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April 1991


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 12 Apr 91 14:06:54 CDT
text/plain (35 lines)
> Without wanting to enter the debate about Campbell's putative
> anti-semitism, whether one "should" care about it, and so on,
> I do want to ask, Ben, that you reconsider your use of the
> word "racism" in your phrase about "being an antisemite or any other
> form of racist."  Hitler defined Jews as members of a race.
> I don't.  To me, a Yemenite Jew is just as much a Jew as a Canadian
> Jew.  Not all invidious "isms" are racisms, and the notion that
> being Jewish is congenital and ineradicable speaks from the
> position of the bigots.  (Yes, I know that orthodox Jewish
> law defines a Jew as anyone born of a Jewish mother and does
> not recognize conversion, but the vast majority of the world's
> Jews--of all races--are not orthodox.)  I take pains to separate
> myself from that language.  I urge others do the same.
Race, racism and anti-Semitism are all contested terms that carry a number of
ambiguities and contradictions.  We should recognize the political and
rhetorical strategies of referring to anyone, Jews included, as being members
of a particular race.  If you examine the ideological underpinnings of racism
and anti-Semitism, you can see there are a great deal of similarities.  Both
attempt to, in Allport's words, construct an Other.  Both are predicated on a
wayof seeing, not on any innate biological trait.  And both remain embedded at
the level of personal beliefs, but also institutional practices.
I would agree that to refer to Jews as a race is indeed problematic.  But I
think it is important in our academic and activist work to link anti-Semitism
and racism as the oppressive ideologies that they are, regardless of who is
the victim of this kind of hate.  Being a member of New Jewish Agenda, I'm
going to make a plug for our forthcoming pamphlet and conference on
anti-Semitism and racism.  If you'd like to find out more, please send an
email message to me.
Steve Carr
Dept. of Radio-TV-Film