Stacey Aviva Flint
Stacey Aviva Flint

Racism and Antisemitism: Let’s work together

I grew up in OHIO in the ’70s to a racially mixed family for at least five generations. My daily life consisted of my Appalachian aunt, biracial cousins, Native/White and African American grandmother, and Great-Grandmother. My cousin married an African American/Mexican neighbor. I spent most of my summers dancing to Indian music, trying on my childhood friend’s Indian clothing, and eating Gulab Jamun made by her White American mother. The latter learned to cook from her South Indian husband. When the parents of this family died, I inherited the family’s Indian cookbook.

I knew my uncle and aunt had fled Kentucky to get married in Ohio because interracial marriage was illegal in the 1940s. I giggled at the stories of them hiding in moving boxes when the neighbors called, saying people of different races were living together. How they had to carry their marriage license at all times, and when my aunt and uncle were arrested for being an interracial couple, my grandmother told the cops they had to take her as well. The group recollects laughing (probably to keep from crying) as they threw spitballs in jail together. Some of my earliest childhood memories were visiting my great-grandmother in Millersburg, KY, where my greatest incentive to play with my Appalachian cousins next door was due to them having indoor plumbing. Our respective families had been neighbors in this town since the late 1800s. To my naive mind, my family was normal, but I soon realized we made others uncomfortable because we didn’t fit into racial boxes nice and neat. 

“We the people” in the U.S. Constitution of 1787 failed to clarify who exactly was a person eligible for citizenship of the United States. But the Naturalization Act of 1790 made it very clear that such a worthy person was “free” and “White.” During the 18th century, European Historians and philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Christoph Meiners, and Sir Arthur de Gobineau became Race Theorists who sought to classify groups of people based on skin color. They assigned each “color” with what became constructed as a biological “race” with corresponding degrees of intelligence, behavior, and human worth. The Aryan or White classification rose to the top as par excellence.

On the other hand, Blacks were relegated to inferiority at the complete opposite spectrum of Whites, some even suggesting them as subhuman. It was not long before the Black/White binary was challenged, necessitating legal and social barriers to keep the racial order in tack. Lawsuits came from East Indians, Arabs, Egyptians, and Armenians suing the U.S. Government to obtain the status of “White.” The Dillingham Commission of 1911 employed racial pseudo-science to determine which immigrants would contribute to respectable White American society. Documents in my own family flip flop household’s racial composition from Black to Mulatto and vice versa depending on the time and discerning eye of the “census” taker.

Strict racial separation was of the utmost importance to ensure financial, social, and Christian spiritual purity. In this system, Whites, Blacks, and Jews all constituted different people or races that should never be integrated or mixed, which could lead to confusion. Legal battles well into the 20th century had to legislate equal rights to education, housing, and even interracial marriage.

One of the most menacing dilemmas was classifying people of mixed racial heritage, termed as mulattos, for a time. The term was used for various legal purposes in the U.S. until 1930 when the “one drop” rule determined once and for all, any person with any known Black African Ancestry was to be classified as only Black. 

Abby Ferber, PhD. a professor of Sociology and Director of Women’s Studies at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, reviewed numerous racist articles and publications written between 1969-1993 for her article, Of Mongrels and Jews. Dr. Ferber’s found these writings consistently insinuated mixed-race people posed one of the most severe threats to White people, and therefore, American society. 

A unique characteristic of American Racism is the toleration of Black people as necessary to provide the example of ultimate impurity and antithesis to the perfection of whiteness. Therefore, such a social order’s maintenance is possible if a person’s only possible classification is White or Black. Or, as Feber quotes from an article in the white supremacist magazine, Instauration, of 1980 put it, “It is not Black Power we need to fear…we should fear Black coexistence in the same living space….”

So, where do Jews and Antisemitism fit into this discussion? A consistent trope among white supremacists is that Jews occupy a paradox of being a separate race; yet are simultaneously a mixed or mongrelized people. In the aforementioned article, Professor Ferber explains that the most elaborate of such views, imbued with Christian theological doctrine, is expressed in the Christian Identity movement. The main danger of the Jews, in the opinion of the supremacists, is that while maintaining their racial purity, the Jews support and promote racial mixing among other races. Depicting the Jews as the main force behind all the equality movements (including feminism), the supremacists perpetuate the stereotype of the Jew as an innate transgressor of all-natural racial boundaries. The antisemitic origins of this view purport the mode of subversion used by Jews is the tearing down of the ‘natural’ walls between the races.  

