Who Do You Believe When You’re Called a Racist?

Stentor says that since racism is an objective rather than subjective phenomenon, majority-race people should accept minorities’ judgments in assessing whether they engage in racism.

If you (as a white person, at least) bring out the standard “I’m not a racist” line, that pretty much means you are one. And I don’t mean that just in the sense that everyone in our society is at least a little bit racist. If you think that you have the authority and ability to make a definite statement about your own racism, that implies that you think racism is wholly subjective, making the question about you rather than about the people of other races who are affected by your actions.

Of course, the obvious problem with that is that minorities aren’t always right. Jews, at least those who get heard in the media, scream at everyone who’s even neutral on the I/P conflict that he’s an anti-Semite. Being an oppressed minority doesn’t always make one right. The gentiles I know who think American foreign policy should be less pro-Likud – Amanda and Tyler come to mind – dismiss claims of anti-Semitism, and rightly so. They’d be right to dismiss those claims even if they didn’t have people like me or Lindsay or Ezra to point to, since after all, there exist blacks who support anti-black racism, too.

Usually, the left responds by creating a distinction between oppressed groups – women, black people, Native Americans, Hispanics – and groups that are not oppressed. That conveniently gets rid of radical Christians who believe the entire world hates them, as well as of Jews who totalize the I/P conflict. The problem is that this distinction tends to be based more on soundbites rather than on who really is oppressed, leading to e.g. silence on grave racism practiced in socialist countries. As I noted on Debitage,

Gravatar Stentor, the problem with applying the “racism is objective” standard to things like mascots is that you have to make a determination of which groups are oppressed and which aren’t. You can sometimes do it by consensus, but it gets short-circuited a lot. The Western left took 20 years to get disillusioned about Zionism; in the 1940s and 50s it trumpeted Israel’s socialism and Jewish nationalism, regardless of how many Arabs Israel was oppressing.

At the same time, just asking people makes no sense. For what it’s worth, conservative Christians feel oppressed, too. And Jews themselves tend not to appreciate being written out of the coalition of the oppressed; that’s why you have large numbers of neoconservatives who think anyone who believes Palestinians should have rights is anti-Semitic. Having written things that made people call me self-loathing and that would have made them call me anti-Semitic if my name were Jackson rather than Levy, I can sympathize with the majority-race person who gets trapped by ridiculous demands of solidarity.

On a somewhat related note, please remind me to write about how exactly Zionism got booted out of the coalition of the oppressed. The simplest explanation – the Six Day War turned Israel from a small country in hostile territory to an occupying power – is gravely wrong.

At any rate, another problem with refusing to argue, “I’m not a racist because…” is that people’s judgment varies. One black person might read my posts on race and conclude I’m an arrogant white person who thinks he knows what’s best for black people. Another might read them and conclude I’m friendly to black Americans’ civil rights. Who do I believe, then?

This is especially relevant to the issue Stentor is generalizing from, native American mascots. My own position is that it’s a non-issue. I don’t think my university has one, nor do I care, but if it were put to a vote of all students, I’d oppose a native mascot mostly on tackiness grounds. I reserve the right to choose which issues I care about, and symbolic issues tend to round up the bottom of my list; I care more about wage gaps and educational gaps than about mascots.

It’s entirely possible that in fact most native Americans care about mascots more, though I highly doubt it. But even if I’m wrong, I’m not obliged to think what most native Americans think. Again, use the Jew test: not only do the most visible Jews in the US media tend to think unconditionally supporting Israel is more important than fighting anti-Semitic bigotry in the US, but also 65% of Jews in Connecticut voted for Lieberman in 2006, suggesting his hawkishness appeals to them. And still I’ll defend anyone who says it’s idiotic for conservative American Jews to totalize Israel and ignore domestic Dominionism; I would even if I didn’t have a name that provided a trump card against accusations of anti-Semitism.

