Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, abolitionist, anarchist who likes the letter A

Jewish Racism and the Perils of Assimilation

June 12, 2009 By: Mel Category: Core, Religion, Seeking, Stratification

Some time ago, a friend of mine told me about an interview she listened to where a Muslim American was talking about integrating into U.S. society. He said that Jews were a model of how a group can overcome the prejudices against them and integrate.

My friend thought it was interesting given the animosity between Jews and Muslims. I thought it was interesting because I don’t believe Jews necessarily represent a model of integration that new immigrants should follow.

I thought about that interview after I watched Joseph Dana and Max Blumenthal’s appalling video of white supremacist American Jews in Jerusalem. (Warning: This video is offensive in the extreme and not work safe.)

I was shocked when I watched the video, not because I deceived myself into thinking there were no racist Jews. I’ve certainly met some. I was shocked because the young adults in the video so willingly and brazenly adopted the stereotypes, language, and threats of white supremacists (with the ubiquitous appropriated blackness of American youth to boot).

Had I exhibited this KKK-like behavior, my father would have kicked my ass. It isn’t so much because he thought racism was wrong (although he did). It would have been more because of his sense of self. I don’t believe he thought of himself as white, at least not completely. Most Jews of his era didn’t.

He was born in 1929. He was 29 when the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation Temple was bombed by white separatists. He was 35 when Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman were found dead. He may not have been marching with Martin Luther King or identifying with the people who did, but he certainly wasn’t identifying with white supremacists either.

So what happened?

The people in that video clearly spent much of their lives in the United States, Somewhere along the way they became white. They embraced the worst aspects of the United States – the racism, the hatred, the violence.

The video was posted on many websites. Granted, many of the websites were focused on Israeli issues, but these kids clearly had many years in the states. People commented on what the video meant about Israel. Almost nobody commented on what the video meant about the United States.

One commenter on the Atlantic did get to the heart of the matter:

This is not really about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is about American bigotry, for us Americans to think about and deal with. While these Jews too often move to Israel and contribute to the problems there, it’s a fundamentally American problem that needs to be thought about and dealt with by Americans. What about America is making this happen? How is the rubric of classic American racism changing? How do we deal with it differently? What does it mean when a historically marginalized group produces bigots who migrate to the right wing?”

What it means is, they assimilated.

This week a violent anti-semitic and racist walked into the Washington DC holocaust museum and killed an African American security guard. Does anyone believe the shooter cared whether or not he was shooting a Jew or a black person?

So sadly ironic for that act of terrorism to happen the same week as this video of white supremacist Jews shows up on the internet. So sadly ironic for that act of terrorism to happen the same week as responses to that video like this one from 50 cent’s website:

where were good all days when hitler ruled the world all theses pig jews should b dead now

That is assimilation we do not need.

Another thing we do not need is low expectations. So many of the comments to the video were along the lines of “that’s how drunk kids act” or some such bullshit.


That’s how thoughtless, heartless, little monsters act. And if they are old enough to be out at a bar drinking, they are old enough for us to stop calling them kids and start expecting them to act right.

We don’t need immigrants to assimilate. We don’t need more Americans to identify with the worst aspects of the dominant culture. And we don’t need such low expectations for ourselves that we blow these things off. We need immigrants (and native born) to challenge the dominant culture. We need people who challenge the hierarchy, racism, classism, and violence.

White People Lose it Over Buy Black Experiment

June 09, 2009 By: Mel Category: Seeking, Stratification

One of the people I follow on twitter linked to this story with the comment that it was racist. The article is about an African American couple in Chicago (John and Maggie Anderson) who have decided to only buy from black owned businesses for one year. It’s called the Empowerment Experiment and WOW do some white people have their panties in a bunch over it.

A typical comment goes something like this – If a white person said they were going to buy only from white owned businesses, then it would be racist. So the other way around is racist too.


Newsflash. Most white people do only buy from white owned businesses. In fact, a whole lot of non-white people buy from only white owned businesses. In fact, even the woman who started the buy black experiment, who lives in a predominantly white suburb, said in her NPR interview “none of my money went to black businesses last year.”

I lived in Santa Cruz, California for six years. Santa Cruz residents have a very strong preference for supporting locally owned businesses and keeping money in the Santa Cruz community. Santa Cruz is 90% white.

