Sunday, January 5, 2020, I was one of an
estimated 25,000 protesters participating in the Solidarity March against
antisemitism. Chilled and tightly packed marchers began in Manhattan's Foley
Square, stepped, painfully slowly, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and congregated in
Cadman Plaza, a protester held up a handmade sign reading "RACIST WHITE
HOUSE." Another man persistently walked in front of that man, carrying a
mass-produced "Solidarity. No Hate No Fear" sign. The first man
shifted position, but the second man would not be deterred. He clearly did not
want Trump-blaming to triumph. The two protesters' eventual shouting match typifies
a national debate. How to understand recent attacks by blacks against Jews? Is
it all Trump's fault, or the fault of white supremacists? Or is there such a
thing as black antisemitism?
was just one of many
attempts to attribute recent attacks on Jews by blacks in the New York City
area to Donald Trump or white people in general. Democratic Michigan
Tlaib blamed "white supremacists." Tlaib is herself a
Palestinian-American who has made inflammatory
statements about Jews. Jewish Currents
Klion warned against "right-wing forces" "exploiting
attacks" to "legitimize racism." An invited speaker at Sunday's
rally said that racism was a problem for "the past three years," that
is, the years that Donald Trump has occupied the White House.
article hopes to demonstrate that, contrary to leftist historical revisionism,
headline-making incidents of black antisemitism stretch back decades. Though
separated by time and space, these incidents share enough features to be
understood as a cultural trend, rather than as the bad behavior of isolated
and analyzing black antisemitism, contra David Klion, is not a "right-wing,"
"racist" exercise. I'm Catholic and Polish-American and I have no
problem calling out Catholic or Polish antisemitism. The folk motif of the blood
libel, the derogatory Polish word "Zydokomuna," the
radio broadcasts of Catholic priest Charles Coughlin, are all part of my
heritage. I explicitly reject them, condemn them, and distance myself from
them. No, all African Americans are not antisemitic; only a minority are, but denunciation
is all the more vital and urgent given persistent efforts to deny the very
existence of black antisemitism, and to silence any discussion of it.
Wallach, a Times of Israel blogger, quotes
antisemitic themes in African American writing dating back to 1965. A
previous Front Page article mentioned the 1995 Freddy's Fashion Mart
protests that culminated in eight killings, the deadly 1991 Crown Heights
pogrom, Khalid Abdul Muhammad's 1993 speech at Kean College, and the 2002 Amiri
Baraka poem that blamed Jews for the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
another incident. On January 17, 1994, Castlemont High School students went to
the movies in Oakland, California. The movie was Schindler's List. The students talked
and laughed continuously throughout the film until, one hour into the
showing, theater manager Allen Michaan stopped the projector. Audience members,
with anger," complained. "I've never seen such furious, hurt
customers. Some were Holocaust survivors, and one woman was sobbing," Michaan
said. The students were asked to leave and their departure was applauded by
the audience. A Castlemont student said that audience members applauding her
departure was "so
uncomfortable." An NPR producer highlighted how victimized the
students felt. "There was always a feeling of being policed or policing
yourself if you're young, brown, and carefree in a white space. That can harden
you really quick." Castlemont students' behavior made national news.
in 1994, prominent persons said that African American students should not be
criticized for laughing at Jewish suffering because African American students
have very hard lives and are victims of oppression. When Schindler's List producer and director Steven Spielberg visited the
school, the Jerusalem Post reported on
April 13, 1994, "About 100 students and others protested Spielberg's
appearance, saying the Holocaust does not speak directly to them." "We
don't have any problem talking about their
Holocaust. But there hasn't been anything about the Asian holocaust, the Latino
holocaust, the black holocaust," said one Castlemont student. Another
student said, "It was long ago and far away and about people we never met.
We don't know about those concentration camps, but I do hear a lot of Jew
jokes." Another student said, "We see death and violence in our
community all the time. People cannot understand how numb we are toward
violence." And another, "I don't want to hear anything about anybody
else's Holocaust before I hear my own."
protesting Spielberg's visit carried signs that said, "How can a Zionist
Jew teach us about racism and oppression?" and "Zionist Jews are the
new Nazis." Before Spielberg took the mic, a student performed a monologue
that began, "Dear Mr. President, I am a woman with three children and no
food to eat."
Republican Governor, Pete Wilson, accompanied Spielberg. Wilson had previously
said that welfare "seduces teenage girls into a life of poverty and
encourages irresponsibility." One student said to Wilson that she saw his
visit "as an opportunity to vent the anger, and the spite, and the
animosity I feel toward your entire time in office. I mean, I want to know was
your main purpose in portraying yourself through the streets of my city where
you have cut welfare, education, and many young futures, like mine" (sic).