32 Responses to Who Do You Believe When You’re Called a Racist?

  1. SLC says:

    1. Mr. Levys’ assertion that he is shielded from charges of antisemitism because his last name is Levy is hopelessly naive. Would he assert that Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein are similarly shielded? For that matter, are Clarence Thomas, Larry Elder, and Tomas Sowell shielded from the charge of being anti-black because they are black? The fact is that Finkelstein and Chomsky are antisemitic self-hating Jews and Thomas, Elder, and Sowell are self hating uncle toms. By the way, although I am certainly not at all shy about attacking Israel bashers, I am careful not to accuse them of necessarily being antisemitic (I have not accused James Earl Carter of being antisemitic, just being a moron).

    2. Somewhat off-topic but apropos, a link to a column by Mr. Levys’ favorite columnist follows.

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1171894497791&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

  2. Roy says:

    Interesting timing, Mr. Levy. There was a similar debate (with regards to sexism) in a thread at feministe.

    It’s troubling anytime someone says something like “I found it offensive when you did X. No matter what your intent was, or what X was, the problem is you.”

    Certainly, I think it makes sense to consider other people’s reactions, but the suggestion that the intent, or even the action itself, don’t matter compared to how a group or individual react is just silly. I guess it sort of all matters, doesn’t it?

  3. SLC says:

    Having a last name Levy is not an automatic trump card against the charge of antisemitism, any more then having a last name Finkelstein is. Or, any more then being black like Clarence Thomas, Larry Elder, or Thomas Sowell is a trump card for being accused of being anti-black.

  4. muppt says:

    Can you really trust the owner of Wikipedia, mr. Jimbo Wales? whom also believe “Atlas Shrugged” is the greatest book ever written, and whom also claim that income tax is unethical.

  5. muppt says:

    In fact, most communists and socialists are so frustrated with Wikipedia, that they created Anarchopedia http://eng.anarchopedia.org/index.php/Main_Page

    So it makes you wonder, does Wikipedia actully has both right wing & left wing bias?

  6. muppt says:

    hey, take a look at anarchopedia’s entry on Wikipedia, it’s quiet hilarious.

    http://eng.anarchopedia.org/index.php/wikipedia

  7. Alon Levy says:

    Would he assert that Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein are similarly shielded? For that matter, are Clarence Thomas, Larry Elder, and Tomas Sowell shielded from the charge of being anti-black because they are black?

    To some extent, yes. Michelle Malkin would never get away with defending crass racism if she were white. And Chomsky is so far left that his “The entire world is biased in favor of the Jews” rhetoric tends to trump the fact that he’s Jewish himself.

  8. SLC says:

    Re Levy

    The harshest critics of Uncle Toms like Clarence Thomas are other black Americans.

    Another link to a column by Mr. Levys’ second favorite columnist.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/22/AR2007022201453.html?sub=AR

  9. Tyler DiPietro says:

    As far as racism goes, a lot of things are like Native American mascots. That is, they reinforce stereotypes but are pretty much non-issues in comparison to real problems in the country with racism.

    Italian-Americans are notorious for trying to keep alive the spectre of the real racism Italians sufferred in the past. Groups like OSIA constantly harp on the image of Italians in popular media, i.e., shows like The Sopranos and just about everything that involves organized crime, as a bunch of clannish gangsters who are totally inept without mafia connivance. My position is that while this exists, it’s really not something to worry about. And trust me, I’ve known my share racist treatment from others (an interesting example: I learned the word “ginni” from my kidnergarden teacher, and not in a neutral way).

    I think we would do well to distinguish between the harmless and the truly harmful. I don’t think that I’ve ever been turned down for a job because of my Italian-ness, but I know for a fact that black friends of mine have.

  10. muppt says:

    Is Obama an uncle Tom?

  11. muppt says:

    hey DiPietro, are you working part-time as a plumber? ha ha ha!

  12. Tyler DiPietro says:

    hey DiPietro, are you working part-time as a plumber? ha ha ha!

    Get a job, loser. Maybe if you had something you occupy your time you’d spend less time spamming other people’s threads with anti-Semitic conspiracy bullshit.

  13. muppt says:

    btw, is Italian a race now?

  14. SLC says:

    Re muppt

    Mr. muppt, they’re all Zionists save me and thee and I have my doubts about thee.