Eric Ward, a civil rights strategist and the Executive Director at Western States Center is a leading expert on the relationships between authoritarian movements and hate violence, goes to the core of white supremacist thought on Jews noting, “at the bedrock of the movement is an explicit claim that Jews are a race of their own, and that their ostensible position as White folks in the U.S. represents the greatest trick the devil ever played.” (Skin in the Game, 2017)

White supremacy’s antisemitic foundation views Jew’s classification as “White” people as an aberration that must be exposed, yet, if necessary, sometimes exploited. When the Tiki Torch carrying White supremacist in Charlotte shouted out, “Jews will not replace us,” this was code not to be fooled by the apparent “whiteness” of Jews who are “unassimilable” and the archenemy of “White” society.” (Sarah Cohen, International Center for the Study of Antisemitism)   

Feber found the March 1979 edition of the supremacist publication, New Order, stating, “The single serious enemy facing the White man is the Jew. The Jews are not a religion; they are an Asiatic race, locked in a mortal conflict with Aryan man which has lasted for millennia, and which will continue until one of the two combat peoples is extinct.”

In Bruno Bauer 1862 racist essay, “Das Judenthum in der Fremde,” he wrote of “the Jew as white Negro, but the robust nature and the capacity for physical work of the Negro are missing and are replaced by a brain which by size and activity bring the Jew close to the Caucasian peoples.” (qtd in Stern, 478).

According to British philosopher and antisemite Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the Jews “were a ‘mongrel’ (rather than a healthy ‘mixed’) race who interbred with Africans during the period of the Alexandrian exile.” In 1899, Chamberlain wrote extensively about physical characteristics and race. He claimed “the Semites belong to the mulatto class, a transition stage between black and white” and were “a mongrel race which always retains this mongrel character.” (Lees translation, 1977).

This theme was carried through Nazism via the concept of Untermenschen, meaning mixed race in German, and applied to mixed-race individuals (such as Afro-Germans) and Jews, determining ALL of them to be subhuman candidates for extinction. 

In our age of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, multicultural cooperation, and even multiracial families, it is mainly Generation X and Baby Boomers who are the target audiences and activists leading this vital work. We can easily be lulled into a false sense that successful DEI strategies are the harbinger of the idyllic American melting pot. 

In the eyes of antisemitism, diversity is the precursor of White American Genocide, and the audience for their message is our youth. 

It has barely been three weeks since posters at Colorado University announced: “Diversity is White Genocide.” Sadly, the 2021 message is not so different from the message Ferber quotes from the 1974 white supremacist Thunderbolt article, “They [the Jew] hope that our seed will vanish into the Jewish contrived ‘melting pot’ with the negroes, Puerto Ricans, Asians, and Mexicans in order to create a brown-skinned non-White world of the future.” The message to today’s vulnerable White youth is that ‘Diversity’ creates an existential crisis for them. 

Jewish long-held insistence that we are not a race successfully got Emancipation in Europe and granted “provisional whiteness” in America. Therefore, the fight against antisemitism often takes the high road as if this fact is a given. But, just as a criminal psychologist must know the mind and motivations of a perpetrator to predict and hopefully stop a future crime, we cannot ignore the racist history of Antisemitism and the reprehensible attitudes just below the surface, or we are fighting a losing battle with both antisemitism and racism. 

I posit that the paradox has not been carefully examined, creating a blind spot rife for exploitation. Jewish “whiteness” conveniently collapsed, reduced to an impure admixture of races able to pose as “White,” and bent on eliminating white society by manipulating “dim-witted” Black and Brown races to demand equality and engage in race-mixing. While on the other hand, Jewish as White is constructed and portrayed as looming large over Black and Brown people to control the world through trickery and wealth while playing on sympathies for the Holocaust.  

The “whiteness” of Jews is inflated and deflated like a balloon, based upon the target audience of Antisemites.  Jewish provisional “whiteness” is used against them, isolating them to an “island” by themselves where both Antisemitism and Racism destroy. Therefore, viewing Racism and Antisemitism as two separate battles plays into the hands of Antisemitism. After spending some time at a White Nationalist meeting, Ward heard it is not beyond Antisemites to make a case for “temporary alliances,” with ‘the Blacks’, ‘the Mexicans’, the Orientals’ against the real enemy, the federal government controlled by an international conspiracy…” and anyone who has been listening, knows this is code for “Jews.” Perhaps the greatest trick ever played is Antisemitism pitting their respective enemies, Blacks, and Jews, against another. 