A Castlemont teacher
organized an "African Holocaust Day. There were musicians and African
dancers, lectures on ancient Egypt and Jim Crow." A speaker "wearing
a regal brown and gold dashiki, a kufi, with a leather-bound neck pouch, walked
up and down the front of a classroom, commanding students' attention, pointing
to placards listing the names of people who had been lynched … This is the Maafa … Maafa is another word for the African Holocaust." One
student's takeaway from these presentations was the
false impression that "Slave ships were owned by Jews." A Jewish
social worker at the school was asked, "Did your family own slaves?"
Hanlon said that many students' comments reflected their feeling that
"their own history and suffering were largely ignored and that before they
should be asked to understand another communities' suffering, they should be
allowed to learn more about their own." Spielberg agreed, telling students
that they were victims
of bad press. Partly
in reparations for these black students' alleged victimization, Steven Spielberg made Amistad, about a slave uprising.
1997, the Washington Post published the false claim that "The only people who laughed
during Schindler's List were
skinheads." National Public Radio's This
American Life addressed the Castlemont incident in 2018. Times of Israel blogger James
Inverne argued that This American
Life's handling of the topic perpetuated the notion that if Jews protest
against antisemitism expressed by black people, they risk "creating more
hatred towards Jews."
different event, thousands of miles away, echoes some of the same themes
evident in the Castlemont incident. Those who insist that "black antisemitism"
is a misnomer meant to distract attention from white racists, a recent
invention, or that blacks who commit antisemitic acts are programmed to do so
by white racists or Donald Trump might be surprised by a New York Times article entitled, "Jews Debating Black
by racial and religious hatred … a shocked Jewish community is debating what to
do about it," the article begins. The article mentions suspicious
synagogue fires in New York City. Some Jewish leaders quoted in the article argue
for "vigorous" condemnation and counter action. Others fear that
"defensive reaction might bring on a backlash and hasten the political
antisemitism that all Jews seek to avoid." Some argue that the Holocaust
ended antisemitism. Others allege that anti-Jewish "incitement" gains
momentum when religious, cultural and political leaders de not rapidly condemn
it. When New York City's mayor did speak out against antisemitism, a black
teacher responded that the mayor was trying to "appease the powerful
Jewish financiers of the city."
Debating Black Antisemitism" feels entirely of the moment. It reads as if
it had been published in 2020. It wasn't. The Times published this article on January 26, 1969, fifty-one years
ago. The article is as if frozen in amber. The same debates are happening
today, and there has been no resolution to them. "Jews Debating Black
Antisemitism" concerns one of the most headline-grabbing outbreaks of
allegations of black antisemitism. These allegations swirled around the 1968 Ocean
Hill-Brownsville teachers' strike.
a Brooklyn neighborhood, changed over decades from being predominantly Jewish
to being increasingly black. Teachers were often Jewish. In the late sixties,
African American activists demanded community control of schools. These
activists were funded, ironically enough, by the Ford Foundation. This funding
source for what would become an antisemitic manifestation is ironic because
Henry Ford himself was a notorious anti-Semite. By 1968, Henry Ford had been
dead for twenty-one years. His foundation, Heather
MacDonald argues, had been radicalized into a steamroller of leftist social
engineering. The Ford Foundation, MacDonald writes, exercised its considerable
financial might to advance black separatists and anti-Semites. African American
Civil Rights leader Bayard Rustin was critical of the black separatist
position, but he didn't have the heft of the Ford Foundation at his back.
Jewish teachers. Albert Shanker lead teachers on what has been called the
longest and largest teachers' strike in US history. Shanker became so nationally
prominent that his name was the punchline in a 1973 Woody Allen movie, Sleepers.
teachers protested, saying that they had seniority and that their dismissal was
based on their racial identity, rather than their competence or qualifications.
An African American judge determined that there
were no credible accusations against these teachers, but activist Rhody
McCoy stated, "Not one of these teachers will be allowed to teach anywhere
in the city. The black community will see to that." Activist Sonny Carson said,
"I don't think that any white person is interested in giving a black child
an education … By any means necessary [whites] are going to be kept out." Pamphlets
appeared alleging that Jews are "Blood-sucking Exploiters and
Murderers … the So-Called Liberal Jewish Friend … is Really Our Enemy and He is
Responsible For the Serious Educational Retardation of Our Black
Children." "The Black Community Must Unite Itself Around The Need To
Run Our Own Schools And To Control Our Own Neighborhoods Without Whitey Being
Anywhere On The Scene," the pamphlet said.
rhetoric was sometimes accompanied by violence. Leslie Campbell was a teacher
who, like many involved in this strike, would go on to jettison his "slave
name" and take an African-inspired name, in his case Jitu Weusi. In
another case, a student named "Cheryl"
became "Monifa". Campbell / Weusi exhorted
his students, "You have to stop fighting among yourselves … You've got
to get your minds together. If you steal, steal from those who have it. … When
the enemy taps you on the shoulder, send him to the cemetery. You know who your
enemy is." Afterward, three teachers were injured "including one
white woman who was punched, had her hair torn, and her clothes ripped."
