropped so rapidly and its value is projected to drop even further still that Jews are, in an organized manner, dumping their stock in Whiteness. Rabbi Gil Steinlauf’s article in the Washington Post proclaims that, “Jews in America struggled for decades to become white. Now we must give up whiteness to fight racism.” It’s time to move on from Tim Wise’s obsolete “White Like Me” shtick, take off the masks, and give White America that final demographic, economic, political, and social push into ethnic oblivion.
His article begins with a Jewish leftist woman who went to him for advice about her anguish over her White Guilt.
“As a white woman,” she said, “as the product of so much white privilege, it makes me all the more angry to see how other white people so blindly and carelessly feed into the racial climate of our society.” “So the fact that you are white makes this issue all the more painful, all the more personal for you?” I asked. “Yes,” she said.
I certainly identified with her angst. I find the reality of American racism unbearable: the legacy of slavery; the institutional discrimination that is so pervasive; the scourge of mass incarceration of black Americans, with its collateral damage on families; the ongoing blight of housing segregation; the role of law enforcement in furthering racist systems and hierarchies; all this, and so much more. My answer to her, and my answer for all American Jews during these Days of Awe, is that finding our true Jewish identity can begin by questioning our whiteness.
Jews financed and dominated the slave trade. Jews owned proportionately more slaves than Whites in the antebellum South. Judah Benjamin helped the Confederacy hang on for several months longer than it would have without his assistance. Jews dominate the urban real estate market where housing segregation allegedly occurs, and are dominate the privatized prison industry which is a critical lobby encouraging America’s politicians to imprison more people per capita than any other comparable nation.
If the Jews and Whites are getting divorced, it’s only fair that they take their share of the “Guilt” with them. Though, of course, that’s not what the Rabbi has in mind. Historical accountability doesn’t apply to Jews like it applies to Whites. The most wealthy, privileged, and militaristic people in the world, the small sect which played a tremendous role in propelling colonialism and all of its real and imagined crimes, now see fit to flee like the rats they are from the sinking ship of Whiteness as the rising tide of color from the Global South threatens to sink it.
We must cease to consider ourselves to be part of the social construct of whiteness, despite all the white privilege that America affords us, privilege that eluded many of our parents and grandparents. Starting in this new year of 5776, we must teach our children that we are, in fact, not white, but simply Jewish.
And we must teach our children that Jews are not White, not Western, not fellow citizens, not something in the middle; but simply Jewish. Other. And not a neutral other like the Japanese or Argentines, but an openly hostile other.
[T]he main reason why anti-Semitism is no longer mainstream in our society is because sometime in the last half century, we convinced America that we, too, are white.
Yup. You sure did pull one over on us, pretending to be earnestly assimilating into American society. Well played. Now we can get back to being anti-semitic?
Our own children and grandchildren, raised as white American children of privilege, have completely forgotten who built their place in society, or why their well-meaning ancestors so passionately endeavored to build it. Many no longer value their essential Jewishness in their worldviews or life plans.
A White guy catches grief even on the racialist right for asserting that perhaps Jewish identity is integrally incompatible with co-existing, and that they must be separated from us in order to ensure our survival. A rabbi is, however, able to state this truth casually and uncontroversially, as a matter of course. The Jewish community’s very existence depends on hostility to the goyim. Without it, they peacefully assimilate and cease to be Jewish. Judaism is hostility to the goyim. Jewish folk mythology, folk historiography, and survival strategy is hostility to the Pharaoh, Philistine, and Fuhrer.
Without a czar to kill, the Jewish identity atrophies and evaporates.
Yes, most of us and our children are a part of white America now. But we know plenty of young Jewish Americans who are very proudly Jewish. Many are devoted to Israel, devoted to good causes; they fight racism and other injustices. But if we are going to take our American-ness and our Jewishness seriously, we must own all the ways that we have benefited from and continue to benefit from the worst elements of American racist culture.
The first thing somebody committed to fighting racism and other injustices might wish to do is become critical to and hostile toward Israel, the most racialist and national socialist state on the planet. American Jews despise me for wishing to build a wall, for wishing to have an ethnic homeland defined by race, ethnicity, and religious creed. These are all things they celebrate for themselves in their own country. The cognitive dissonance remains perennially unaddressed, unresolved, and outside the bounds of tolerated public discourse.
And because I’ve been around long enough to anticipate the philo-semitic boilerplate, I don’t begrudge Israelis having a homeland, being loyal to their ethnic identity, or genetically testing would-be immigrants to Israel. I begrudge them for cuckolding my government, my economy, and my social order, an obvious matter that the Rabbi proudly acknowledges as a matter of course. They’ve made their beliefs, behavior, and plans clear and I would be suicidal to wish for anything other than their (humane, peaceful, blah blah blah…) removal from my homeland.
The Jewish double-standard of identity and sovereignty for their people and White Genocide for my own people is an intolerable arrangement which will either end with the destruction of my race or the expulsion of theirs.
Even in times when we participated fully in non-Jewish societies, we always knew that we stood with one foot in the mainstream, and one foot outside.
Despite our only good intentions, we are — all of us — full participants and beneficiaries of the American evil known as racism.
This is what Jews actually believe, that they’re a chosen people who’ve had only good intentions throughout all of history, perpetual victims of host populations who are always all bad.
The idea that Jews are white is not only ridiculous, it’s offensive to who we really are! Yes, societies like America come along sometimes and give us privileges and powerful labels like “white.” In America’s racist social construct, Jews are very much white people, but we must never again think of ourselves that way — it’s time for us to opt out of that racist paradigm, because we are Jews.
Just in time to dodge the decline and fall of Whiteness? What splendid timing!
Indeed, so many progressive leaders in this country have been Jews (including some Jewish founders of the NAACP), motivated exactly by this vision.
Jews infiltrated and redirected Black Power projects early on to cuckold Black Americans away from authentic ethnic nationalist empowerment. It was Jewish influence which guaranteed that Black Americans ignored Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan in favor of the controlled opposition dedicated to remaking Blacks in their own image; as parasitical victims demanding more and more wealth redistribution from the White host population.
I’m supposedly a radical anti-semite, but why would anybody in his right mind wish to share a political order with such an openly subversive, vindictive, and powerful tribe? I’m supposedly an evil racist, but I’m actually asking for and hoping for less than the stridently supremacist state that Israel and its loyal citizens in Diaspora take for granted. I hope to achieve my goal without any of the displacement, bloodshed, and even outright terrorism that Israel celebrates having committed in establishing its ethnic, racial, and religious regime.