  15. Ruchira Paul says:

    Without getting into the serious issue of what constitutes racism – the words, the speaker, the target etc. I will recount something mildly humorous. (As an immigrant American myself and having weighed the issue from a 360 degree angle, I am beginning to believe that racism may be something like obscenity. We know it when we are faced with it.)

    Years ago, my son had a high school mate Ben who was Jewish. Ben was quick to anger and given to taking offense where none was meant. Most of his confrontations with his friends ended with accusations of anti-Semitism (the high school was overwhelmingly white Christian). Then one day, Ben got into an altercation with the only other Jewish boy in the class. This time, Ben ended his tirade by spitting out the epithet “Zionist!”

  16. Ran Halprin says:

    The reason many Jews blame those who speak against Israel with anti-semiticism, is the fact that any other country will get away with 10 times the attrocoties that Israel allegedly commits, while not suffering even a fraction of terrorism or wars that Israel has suffered.

    A person who speaks with rage against Israel’s war in Lebanon where a few thousand civilians were killed while Israel acted in self defense (and took precautions to limit civilians casualties) but does not utter a word about the millions who died in Serbia, Sudan, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc in aggressive offensive attacks – is probably antisemitic. There is no other reason to choose only the country of the jews and attack it for defending itself, while ignoring the massive killings performed by other nations for political, economic or ethnic cleansing reasons.

    A person that damands that “occupied Palestinian lands must be returned to their Arab owners”, but does not say a word about the Irish lands taken by the UK (in an agressive move), the Aztec lands taken by the white Ameircans (again agression), nor the Aborigine’s lands (again agression), nor about all of Europe eventually taken by agression at some point, must be anti-semitic. Otherwise, he would first demand that agressive countries return land taken at an offensive war, before demanding that land taken in a defensive war be returned.

    Ah, oops, most of these lands cannot be returned, because the occupiers slaughtered every last one of those civilians whose lands they occupy.

    I could go on and on with specific examples, but the bottom line is simple – Israel is far higher in the moral scale above most of its criticizers.

  17. SLC says:

    Re Ran Halprin

    Not, of course to forget the activities of Hafaz Assad, the author of Hama Rules. 20,000 people killed in 2 days in the City of Hama. Not a bad two days’ work.

  18. Alon Levy says:

    A person that damands that “occupied Palestinian lands must be returned to their Arab owners”, but does not say a word about the Irish lands taken by the UK (in an agressive move), the Aztec lands taken by the white Ameircans (again agression), nor the Aborigine’s lands (again agression), nor about all of Europe eventually taken by agression at some point, must be anti-semitic.

    I’ll make a deal with you. If Israel gives Palestinians the same status Britain is giving the Irish in Northern Ireland, including full voting rights, I’ll stop calling it an occupation.

  19. SLC says:

    Re Halprin and Levy

    How about the entire USA and Canada, stolen from Native Americans by white European settlers? The State of Isreal should agree to return all land taken from the Palestinians when Americans and Canadians agree to return all land taken from the Native Americans.

  20. muppt says:

    and all human must return all the land they stole from monkeys.

  21. Alon Levy says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t monkeys, other than humans, strictly old-world species?

  22. KH says:

    The jungles are full of New World monkeys. Confusing monkeys with apes?

  23. Ran Halprin says:

    I’ll make a deal with you. If Israel gives Palestinians the same status Britain is giving the Irish in Northern Ireland, including full voting rights, I’ll stop calling it an occupation.

    Israel’s occupation is different from the UK’s. The UK occupied with the intention to hold the land forever (Annexation), while Israel occupied in self defense, when it was attacked. It is a military occupancy, similar to Iraq. Since then, Israel tried to negotiate and give the local residents sovereignty over their lands (Israel does not claim that these lands belong to it, the official stance is that it is a temporary situation) – but these local resident REFUSE any offer to becoming a state, and choose terrorism instead.

    Since you yourself stated that even if you were the PM of Israel you would not do anything differently from what Olmert is doing, isn’t it extremely hypocritical to keep on noising about this issue?

  24. Ran Halprin says:

    The difference from Iraq, btw, is that the US attacked agressivly, unlike Israel who attacked in self defense. And yet you again choose to demand things from Israel, while not demanding the same from your country.