In Ward’s analysis for his article, “Skin in The Game: How Antisemitism Animates White Nationalism,” he states an antidote to the game at hand to which we must heed, “Antisemitism, I discovered, is a particular and potent form of racism so central to white supremacy that Black people would not win our freedom without tearing it down.” 

It is imperative to unite our collective forces against racism and antisemitism. And to anyone watching the changing demographics of America, especially our youth, the target is clear and growing. The 2020 census reported Americans self-reporting as two or more races or multiracial was up 276%, while the White population had an 8.6% decline since 2010. The Brookings Institute’s analysis revealed less than half of U.S. children under 15 were White, and the fastest-growing demographic is mixed-race youth under age 18. Similarly, in Unlocking the Future of Jewish Engagement, a study conducted in 2020, found that 1 in 7 young Jews identifies as non-White or more than one race, such as my children.

We know the constructed racial categories and the assigned hierarchies of Black, White, Jew, etc., are unscientific and foolish. Sensible people see valuable human beings, while racist and antisemitic beliefs are untrue and reprehensible. But no matter how uncomfortable the flawed racial paradigms are, just like a chess player, we have to understand the mind of our opponents to project their next move and anticipate the targets of their hateful ideology. To continue the battles of racism and antisemitism separately is akin to us placing the bricks in the white supremacist wall of separation for them! 

Rising numbers of mixed-race youth in colleges result in numerous studies on mixed-race experience and even offering degrees such as The Critical Mixed Race Studies (CMRS) minor at San Francisco State. The newly released research study, Beyond the Count, focused on Jews of Color, reports “more than a third of respondents (45%) selected two or more racial categories. When asked, 66% identify as “biracial, mixed, multiracial” or some combination of those identities. Yet, there is little to no discussion of the intersection of racism and antisemitism. The FBI reports Hate Crimes at their highest levels since 2008, with the strongest increase in attacks on African Americans and Asians. (Speakman, 2021). 

Jewish students have had difficulty getting redress from Antisemitic attacks as the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights reported,

 “school administrators often fail to recognize that anti-Semitic harassment can trigger responsibilities under Title VI. While Title VI does not cover discrimination based solely on religion, 14 groups that face discrimination based on actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics may not be denied protection under Title VI on the ground that they also share a common faith. These principles apply not just to Jewish students, but also to students from any discrete religious group that shares, or are perceived to share, ancestry or ethnic characteristics (e.g., Muslims or Sikhs).” (Ali, 2010).

Jewish students’ concerns are often dismissed, and their “whiteness” is quickly constructed and conflated with privilege, leaving antisemitism unaddressed. 

Though there are no official studies on Jews of Color facing racism for being Jewish, increasing anecdotes circulating within our communities suggest it won’t be long before it occurs. During the last crisis in Israel, I received a call from a parent at a high school on the east coast. Her son is both African American and Jewish, with a family living in Israel. A concerned classmate asked of his family’s welfare in Israel, to which he answered but implored his classmate to let no one know he was Jewish/Israeli. My multiracial son, when he was about six years old, emerged from a laser tag session to tell me, “the kids called me a Muslim terrorist, but mommy, I am Jewish. Where do our youth turn for comfort and redress? Under our current bifurcated efforts, I fear Jews of Color could be tossed between Anti-racist and Antisemitism advocates, like hot potatoes. 

The connections between Antisemitism and Racism are undeniable if we are willing to peer honestly into the depraved mindset of the originator, white supremacy. “Antisemitism is based on the same belief as racism and other forms of prejudice—”the other” is inferior and not entitled to the same human rights…,” Donna Brazile, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Finally, no one should take this conversation as a means to support anti-Blackness. It is no secret that some find racially ambiguous or mixed-raced individuals more palatable in racial discussions. Black is beautiful, and it comes in all shades. We will not play the divide and conquer of racism or colorism. Conscious conversations must include monoracial, biracial, and multiracial identifying Black and Brown peoples.

I encourage my respective communities Black and Jewish, to both act like we have skin in the game and, where appropriate, to combine our efforts against racism and antisemitism by: 

  • Create Joint funding and programming between Hillels and African American/Asian/Latino student groups.
  • Call for and fund research by joint African American and Jewish Scholars.
  • Inquire how the diversity of Jews and our history and stories are incorporated into Jewish Studies courses/departments. 
  • Sponsoring cohorts and trips for youth to visit diverse ethnic museums and discuss our common struggles and victories.