The number of black owned businesses is so small that the U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t even put down a percentage. It just says “S: Suppressed; does not meet publication standards.” Hispanic owned firms also get the big “Suppressed.” In other words, those “Buy Local” bumper stickers around town may as well say “Buy White.”

Does that mean I think people in Santa Cruz are wrong to support local businesses? No. Because, like the couple that decided to buy only from black owned businesses for a year, the intent is to spend money in a way that supports a more just world.

Does that mean there should be no discussion about those kinds of choices? No, because the local store may be owned by the grand puba of the KKK. And a black entrepreneur could be selling products made in a sweatshop.

But those are thoughtful discussions that reasonable people ought to be having. Instead, what we get are comments like this gem over on the Famuan:

Hey bmc if you told 10 white people about this stupid ebony experiment, 10 out of 10 would boycott anything black. weather be shoes of shaq, or golf clubs of tiger, stupid music of kanye. And obviously because of your childish fatherless culture way of thinking your missing the point, by the way because of this story I have boycotted anything black, Look the black community needs to stop acting like thoughtless neanderthals, stop acting childish and at least pretend you have a daddy, As someone has said made a very great valid point.. get off this Hip Hop prison jail metality culture, dont cry about what white people say, and change your so called black communitys flaws

I know I’ve been around too long to be surprised at this kind of shit, but I can’t help it. You’d think people would at least have the sense to be ashamed of their ignorance.

The irony is that addressing what the Anderson’s see as a flaw in the black community is exactly what they are trying to do with the Ebony Experiment. As well-off black people who “made it” and left their blighted inner-city neighborhoods behind, they felt they were part of the problem. Their experiment is about seeing if, by spending their money in the black community, they can help those struggling black communities.

They aren’t advocating that every black person buy only from black people. In fact, they repeatedly call their commitment “extreme.” Their extreme measure is meant, not only to start a conversation, but to collect real data that shows how individuals can make a difference by changing their spending habits

One commenter on the Wall Street Journal said

Right now I buy based on convienence and price. I know nothing of the owner and nor do I really want to concern myself with this issue of his color his politics or his lifestyle.

That’s the real problem. If we all just buy based on convenience and price then we support some truly heinous things, all in the name of saving a few minutes or a few bucks. What if that cheap thing was made by children or slaves? What if the company who grew your bananas poisoned its workers? What if that Coca Cola you love so much is only cheap because goons beat labor organizers to death?

What if our not paying attention to who we buy from ensures a large portion of Americans remain in perpetual poverty?

Terrorists are Criminals, Not Soldiers

December 28, 2008 By: Mel Category: Conflict

Terrorism is not new. It did not begin with the twin towers falling. It did not begin with the Oklahoma City bombing. It did not begin with car bombs in Israel. It did not begin with hangings and church fires in the south. But all of these things were terrible, violent, and reprehensible acts of terror.

Wouldn’t it make sense, given humanity’s long history of dealing with terror, to study the cases where terror, if not ended, at least subsided?

In 1963, members of the klu klux klan bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church and killed four little girls. This was not the first time the kkk had perpetrated acts of terror. They have over the years been responsible for many bombings, hangings, kidnappings and deaths.

If we are to use the logic provided to us by President Bush when he wanted to invade Afghanistan or by Israel when they respond to terrorist attacks by bombing, then we would have expected the United States to fly a bombing mission over Birmingham in 1963. We would have expected that, after they bombed the innocent civilians of Birmingham, they would have blamed the kkk for hiding amongst civilians

But we did not do that. We did not do that, because terrorists are not soldiers. We did not do that because it is the soldiers responsibility to protect civilians, not harm them. We did not do that because many people live in Birmingham who are not terrorists and the idea that they harbored terrorists by having the pure dumb luck of being a Birmingham resident is ridiculous.

What the United States did do, far too slowly and painfully, is investigate the crimes of the kkk. We sent undercover operatives to infiltrate their organizations. We paid off inside informants. We treated terrorists like the criminals they are. (I know many of them walked free for many years and I don’t make light of that travesty, but my point is that the terror began to ease without a war against the entire town.)

Violence is always tragic. War is always tragic. But it is so much more tragic when it is painfully clear that it can never bring the security and peace that most people want. Even if you are not a pacifist, the cold hard fact remains that responding to terrorists with war is irrational and effective only in creating more enemies.