Dani Ishai Behan

On Gentile Privilege: A Checklist

Image source; Wikimedia Commons
Image source; Wikimedia Commons

This list, I feel, is long overdue.

It is by no means exhaustive, but I’ve done my utmost to cover all relevant bases. I am certain that commenters/readers will fill in the rest.

First, a few disclaimers.

1) Some of these items will be more specific to the Ashkenazi Jewish experience than others, and might not be as relevant to other Jews

2) Given our status as a non-European (that is, non-white) ethnic group, overlap with the broader system of white privilege is to be expected. For this reason, gentile privilege can be seen, in many ways, as a subset of white privilege. Items that might also apply to some/all other non-white ethnic groups will be marked with an asterisk (*).

Without further ado…

1. My success isn’t perceived as a threat*, nor is it attributed to foul play or a sinister global conspiracy.

2. Representation of my ethnic group in any given field is seen as completely normal, if not as a net positive for diversity. It is not seen as a cause for concern, nor taken as a symptom/proof of my group’s nefarious “control” of that industry.

3. I am reasonably certain that if I venture into public spaces, I will not be verbally/physically assaulted*, followed around*, or asked invasive questions about whether or not I am hiding horns under my hair.

4. My ethnic group’s identity, origins, experiences, history, trauma, and narrative are not dictated or decided for us by hostile majorities. I can rest assured that anyone who endeavors to learn about us will receive accurate information, and won’t be receiving false narratives from our enemies. Our voices are not systematically drowned out by a hostile majority that hates or is taught to hate us.

5. I can safely rely on academic institutions, online encyclopedias, the government, the mainstream media, the UN, et al to provide accurate information about my ethnic group.

6. If I complain of discrimination against people of my background, I am pretty sure I won’t be accused of making the complaint in bad faith*, or of attempting to silence criticism of my homeland’s policies.

7. As a non-European ethnic minority, my status as such is never questioned or denied, and I am reasonably certain that I won’t be met with gaslighting, erasure, or verbal abuse if I present myself as such. I am not told that I must identify as a religious subcategory of my oppressors.

8. If I come forward about the discrimination I face as an ethnic minority, I am reasonably certain that polite society (and progressives for certain) will take it seriously. I will not be punished for coming forward, nor will I see my tormentors lionized.*

*DISCLAIMER: The above item pertains primarily to the anti-racist left. The openly racist far-right, on the other hand, are equally likely to treat non-Jewish minorities the same way*.

9. My right to political equity (e.g. national rights) and fair cultural representation (e.g. in movies and media) is not denied or dismissed as “racist”. I do not risk gaslighting or abuse when I speak of under-representation/poor representation of my kind in any field.*

*DISCLAIMER: The above item pertains primarily to the anti-racist left. The openly racist far-right, on the other hand, are equally likely to treat non-Jewish minorities the same way*.

10. We are not described as colonizers in our indigenous homeland. My people’s civilizational history is accepted, celebrated, and recognized as valid.* We are not accused of lying about our history*, nor are we conflated (racially or otherwise) with our exilic hosts.

11. If a case of discrimination/hate crimes against my people are brought before the criminal justice system, I am reasonably certain that the perpetrator will enjoy little to no support from surrounding society. I am also certain that they will face significant jail time.*

12. My people’s national liberation is seen as sacrosanct and just. It is not defamed as “racist”*, or “colonialist”, or “apartheid”, or as the second coming of Nazism. No demand is made that we remain exiled, powerless, and subordinated to foreign majorities forever.*

13. I can be reasonably certain that my tormentors will not be excused*, portrayed as hapless victims*, celebrated as “progressive” human rights “heroes”, or even canonized as saints.

14. I am reasonably certain that, whatever problems may exist now, my people have a bright and promising future in the countries we live. There is no sense that the walls are closing in around us again and that another genocide is inevitable. Younger generations do not cause me anxiety as I am fairly certain they will be less racist against my kind than their parent’s generation, not more so.

15. Prejudice against my people is not so resilient as to ensure we will always remain on the losing side of history.*

16. I am reasonably certain that I will not wake up the next morning to news that my people’s homeland has been nuked off the face of the Earth.

17. Men of my background are not automatically/subconsciously assumed to be sexual predators.*

18. Racial traits associated with my ethnic group are not perceived as “ugly”.*

19. My people are not popularly believed to embody the worst evils/vices of humanity, or of whatever the existing zeitgeist happens to be.

20. My people are not portrayed as inherently disposed towards cheating, grifting, lying, or exaggerating our suffering for nefarious ends.

21. My people are not dehumanized in popular culture as demons, witches, pigs, or vermin.

22. My people are not placed in a “worst of both worlds, benefits of neither” position with regards to race, religion, or any other relevant category of society.

23. My people are not blamed or held responsible for the persecution we face.* Our traumas are not explained away as justified reactions to a heinous we’ve been falsely accused of, nor by pointing out the amount of countries that have historically expelled us.