    And again you wonder why you are being accused of being anti-Israel.

  25. Ran Halprin says:

    everyone who’s even neutral on the I/P conflict that he’s an anti-Semite.

    Neutrality is not always easy to agree on. Assume someone kidnaps your child and demands one million dollar. You call the police, and they say “hey, we need to be neutral and balanced, we can’t side only with you – let us negotiate with both sides and reach an agreement, you’ll probably only have to pay half a million”. Would you think they are neutral and that this is good?

    This is exactly how many Israelis feel. Israel has been willing to give 98% of the occupied lands + compensations in favor of establishing a Palestinian state, even though the Palestinians murdered many of their families – yet the Palestinians refused to negotiate at all. If Israel itself is willing to give 98% and the Palestinians refuse, should a neutral stance seek the middle road between 98% and Israel’s destruction? Something along the lines of “destroy half of Israel”?

  26. Alon Levy says:

    The jungles are full of New World monkeys. Confusing monkeys with apes?

    No, just dreadfully ignorant of ecology.

    Since you yourself stated that even if you were the PM of Israel you would not do anything differently from what Olmert is doing, isn’t it extremely hypocritical to keep on noising about this issue?

    You’re assuming Israel is the only side that has agency. In fact, the Prime Minister of Israel is less important than many key figures in the US: the President, the Speaker of the House, even the four main financiers of AIPAC (AIPAC isn’t pro-Likud because it’s meant to be so; it’s pro-Likud because those four financiers are). The Prime Minister of Israel can resume negotiations, but he’ll be thrown out of power before he can do anything. Any of the above mentioned people can change the political map in Israel by cutting off aid.

    And yet you again choose to demand things from Israel, while not demanding the same from your country.

    I don’t know what “My country” is supposed to mean, but if it’s the US, check out my posts about Iraq.

    This is exactly how many Israelis feel.

    This is exactly how all Palestinians feel, Ran.

    Israel has been willing to give 98% of the occupied lands + compensations in favor of establishing a Palestinian state, even though the Palestinians murdered many of their families – yet the Palestinians refused to negotiate at all.

    Yes, after the Intifada. Before it, Barak offered a permanent agreement in which Palestine would have only 91% of the occupied territories, be demilitarized, and get only low-quality territory 3% of the size of the occupied territory in return. That wasn’t a real offer; it was a Pax Hebraica.

  27. Ran Halprin says:

    AIPAC isn’t pro-Likud because it’s meant to be so; it’s pro-Likud because those four financiers are

    First of all, why do you think AIPAC is pro-likud? I haven’t seen the US promoting this party over another. I don’t really think AIPAC care about which party is in power and what they do. I think they just care that Israeli interests (mainly survival) are met by US assistance.

    The Prime Minister of Israel can resume negotiations, but he’ll be thrown out of power before he can do anything

    He can’t resume negotiations, the Palestinian leaders refuse to negotiate.

    Any of the above mentioned people can change the political map in Israel by cutting off aid.

    Cutting off aid will not change internal politics in Israel, it will only speed its annihilation by its enemies. The only reason they stopped trying to destroy Israel with full open war is the fact that they lost 3 times, and this is mostly thanks to the French aid in early times, and US help in the later.

    And yet you again choose to demand things from Israel, while not demanding the same from your country.

    I don’t know what “My country” is supposed to mean, but if it’s the US, check out my posts about Iraq.

    You post about how Israel is doing wrong far more then you do about Iraq. Every little thing that can be turned against Israel, you work hard to do it. Reminds me of how Churchill defined a fanatic: Someone who won’t change his mind, and won’t change the subject.

    This is exactly how all Palestinians feel, Ran.

    Why do you think this? In the name of “neutrality”, throwing Israelis from their homes became mainstream in the world. How is it neutral to demand that Jews destroy their home and leave lands which their ancestors bought with all their savings? I’m not saying that this painful step is out of the question (with due compensation), but it has never been the neutral view on northern Ireland that the English living there will have to leave their homes.

    Yes, after the Intifada. Before it, Barak offered a permanent agreement in which Palestine would have only 91% of the occupied territories, be demilitarized, and get only low-quality territory 3% of the size of the occupied territory in return. That wasn’t a real offer; it was a Pax Hebraica.

