Wednesday, March 17, 2010

play the ethnicity card

Happy St. Patrick's Day. I guess. . .

I'd like to be more celebratory today and somehow honor Irish immigration to my country, but what can I say? I don't have Irish blood, for one thing. And more to the point of this blog -- I can't overlook how the U.S. descendants of Irish people, who often put on and take off being "Irish" like a hat or raincoat, tend to forget what it really means for their ancestors to have traded in their Irish-ness for whiteness. Yes, Irish immigrants used to be oppressed, but their descendants have basically joined the ranks of the oppressors, and thereby gained white privilege, and those benefits still come at the expense of the racially oppressed.

It is true that, as sociologist Jessie Daniels writes,

Once in the U.S., the Irish were [subjected] to negative stereotyping that was very similar to that of enslaved Africans and African Americans. The comic Irishman – happy, lazy, stupid, with a gift for music and dance – was a stock character in American theater.  Drunkenness and criminality were major themes of Irish stereotypes, and the term "paddy wagon" has its etymological roots in the racist term “paddy,” a shortening of the name “Patrick,” which was used to refer to the Irish.  However, this is also a gendered image and refers to Irish men, specifically.   The masculine imagery of “paddy” hid the existence of Irish women, but did not protect Irish women from racism as they were often more exposed to such racism through domestic jobs.   Women typically played a key role in maintaining Catholic adherence, which resonates closely with Irishness and difference. The “model minority” (if you will) stereotype of Irish-American women is of a “Bridget,” recognized for her hard work and contribution to Irish upward class mobility.

Simian, or ape-like caricature of the Irish immigrant was also a common one among the mainstream news publications of the day. . . For example, in 1867 American cartoonist Thomas Nast drew "The Day We Celebrate" a cartoon depicting the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day as violent, drunken apes.  And, in 1899, Harper’s Weekly featured a drawing of three men’s heads in profile: Irish, Anglo-Teutonic and Negro, in order to illustrate the similarity between the Irish and the Negro (and, the supposed superiority of the Anglo-Teutonic).   In northern states, blacks and Irish immigrants were forced into overlapping – often integrated – slum neighborhoods.  Although leaders of the Irish liberation struggle (in Ireland) saw slavery as an evil, their Irish-American cousins largely aligned with the slaveholders.

And, following the end of slavery, the Irish and African Americans were forced to compete for the same low-wage, low-status jobs.  So, the “white negroes” of the U.K. came to the United States and, though not enslaved, faced a status almost as low as that of recently-freed blacks.

So yeah, I get that. And I don't mean to downplay or disregard what amounts to racist (and religious) oppression that people from Ireland once faced, nor the hard work that helped Irish immigrants to step up into the ranks of white Americans.

However, I sometimes encounter citizens of the U.S. who claim to be "Irish" instead of white, when anyone looking at them would clearly see them as "white" instead of "Irish." I mean, just how many generations does this sort of "Kiss me, I'm Irish! Don't worry, I'm not white!" card last?

White people still routinely complain about people of color who supposedly "play the race card," but they rarely blame other whites for playing what amounts to the ethnicity card. That card is routinely used to dismiss discussions of today's racism -- "Yeah yeah yeah, my ancestors had it bad too! They were the 'blacks' of Europe, and they even got called black in the U.S.!" And that kind of talk usually leads to this kind of talk: "If my people could do it, why can't they too?" Never mind that those Irish who were called "black" and other slurs didn't have to stay black, and thus didn't have to struggle with all that black and other non-white Americans still have to face.

Do you encounter white people who make these kinds of selective, derailing appeals to the sufferings and hard work of their ancestors?

I'd like to happily drink some green beer today while wearing something green and kissing someone who claims to be "Irish." But too often, the memory of Irish oppression becomes a weapon for beating back explanations of how white racism remains an entrenched, pervasive set of problems.

It's classic, delusional bootstraperism. What a great legacy.


(source)

109 comments:

  1. "That card is routinely used to dismiss discussions of today's racism -- "Yeah yeah yeah, my ancestors had it bad too! They were the 'blacks' of Europe, and they even got called black in the U.S.!" And that kind of talk usually leads to this kind of talk: "If my people could do it, why can't they too?" Never mind that those Irish who were called "black" and other slurs didn't have to stay black, and thus didn't have to struggle with all that black and other non-white Americans still have to face.

    Do you encounter white people who make these kinds of selective, derailing appeals to the sufferings and hard work of their ancestors?"

    Yes, I've met plenty of white people who have made those offensive, obnoxious comments, especially coming from Jewish Americans whose ancestors came here from Europe or Eastern Europeans such as Russians. Or white skinned Americans whose ancestors came here from Lebanon, Egypt or Algeria... in the 19th century.

