Gary S. Branfman

Race: A Historical Perspective.

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The term “race” has served only one group well: Racists.

Contrary to the racist absolutists on the left, race is a non-scientific, socially constructed archaic system of classification. “Race differences are relative, not absolute.” Indeed, they’ve always been relative and, more recently, have been intended to give people a stick with which to beat a disfavored group.

There are “[n]o known restrictions on publication.” Photo is property seized by the U.S. government and ruled to be public domain.
In 1919, Adolf Hitler argued that “There is living amongst us a non-German, foreign race. There are three general types of races, the culture creators (the pure Aryan race), the culture sustainers (races with substantial Aryan blood), and the culture destroyers (the Jews).”

Slightly more than 100 years later, Whoopi Goldberg presented a dissenting opinion. “How can you say it’s about race when you’re [white people] fighting each other?” During her casual reference to the worst genocide in human history, Whoopi proclaimed, “Well, this is white people doing it to white people. Y’all go fight amongst yourselves.”

In the Wonderful World of Whoopi, race is defined as, “… being something that I can see.” According to the Whoopi hypothesis, those afflicted with impaired vision are incapable of racism.

1850s physiognomy chart (edited). Public domain.

Image: 1850s physiognomy chart (edited). Public domain.

Still, despite crackpot theories, scientists reject “race” as a scientific system of classification. In 2018, 67 scientists from a broad range of disciplines stated that the “robust body of scholarship recognizes the existence of geographically based genetic variation in our species but shows that such variation is not consistent with biological definitions of race.”

RACE: From benign to bigotry

Aristotle is the first to have believed that a person’s traits can be determined from their outer appearance, i.e., Physiognomics. Then, observations about skin color to categorize humans had nothing to do with inferiority or superiority. It was just a description, with the Greeks and Romans observing without judgment that “The Africans’ color was regarded as their most characteristic and most unusual feature.”

Before the 17th Century, “race” as a grouping system was harmless. In 17th-century Europe, though, race became a pseudo-scientific system of classification based on superiority and inferiority. The concept stemmed from the false notion that “white” people were inherently smarter, more capable, and more human than non-white people. Europeans used this perception to justify colonizing and enslaving Africans and treating cruelly “savages” in “The New World.”

During the late 19th century, Irish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants in the USA were referred to as separate races. Today, members of these groups are classified as white. We Jews still get treated separately amongst white supremacists who deny our whiteness and black Hebrew Israelites who deny our Jewishness.


In 1891, at the Lake Mohonk Conference in New York, a group of wealthy white philanthropists met to discuss American Indian policies. That was when Richard Henry Pratt coined the term “racism.” He said, “Association of races and classes is necessary to destroy racism and classism.” He also said, “Kill the Indian. Save the man.”

By 1902, “racism” had entered the Oxford English Dictionary, which defined it as “…the theory that distinctive human characteristics and abilities are determined by race.”

One of the earliest scholars to recognize that “racism” was a bad thing was pioneering American anthropologist Ruth Benedict (1887-1948). Benedict defined racism as “the dogma that one ethnic group is condemned by nature to congenital inferiority and another group is destined to congenital superiority.” Her legacy includes The Ruth Benedict Prize, awarded annually by the American Anthropology Association.


Progressives still believe in race and racism, although they’ve turned from the early view that whites are superior. Now, whites are the flawed race. After the Civil Rights movement the term “race” reverted to a Hitlerian concept of “race means classifying individuals between those I like and those I don’t.”

According to Russell A. Shalev, an Israeli lawyer at the International Legal Forum, Critical Race Theory systematically erases the uniqueness of antisemitism and places Jews at the peak of white privilege and supremacy. Equally heinous, Critical Race Theory views attacks on Jewish self-determination and self-identification as anti-racist.


Under the reversion to the pseudoscience of physiognomy, today’s racists continue to base assumptions and prejudices’ regarding racial and ethnic identities with nothing more than a fleeting glance at a stranger’s face.

According to Nancy López, professor of sociology and director of the Institute for the Study of Race and Social Justice at the University of New Mexico, we continue to stereotype and judge strangers’ qualities based on their appearance. We continue to view race archaically as biology and genetic ancestry. Lopez coined the phrase “street race” to define the phenomenon as the “race” that people see us as when we are out in public.

When a “white man” is donning a kippah, his “race” is perceived as Jewish, with all the tropes associated with his “race.” A dark man in a turban is perceived as an Arab, all too often linked to unjustified stereotypes. The bigoted observer is blind to the facts of their genetic make-up, personality traits, or country of origin. He could be a Sikh or a Hindu, or a Persian Jew!


The task of attempting to classify Jewishness can be futile. Jews view their own identity in all kinds of different ways.

What we can agree on is that Jewishness is a question of personal identity that cannot be minimized to a checkbox on a form. When Jews must choose, some check “WHITE.” Others check “OTHER.” Black Jews check “BLACK.” I (being a proud, unapologetic Zionist who thrives on controversy) am emboldened to write in bold and all caps, “JEWISH.”

What we can all agree on is that we are a nation of Judean ethnicity, The Nation of Israel. We may be among the smallest of nations, but we are among the largest of families. We share an origin, ancestry, homeland, history, cultural heritage, genetic commonalities, language, dialects, religion, mythology, folklore, rituals, cuisines, and “styles.”

When the Jewish People were forced to disperse, most Jews settled in the Middle East and Mediterranean countries and, later, throughout Europe. We remained the same Jewish nation ethnically but dispersed geographically. We adapted and adopted the languages and traditions of our new neighbors, but we kept our culture and our gene pool, often under the threat of savage suffering and demonic death.

We were evicted from Spain, blamed for the Black Death, and subjected to the Cossacks’ sabers. Between the 1930s and 1950s, Jews were banished from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

Mark Twain eloquently elaborated in 1899:

The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and

made a vast noise, and they are gone.

The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind.

All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?

Despite Twain’s refreshing optimism, we subsequently endured cruel communist oppression and narrowly survived savage Nazi aggression. Today, demonic Islamists burned and beheaded our children, gang-raped our women, and turned a peace-loving music festival into a macabre inferno of hell.

We owe it to all those who perished and those who survived to proudly carry on the genes, languages, customs, and traditions of our Judean Ethnicity: The Nation of Israel.

We are not victims. We are survivors. We will dance again.


About the Author
Gary Branfman, MD is co-founder of, past president of Congregation B’nai Israel in Victoria, Texas and singlehandedly had the IHRA definition of Antisemitism endorsed by the City. Dr. Branfman has lectured internationally on Racism and has written for several publications. He has appeared on CBS evening news with David Begnaud and Al Jazeera.
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