24. My people do not have to worry about appeal to majority arguments being used to justify racism against us or to shoot down our complaints.

25. I can easily arrange to be in the company of my own ethnic group, no matter where I am. I am not forced to spend time around people who hate or wish me dead.*

26. I do not have to give my children “the talk” – educating them on antisemitism and the hatred/injustice they will face throughout their lives on account of their Jewishness.*

27. If I turn out the television, go to the movies, or check my newsfeed, I will see people of my background widely represented, and not in a tokenized, humiliating, or easy to scapegoat fashion.*

28. I will feel respected, welcome, and equal in any walk of life, institution, hobby, or subculture (gaming, comics, sports, you name it) I choose to participate in. My presence will not be viewed with hostility, nor contingent on how willing I am to soothe/confirm biases against my kind and play the roles they deem fit for us.*

29. If I have low credibility in a leadership position, I am certain that it is not because of my ethnic background.*

30. I can grow out my beard, get a tan, and board an airplane, bus, train, etc without fear of being mistaken for a terrorist.*

31. I will never be asked to speak on behalf of my people. If one of our own fails or commits a crime, it will not reflect poorly on my kind.*

32. I will never feel unwelcome or unsupported in progressive spaces. Bigotry against my people will not be normalized within these spaces.*

33. If I am ever in a position of power or influence, my ethnic background will not be cited as a cause for concern and I will not be pressured/expected to downplay my identity or ignore the needs of my people so as to prove my “loyalty” to the country in which I live.

34. If I have poor hygiene, am overweight, or are otherwise not conventionally attractive, it will not be attributed to my ethnic background.*

35. If I am having problems with my teachers, professors, deans, doctors, police, or any other authority figure, I am certain it has nothing to do with my ethnic background.*

36. I can move to any country, any city, and any neighborhood without fear of hostility* or of being legally barred from entering/living there.

37. Racism against my kind is not protected by otherwise anti-racist people on the grounds of “free speech” or “speaking truth to power”.

38. Racism against my kind is neither seen nor mendaciously framed as “progressive”, “left-wing”, “humanitarian”, or “anti-colonial”.

39. I can write a list like this about my ethnic group without being accused of fabricating or exaggerating my group’s suffering for selfish or nefarious reasons.*

40. Successful advocacy against the discrimination faced by my kind is not taken as proof of our group’s alleged control of the media, government, etc.

41. In all likelihood, my family did not experience what was essentially a 1000 – 1,500 year long exile in foreign lands. We were allowed to live in our ancestral lands largely unmolested throughout our history, and have been able preserve memory of the full extent of our civilization. We are not in a position where we are still picking up the pieces of our civilization, shattered by colonialism and exile, and piecing them back together.

42. The existence, let alone contributions, of my people and our civilization are not carefully omitted from most history textbooks*, nor are we being systematically airbrushed out of the history of our indigenous home region.

43. I do not risk hostility or violence for manifesting my ethnic group’s culture in public.*

44. My community centers do not need armed security, nor do they charge a fee to fund said security.

45. I am reasonably certain that most clothing stores and supermarkets will carry all of the necessary staples of my culture. I am also certain that my ethnic group will be widely represented in the music section.*

46. We are not pressured to assimilate, straighten our noses, flatten our hair, bleach our skin, change our names, etc to get employment in Hollywood, or even in general.*

47. The ways persecution of my group functions is regularly discussed on left wing news shows, and most progressives at least try to be supportive of the liberation movement(s) of one or more groups I may be a part of.

48. I can criticize my government’s policies and advocate for my ancestral homeland without being vilified, if not violently assaulted, for “dual loyalty”. I am allowed to care about both my nation of residence and my indigenous homeland without any competition or conflict arising from it.*

49. I am never asked to speak for my entire ethnic group, nor do my failures reflect poorly on the rest of my people.*

50. If I need legal, medical, or academic help, my ethnic background will not be used against me.*

51. My ethnic group is not routinely accused of absurd and dehumanizing things like harvesting organs, using the blood of foreigners to bake food, or controlling the weather.

52. Serious anti-racists will treat me with the same consideration and respect they do other outgroups. They will not seemingly forget what “name your own reality” means as soon as we begin advocating for ourselves.

53. I can shop alone at a grocery store without fear of security or a store clerk singling me out and checking my bag for stolen items.*

54. My people are already widely and respectfully represented in most forms of entertainment outside of comedy and humiliating stereotypes. We do not have to worry about our ethnic background being whitewashed in such cases, or retconned entirely.*

55. There is no global campaign masquerading as a “human rights cause” that aims to dispossess my people and consign us to a future permanent exile, powerlessness, and subordination to foreign majorities, thereby restoring the colonial status quo we toiled under for centuries.

56. I can openly discuss my people’s history and trauma without being told “get over it already” and “I’m so sick of hearing about this”.*

57. I am not accused of lying or fabricating one of the worst tragedies in my people’s history, nor are we accused of complicity in our own suffering.

About the Author
Half-Irish/half-Jewish American activist, musician, and writer.