Monday, January 21, 2013

Martin Luther King, Jr, Universal Human Rights, and Bieganski

Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel. Source

Some Polonians believe that "the Jews" are the enemy, and that "the Jews" are responsible for Bieganski, the Brute Polak stereotype.

Some Polonians are convinced that the Brute Polak stereotype is all about Poland's good name. To answer those who say we are all Brutes, we must just say over and over, "Poland is great! Poland is great! Rah Rah Rah!"

No one reading "Bieganski" or this blog, and understanding it, could come to either conclusion.

The book and the blog adduce example after example of Brute Polaks produced by non-Jews. Just a few examples: Catholic publishing houses, Bill Tammeus, a liberal Protestant who blogs at the National Catholic Reporter, Dennis Miller, the Imus show, Barak Obama, NPR, and a Canadian museum. There are too many more examples to offer here.

Shouting "Poland is great rah rah rah!" just feeds the stereotype of Poles as none too bright, narrow-minded chauvinists.

Jews are not "the enemy." Jews are people who are also damaged by stereotyping. We will succeed, not by fighting against Jews, but by allying with those Jews who abhor stereotyping and cherish a significant site of the Jewish Diaspora.

The wise and successful Polonian will recognize, as Linda Wisniewski mentioned in her guest blog post here, that Polonia needs allies. Too, Polonia needs to reframe the discussion against the Brute Polak stereotype, not as a chauvinist exercise – "Poland is great rah rah rah" – but as part of the universal struggle for human dignity.

I deeply admire Martin Luther King's intuitive understanding of the Polish concept of "For your freedom and ours." King understood that his struggle was not just about African Americans, but about universal human rights.

If Polonians wanted to succeed in their struggle against stereotyping, they would adopt the unity, support, and organization emulated by African Americans in the Civil Rights Movement, and as depicted in the must-see film "Eyes on the Prize." And they would follow the plan of action described here.

Dr. King saw the kinship between African Americans, struggling to survive in the face of hate, and Jews. I share his sentiments, and the feelings of Poles like Adam Mickiewicz who recognized a kinship between Poles and Jews.

Quotes from Dr. King on Jews, Israel, and anti-Semitism:

"I cannot stand idly by, even though I happen to live in the United States and even though I happen to be an American Negro and not be concerned about what happens to the Jews in Soviet Russia. For what happens to them happens to me and you, and we must be concerned."

"Israel's right to exist as a state in security is uncontestable."

"Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality."

"I solemnly pledge to do my utmost to uphold the fair name of the Jews -- because bigotry in any form is an affront to us all."

"When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism."

Source of these quotes.


  1. I agree. Additionally, Jewish Poles are appalled at the verbal atrocities of people such as Debbie Schlussel. There was the case of Mr. Ornstein,from the Jewish synagoge of Cracow, who was more than angry at the BBC for using the interview they had with him in a manipulative way-basically they used under 3 minutes, strung together from different bits and pieces, to make an explicite anti-Polish impression (to fit the narrative-"Stadiums of hate"). He pointed out explicitely that this could harm the Jewish congregations in Poland (than again-I have read several times on the Times of Israel, how Jewish Poles should gtfo from that graveyard called Poland and its "soiled earth" and migrate to Israel. many Jewish Americans do rather not envision for themselves but command others to do it seems).

    Booker T. Washington also saw the kinship between Black and Poles, didnt he? Are You aware of this story here, by any chance?


    Look at the picture- these are Polish soldiers-and one of them is unmistakenably black. (according to newest historical reasearch he was the son of a Polish-American from Pennsylvannia and an Afro-American woman, hailing from Haiti, who had Polish ancestors-remember the Polish legions Napolean sent to Haiti...) He came to Poland in order to flee...racism.He was one of several black people who left American and went to Poland in search for dignity and a better life for themselves.

    I believe we could perhaps try to use Facebook as a platform for those sympathetic to our cause-one which would also group scholars, who are on our side? Perhaps You happen to know some? I think it would be even greater if we could include Jewish Poles,rabbis-because justice is one of judaism greatest tenants,after all...

    1. Malcolm X talks in his autobiography about Polish American women dating African American men. Just, fwiw.

    2. Hello,
      As it is in my custom, I post some links. Just to show that Poles are not necessarily racist, German-hating anti-semites.

  2. "When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism."

    While some criticism of Zionism is thinly veiled anti-semitism not all of it is. Zionism as a political philosophy is a form of nationalism and as with any human idea or set of ideas can be subjected to rational, critical discussion. While, as Danusha's book and postings on this blog show, the Bieganski stereotype is deployed and perpetuated by Christians and no-Jews, the fact remains that Jews deploy it as well, and not just Debbie Schlussell and her ilk. In fact, in America few historians and Holocaust scholars (the field is understandably dominated by people of Jewish heritage) ever did anything to combat this stereotype. That it was a stereotype should have been obvious to any serious observer/student of Polish-Jewish relations before Danusha formalised it in her book.
    Note that it was Adam Michnik who responded in the American media to Elie Wiesel's notorious out burst/review of "Fear" which deployed the Bieganski stereotype with interest. Where were the (Jewish) Holocaust scholars then?

    The above is not an argument for the idea that Jews perpetuate Bieganski but only for the obvious fact that some of them do and should be pulled up for it as well. Actually, I don't see that John Connelly's review, which I think is partisan and lob-sided, deploys it at all.

    1. Pawel I agree with you. FWIW, Robert Cherry has done research on Holocaust scholars. It's published in a book. Here is a review:

  3. It is certainly true that not all forms of anti-Zionism are anti-Semitism. In fact, some Orthodox Jews are anti-Zionists, because they believe that only the Messiah can legitimately restore the Jewish State.

    As for the 1960's Civil Rights movement and Poles, I have reviewed a book by Donald Pienkos that discusses this subject. {To see my review, please click on my name in this specific posting.]

    High hopes about the universalist aspects of the Civil Rights movement were, unfortunately, dashed. Instead of seeing discrimination against Poles dealt with, Polish-Americans found themselves lumped with "whites", along with the sweeping generalization that "whites are privileged." Soon thereafter, Poles found themselves on the wrong end of affirmative action policies.

  4. Jan mentions "white privilege." In fact students in school are taught that all whites are privileged and all "persons of color" are victims. Poor whites -- privileged. OJ Simpson -- a victim.

    One publication used to teach this concept is called "Invisible Backpack" by Peggy McIntosh. IIRC, one of the assertions of McIntosh is that whites are never suspected of stealing anything at work. (I may be remembering this wrong. It's been a while since I've read it.)

    I recently published an essay "Green Vase" about being a cleaning woman, like thousands of other Bohunk cleaning women.

    I was (falsely) accused of stealing something.

    My fellow professor, Jennifer Swift Kramer, pointed out that my experience runs counter to the accepted narrative in academia. I am white but poor.

    My "Green Vase" essay is here:

    1. Exactly. And we seem to have gone from being simply "unter" due to our not being Wasps, to being "unter" because we had been "uber" due to white privilege (i must have blinked and missed the two seconds when that happened) - so we have to be "untered" to make up for having had all that privilege.

      Oh, and we are, of course, all as thick as two short planks, while being the evil geniuses behind the crimes of the Axis Powers.

      As I may have said before, I am now so confused that I can't remember if its Eastasia or Eurasia I am supposed to be cheering on this week.

  5. we have more in common with the whites of appalachia and the midwest(derisively referred to as flyover country) than with these "professors" who all smell the same


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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