    The number you will find in all relevant articles is at least 95%. But even 91% of territories that have never been yours in favor of creating a new nation for your people is an amazing offer – especially since the only thing Israel requested in response is end of hostility. Do you know of any other historical case where such an offer was made by the stronger side in a conflict over lands? I do not. In all cases I know of, stronger powers annihilate resistance, and keep the lands. Israel tried to go above and beyond with good will and got punished with war.

    Furthermore, Arafat refused to give a counter offer. Was this offer not good enough, he could sit down with his advisers and adjust the maps to his liking. He chose instead to launch a war. In fact, this is not surprising when the Palestinian leaders still call for the destruction of Israel.

  28. Alon Levy says:

    Ran, see my post about my right to choose what issues I care about. If you have a problem with my issue emphasis, start your own blog and write about Iraq.

    The “Throwing Israelis from their homes” bit is one way of looking at it. The other is that in a sane world, people don’t have the right to expropriate someone’s land, build a home on it, demand that the military protect them regardless of the cost, and commit grave violations of the expropriated people’s human rights. Yes, removing settlements means reminding settlers that they’re illegal squatters. In related news, abolishing slavery meant expropriating slaveowners’ property; a lot of them complained in precisely the same terms you’re using now, I must add.

  29. Ran Halprin says:

    It’s a free internet, you may very well post 7 times a day about how much Israel is evil – but don’t be surprised when you are labeled an antisemite thereafter, for reasons I have already explained.

    people don’t have the right to expropriate someone’s land, build a home on it

    The settlers did not touch any person’s land, this is just Palestinian propaganda. Most of the homes were built even before the idea of a Palestinian nation was invented. These settlers went to land that was never inhabited by any person, and that Jordan (its former owners) renounced ownership of. They built their homes there, and cultivated the deserted lands.

    The fact that many settlers are fanatic Palestinian haters and some even attack Muslims, is mainly thanks to the Palestinian terrorism. While the mainland Israelis are willing to forgive and forget former hate crimes, the settlers who remain in proximity with the terrorists are constantly reminded why the lands became disputed (Arab aggression), and some of them try to retaliate terror with terror. While most Palestinians support terrorism, and their leadership encourages it – the Israeli courts have no mercy for Israelis who attempt terror against Palestinians, see this example:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,714484,00.html

    Yes, removing settlements means reminding settlers that they’re illegal squatters.

    Don’t fall into Palestinian propaganda. Giving the Palestinians rights over the land while demolishing the Israeli rights over it is biased. Professor Eugene Rostow, former Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs wrote: “the Jewish right of settlement in the area is equivalent in every way to the right of the local population to live there”

    relevant excerpt from an article on the subject:
    The provisions of the Geneva Convention regarding forced population transfer to occupied sovereign territory cannot be viewed as prohibiting the voluntary return of individuals to the towns and villages from which they, or their ancestors, had been ousted. Nor does it prohibit the movement of individuals to land which was not under the legitimate sovereignty of any state and which is not subject to private ownership. In this regard, Israeli settlements have been established only after an exhaustive investigation process, under the supervision of the Supreme Court of Israel, designed to ensure that no communities are established on private Arab land.

  30. John says:

    Arabs are Semites too! That’s why this entire issue about trying to label anyone who feels that Israel should be held accountable for their despicable behavior as anti-Semites, is completely absurd. Arabs want to build bridges, but they build bombs. Why? Becasuse their people, 99% of whom are innocent, are having their homes bulldozed over and relatives killed by crazy Zionists who believe they have the right to do so simply because they claim to be looking for a terrorist. They Jews have been exploiting Christians, who always go along with them because they know that their fairytale considers them God’s chosen people. All Israel needs to do to find the terrorists is look into a mirror!

  31. Vladimir says:

    “The fact is that Finkelstein and Chomsky are antisemitic self-hating Jews and Thomas, Elder, and Sowell are self hating uncle toms.”

    Sounds like someone is more comfortable with vitriol than reason.

  32. Awsome site very unique content keep on doing what you do best and cheers for posting

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