Rev. C. Herbert Oliver was chairman of the new community-control governing
board. He signed the letters dismissing the Jewish teachers. When he was
confronted on how his terminations would hurt the teachers and also hurt
black-Jewish relations, Rev. Oliver said, "We have had three hundred years
of scars and it's about time those scars were healing." In other words,
Rev. Oliver argued that black suffering trumped any suffering the teachers
might experience from being abruptly dismissed from their jobs, and that
progress is a zero sum game. For blacks to advance, others must go back.
promoted their idea of an appropriate education for black students. Students
were told that they descend from the Yoruba tribe, and from "African kings
and queens." They were trained to perform African drumming and dances. One
student remembers feeling humiliated and terrorized by her "white"
schoolwork. Students were taught that "racism is inherent in the
educational system" a system rife with "white privilege and white
ignorance." This "white" schoolwork, for example, taught that
Isaac Newton made advances in the sciences and mathematics. They were taught
that Newton's work was not new, and Africans were the first to come up with
innovations attributed to Newton. Students in the new curriculum read Malcolm
X, Marcus Garvey, H. Rap Brown, and Mao Tse Tung. "We became international,"
one former student remembers. "It's a good thing because black people are
the Third World." "We're going to do Kwanza and not Christmas," another
student remembered." We will, she said, "get rid of white Jesus."
Students sang the Black
National Anthem. (Accounts can be found here, here, here, here, and here.)
curriculum suggests at least one potential irritant between blacks and Jews in
the Ocean Hill-Brownsville strike. When Ashkenazi Jews first arrived in the US
in large numbers in the late nineteenth century, they were a visible, vulnerable,
hated and vilified minority. Many Jewish immigrants to America responded to
their ghetto identity by shaving their beards, adopting American dress, and
naming their children "Sylvia" and "Sheldon," non-Jewish
names selected by Jewish immigrants exactly because the names were not Jewish.
These Americanized Jews became teachers, and no doubt many believed that they
were handing black children the keys they themselves had used to enter Die Goldene Medina, the Golden Land.
were not just teaching these keys to success in America. Jews embodied these
keys. A mere 23 years before the strike, Auschwitz and Dachau were still
functioning. American Ivy League universities still had anti-Jewish quotas, and
social, housing, travel, occupation, and employment opportunities were restricted
for American Jews. And yet Jews overcame. Public education played no small part
in their rise.
Shanker epitomized this saga. Shanker's mother, Mamie, was from a family
impoverished by antisemitic laws and corruption in Russia. Mamie herself had to
hide in a Christian neighbor's barrel under potatoes to survive a pogrom. Her
half-sister was raped by soldiers and subsequently died. Shanker's
father, "Morris rose at 2 A.M. seven days a week, pushed a cart
stacked with bundles of the city's half dozen morning newspapers through a
five-mile area of Queens, then returned at 10 A.M. to deliver the afternoon
newspapers." Shanker hardly ever saw his father. His
mother worked long hours in a sweatshop. "So grueling was her work
that Mr. Shanker once visited her factory and could not recognize her as she
sat bent in sweaty concentration at her [sewing] machine." Even so, Mamie
bought and discussed novels and poetry and attended the opera when she could
afford the "standing room only" section. Shanker didn't speak English
when he entered school. He encountered antisemitism. But he excelled. Shanker learned
"the value of public education to civic identity." The phrase
"civic identity" is key. Part of public schools job is "e pluribus unum": out of many, one.
Shanker entered school a despised Jew who could not speak English. He emerged
as an American leader of national importance.
teachers wanted to hand these keys over to black students. Their very presence
announced, "America is a Golden Land. We did it. You can, too. Yes, you
will face prejudice, but don't respond with violence or despair; respond with
hard work, family support, and determination." That route was rejected by black
nationalists. During the Ocean Hill-Brownsville strike, the Jews who traveled
and embodied that route were rejected, as well.
Eunice G. Pollack argues
that "Black nationalists wanted to discredit the integrationist movement.