Our youth deserve not only to be celebrated for their diversity but to be assured our advocacy can simultaneously protect the nuances of their intersecting identities. We must ALL act like we have skin in the game of Racism and Antisemitism by joining our resources and efforts. 

Works Cited

Ferber, Abby L. “Of Mongrels and Jews: Deconstruction of Racialized Identities in White Supremacist Discourse.” Essential Readings on Jewish Identities, Lifestyles & Beliefs: Analyses of the Personal and Social Diversity of Jews by Modern Scholars, edited by Lyman, Stanford M., Gordian Knot Books, New York, 2003, pp. 208–226. 

Ward, Eric. “Skin in the Game.” Political Research Associates, 27 June 2017, https://politicalresearch.org/2017/06/29/skin-in-the-game-how-antisemitism-animates-white-nationalism. 

Fox, John P. “Susan Sarah Cohen (Ed.), Antisemitism. An Annotated Bibliography. Volume I. The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. New York, London: Garland Publishing, Inc. 1987. Pp. 392.” Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 5, pp. 481–482., https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv1rmh3j.69. 

Stern, Fritz. 1979. Gold and Iron: Bismarck, Bleichröder, and the Building of the German Empire. Vintage Book, 1979. Pp. 478. Quoted in Dr. Wilhelm Bauer, Deutsche Kultur von 1830 bis 1870, in Handbuch der Kulturgeschichte, ed. by Dr. Heinz Kindermann (Potsdam, 1937).

Chamberlain, Houston Stewart. Foundations of the Nineteenth Century. Translated from German by John Lees. with an Introd. by George L. Mosse. H. Fertig, 1977. 

Bureau, U.S. Census. “2020 Census Illuminates Racial and Ethnic Composition of the Country.” Census.gov, United States Census, 15 Oct. 2021, https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2021/08/improved-race-ethnicity-measures-reveal-united-states-population-much-more-multiracial.html. 

Frey, William H. “Less than Half of Us Children under 15 Are White, Census Shows.” Brookings, Brookings, 17 July 2019, https://www.brookings.edu/research/less-than-half-of-us-children-under-15-are-white-census-shows/. 

Atlantic 57, Unlocking the Future of Jewish Engagement, research funded by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Genesis Philanthropy Group, Jim Joseph Foundation, and Maimonides Fund, March 2020. https://www.bjpa.org/content/upload/bjpa/Unlocking_the_Future_-_Full_Report.pdf

Beyond the Count: Perspectives and Lived Experiences of Jews of Color, Commissioned by the Jews of Color Initiative, August 2021. https://jewsofcolorinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/BEYONDTHECOUNT.FINAL_.8.12.21.pdf.

Speakman, Kimberlee. “Hate Crimes In U.S. Reach Highest Levels In 12 Years, FBI Says.” Forbes.com, 3 August. 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimberleespeakman/2021/08/30/hate-crimes-in-us-reach-highest-levels-in-12-years-fbi-says/?sh=2c90021147ec.

Ali, Russlynn. “Dear Colleague Letter from Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights.” Dear Colleague Letter from Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali. — Printable, U.S. Department of Education, https://www2.ed.gov/print/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201010.html.

 

About the Author
Stacey Aviva Flint is a longtime nonprofit and Jewish professional. Currently, she serves as the Executive Director of a Congregation in Colorado. Stacey has a BA in Political Science from the University of Cincinnati, a Masters of Urban Planning and Public Policy for UIC (CHICAGO), and Certificates in Jewish Leadership and Jewish Education from Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. Stacey began her career as the Policy Director for Chicago’s Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA), advocating for housing reform, criminal justice, and Jewish/African-American dialogue. Stacey went on to specialize in Economic Development as Senior Director of Real Estate Development for Affordable Housing, Mixed-Use Spaces, Brownfield Redevelopment, and New Market Tax Credit financing. Stacey is passionate about Jewish African American relationship building with current membership in the MOED of Jewish Federations of North America, Alliance4Israel, a Board Member of West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest, Illinois, and JFS Colorado. In her spare time, she nurtures a college student and a teenager while speaking and writing nationally on Antisemitism and Jews of Color. Learn more about Stacey: Watch her ELI talk: Many Faces – One Community Read Stacey's interview with the Intermountain Jewish News Watch her Juneteenth 2021 Dvar No Liberation without Water at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wm7SwNtkbo4
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