American Anti-Semitism in Context

By Ta-Nehisi Coates
I found this comment from yesterday's post helpful:

One observation. Many non-Jews and Jews view Jews as a distinct group within (or even outside of) the larger caucasian group. I think this is important context for understanding the Jewish reaction to the likes of Farrakhan. There's something far less threatening (to me, at least) about Farrakhan calling whites the devil than when he targeted his hatred specifically at Jews. Whites are the majority and are at little risk of widespread, systemic discrimination. 

For Jews it has been a common experience across the planet and over generations, even if it's been relatively benign in the US. Even though there's no comparison to be made between the scope and extent of anti-semitism in the US as compared to racism/discrimination toward african americans, jews remain a minority, subject at times to the whims and biases of the majority.
I disagree with the first portion of this, in that I don't think most black people actually view Jews as particularly distinct from other white people. We obviously recognize that some white people are Southern, and some white people are from Jersey, and some white people are Catholic, and some white people poor etc. But there's very little overarching sense that Jews are subject to the same quizzical gaze as, say, Hispanics.

With that said, I think this post makes an important point that isn't immediately obvious to a lot of black people. Even more so than blacks, Jews are a minority, and their particular past offers many instances of that dynamic birthing catastrophic injustice. To bring this full circle. Black people are unlikely to think of Jews as a minority. We see them as white, and thus empowered by all the alliances and societal capital which whiteness bestows. But if you grant that in the mind of at least some (?) Jews, their allegiance to whiteness is more tenuous, you understand how "Jewish devil" can threaten in a way that "white devil" does not.

There's something to be said here about relative wealth, and the differences between America and Europe. But not very much. Understanding why someone who is different from you reacts in a certain manner is often more important than debating the "objective truth" of their reaction. Even acknowledging the legitimacy of that "why" will often make a debate over "objective truth" more clarifying. 

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/03/american-anti-semitism-in-context/254392/