Yesterday thearcanetheory completely derailed my post which was about ant-black racism, because I dared mention the creator was a white Jew. Even though it was very clear from the OP that I was angry his bullshit film and not his Jewish identity. And, she, like all the other pressed people, have…
I missed most of this intersectionality clusterfuck thanks to Shavuot, but it has been all over my dash and in my inbox since. And honestly, I’m very hesitant to respond, because the most important point to make in all this is something that I shouldn’t be the one to say.
Your blog is about being rude as fuck to anti-black people, because somebody damn well should be. My blog is about being rude as fuck to antisemitic people, because somebody damn well should be. But if those two aims are at cross-purposes, then we’ve fucked up—and it’s Black Jews, the people with skin in both games, who suffer most from that.
And neither I as a white Jew(*) nor you as a black Gentile have any right to speak for them, let alone squabble over them like dogs over a fucking bone. Because although both of us have blood ties to Black Jews (yes, Jewishness is an ethnicity), neither of our communities is a safe space for them, and neither of us can claim them as simply “one of my people” with a straight face.
When Black Jews in America enter predominantly white-passing Jewish spaces, their authenticity is questioned or outright denied. They are tokenized. They are subjected to the disdain and hostility many Jews give converts, on the ignorant, racist assumption that all Jews-by-birth are white-passing. They hear anti-black racist statements followed by (if they’re lucky) a “but not you” caveat. Yiddish has an anti-black slur in its dictionary—and yes, some Jews use it. When those same Black Jews enter predominantly Gentile black spaces, they face “race traitor” accusations from Black Power groups, Nation of Islam members, and others who claim that Jews “controlled” the American slave trade. They hear antisemitic slurs and stereotypes. Their experiences and identity are erased and appropriated by groups like the Black Israelites. They are tokenized and used to further conspiracy theories that Ashkenazi Jews are fakes, cheats, and Khazars(^)—even though many Black Jews are Ashkenazi.
Nor is this just an American issue. In Israel, the Beta Israel face forcible birth control, suppression of their cultural practices of Judaism, slurs, ghettoization, and poverty, and de facto immigration quotas. In Ethiopia, the Beta Israel were deprived of their land, labeled “Fal*shas” (literally “garbage”), restricted in their movements and living areas, forcibly converted, and massacred by black Ethiopian Christians.
Black Jews have no safe spaces.
Antisemitism, even against white-passing Jews, hurts Black Jews. Anti-black racism, even against black Gentiles, hurts Black Jews. And because that is the case, both our communities need to (a) work on our goddamned intersectionality issues and (b) stop speaking over (or arguing who has the better “claim” to) Black Jews. Period.
Also, that “Fritz the Cat” movie is fucking disgusting, and Bakshi is undeniably racist scum (he also wrote/directed a film called “Coonskin” which I’m told is every bit as awful as the title suggests…and which Bakshi claims is his “best film”). So fuck him.
And that’s all I have to say about this.
(*) As the blond, blue-eyed, WASP-surnamed, U.S.-based daughter of a white man and a white-coding Ashkenazi woman, I would feel ridiculous calling myself anything other than white. That is, however, a personal call, and I in no way mean to okay the application of the term “white Jew” to any other ethnic Jew. Just so we’re all perfectly clear on that.
(^) The reason Jews tend to react with such outrage to “all the people in the Bible were black” is because nine times out of ten, that statement is made as “evidence” that Ashkenazi Jews aren’t descended from the ancient Hebrews. In truth, some characters in the Bible were absolutely black (Moses’s wife and children, for instance—Aaron and Miriam’s disgust that Moses married “a Cushite woman” is probably the earliest documented instance of intra-Jewish anti-black racism), some were possibly/probably black (Ephraim and Manasseh, the children of Joseph and his Egyptian wife Asenath, would fall in this category, as would Ishmael, Abraham’s son with his Egyptian slave Hagar), and some were absolutely not black, but hardly Northern European either (for instance the patriarchs and matriarchs, all of whom were Sumerian). The fact that “children’s Bibles” and illustrated Bibles nearly always show Biblical characters as white people is whitewashing, ahistorical, and completely fucked up…and yes, Jewish religious school textbooks are VERY guilty of this.
I just want to say thank you for this really well done response. The discussion had many good points I liked, but wasn’t hearing all sides very well.
Take what you want of the thanks.