Malcolm X called the March on Washington the Farce on Washington. Black
nationalists are black separatists. The way to discredit integration is to
discredit the leading whites of the integrationist movement, the Jews. 'They
are really Nazis. They dominated the slave trade,'" black nationalists
falsely claim of Jews.
white teachers educate non-white students? If black students do poorly in
schools, is that because of their white teachers' racism? Do black students
require "Afrocentric" curricula to succeed? Do efforts to raise
student self-esteem improve student academic performance? Should liberals
support unions and their concept of seniority, or identity politics and the
black-teachers-for-black-students model? If white teachers can't teach black
students, can black teachers teach white students? Are there such things as
educational standards, authority, and competence, or do standards vary
depending on the skin color of the student? Is it more important for a black
student to learn African drumming or reading, writing, and arithmetic, that is,
subjects that have constituted a basic curriculum for millennia? Is education
"white" and "racist"? Does one group – for example, newly
hired black teachers – rise only at the expense of another group – that is, the
Jewish teachers whose employment was terminated? Can we ever overcome
tribalism? Do we want to? Does progress have to be a zero sum game?
remarkable document emerged from the Ocean Hill-Brownsville teachers' strike. On
December 26, 1968, Campbell / Weusi appeared on WBAI, a left-wing radio
station. Campbell read a poem that he said was written by one of his students
in response to Jewish teachers. There are various versions of the poem on the
version is below.
Jew boy, with that yarmulke on your head
pale faced Jew boy. I wish you were dead.
see you Jew boy. No you can't hide.
a scoop on you. Yeh, you gonna die.
the murder of six million Jews
reign lasted for only fifteen years
that period of time you shed crocodile tears
suffering lasted for over 400 years, Jew boy …
you took my religion and adopted it for you
you know that black people were the original Hebrews.
January 29, 2019, the Brooklyn Historical Society hosted a fiftieth-anniversary
commemoration of the Ocean Hill-Brownsville strike. An audience member who
identified as a former teacher and member of the African Teachers' Association recommended the
poem. Audience members applauded. They were probably ignorant of the poem's
contents. But no one on the invited panel of experts objected, and either they
knew the contents of the poem and let the mention slide, or they were not, as
there are consistent cultural threads connecting events as dispersed as a teachers'
strike over fifty years ago, a high school field trip twenty-six years ago, and
recent violent attacks. Both the Rev. C. Herbert Oliver and Castlemont high
students cited black suffering as justification for indifference to Jewish
suffering. One version of Jitu Weusi's student's poem identifies Jews as imposters
who have stolen black people's real identity from them. That very libel fueled
both the 2019 Jersey City killers and the Monsey stabber.
concept of Jews as thieves of black identity is the new blood libel. It is a
metaphor. Those who embrace it are saying, "Jews, you are paler than I am
and you have suffered. You are stealing my narrative that identifies all blacks
as victims and all whites as privileged. Your suffering teaches people that
blacks are not the only people who have suffered. Suffering offers some
rewards, and I will not share those rewards with you. Suffering is a
competition, a kind of Olympic event. You have the Nazi era? I will claim
hundreds of years of slavery and trump you. If you mention millennia of
antisemitism, and that Jews were slaves in Egypt, I will deny your story and
insist that you stole it from me. I will claim that the Bible's characters were
too, echo down the years. Should we ignore black antisemitism, on the grounds
that black people have suffered enough, and are stereotyped enough, and any
attention brought to black antisemitism only increases black people's
considerable burdens? If we draw attention to antisemitic motivations for
violent behavior, do we risk increasing that behavior and damaging important
alliances? We asked these questions fifty years ago, and we ask them today.
a minority of black people are anti-Semites, but those that are, are not lone
wolves. They are not inventing the wheel. Rather, they are steeped in a
significant cultural trend, a trend that persons of conscience will name,
confront, analyze, and denounce.
This first appeared at Front Page magazine here
As per your comments on the widely-seen movie Schindler's List, some African-Americans, notably Khalil Muhammed, complained that its popularity made invisible the sufferings of African-Americans.ReplyDelete
“Should we ignore black antisemitism, on the grounds that black people have suffered enough, and are stereotyped enough, and any attention brought to black antisemitism only increases black people's considerable burdens?”ReplyDelete
The tyranny of political correctness.
I would like to send a donation. Could you please post a PO box mailing address for donations? thank you!ReplyDelete
Thank you that's very kind of you. I don't have a PO Box. I will have to think of something.Delete
Thank you that's very kind of you. I don't have a PO Box. I will have to think of something.Delete