    Another thing with white people -- claiming ancestry pride and roots when their families have lived in the United States for at least 100-200 years! But ME, my parents were born and raised in India. I have family in India. I can claim myself as Indian American. I have a Russian American friend who was born in Russia and spent his childhood there before emigrating here with his parents. It's NOT the same thing as White Americans who proudly call themselves "Irish" even though their families came here more than 100 years ago!

    News flash, white people-- you're not Irish, French, Welsh, Scottish or Russian or whatever European ancestry your family claim to have. If you were actually born there or if your parents or grandparents were born there and emigrated to the United States in the 20th century, then you can talk to me about claiming ancestry pride.

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  2. "I mean, just how many generations does this sort of "Kiss me, I'm Irish! Don't worry, I'm not white!" card last?"
    I'd like to know when the "where's my 40 and a mule?" era is gonna end.

    "News flash, white people-- you're not Irish, French, Welsh, Scottish or Russian or whatever European ancestry your family claim to have. If you were actually born there or if your parents or grandparents were born there and emigrated to the United States in the 20th century, then you can talk to me about claiming ancestry pride."

    News flash-according to you any descendants of African slaves in America aren't African either.
    I have 1 native american ancestor from 5 generations ago and have blond hair and blue eyes. I have always checked native american on any form and will continue to do so until I feel I will get fair treatment for not being a "minority".

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  3. Your last post triggered a lot of class-based arguments which I think are closely linked to ideas in this post. I understand the frustration of working-class whites in the U.S. - they marginalized in mainstream portrayals of whites on television (think Modern Family versus Family Guy) and politicians reinforce the idea that working-class group identification could be lost through education (think Sarah Palin's 'regular American' - we gotta fight this, we really do because it's a mechanism of control and white supremacy). But I think the salient point is that white people of say Irish descent or a working-class family can breathe a sigh of relief once they 'make it.' Whites have the unique ability to slide in and out of the role of the oppressed once they get an education or move out of a poor area. Upon arrival into 'good' white society, they are assumed to be middle class, well educated, upstanding members of society - and they can talk about their working-class parents when they wish (but it doesn't hinder their success). POC do not get this free pass, and I think that is the missing link that many of us whites miss.

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  4. I think that the fact that the United States collectively and wildly "celebrates" St. Patrick's Day (by celebrate I mean, celebrate the stereotyping to the point of turning it from offensive to comical) is a very obvious sign that the Irish are presently respected as white. I would go so far as to add that they're "better" than just "plain ol' white" because the Irish know their roots. It's like the best of both worlds - wanting to be "ethnic" but enjoying white privilege. Sorry about all the quotes... I like them a bit too much.

    Anyway, I've always wondered when we stop claiming our ancestry. My family has been American since the Mayflower. Yet, I'm able to trace them back to England all the way into the 1000's when their names went French and Swedish. While I believe it is interesting, and I will add that it's part of white privilege to know this information, it has no bearing on my present day as an American other than giving me white skin. So when do we let it go?

    My guess is that the Americans who claim Irish ancestry are still closer to their ancestral roots than I am to my 1000's in England, and somehow that make them feel like they belong to something other than being white bread. Or maybe they feel closer to that culture somehow. I don't know.

    But I do know that people all over the US celebrate St. Patrick's Day in some fashion or another. I can't think of many other specific holidays from other countries we celebrate (MAYBE Cinco de Mayo - in the same misguided way we celebrate St. Patrick's Day) feel free to correct me, though. But it tells you how white and accepted you are when other groups want to participate in your country or culture's holiday.

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  5. I used to say (you know, in high school) that I was ethnically British due to my ancestors having come from England. Then a person of color asked me, "What about your life is British?" Of course, I had to answer, "Not much" since it had been hundreds of years since my ancestors arrived, and my family long ago lost any specifically British ethnic identity. But I thought it was cool to identify with a European ethnicity, and I was unaware that my own culture could even be defined. Like many white people, I thought my culture was a bland, neutral, colorless (though not white!) amalgamation of melted-down European cultures. I did not want to identify my ethnicity as white US-American, which it had always been in reality. I think that this false ethnicity is one way that we deny membership in the dominant group and avoid seeing ourselves as part of the mechanism of oppression in US society.

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  6. Although leaders of the Irish liberation struggle (in Ireland) saw slavery as an evil, their Irish-American cousins largely aligned with the slaveholders.

    I'd like to point out that Irish-Americans initially did identify with black people when they worked together. Realizing that united the two groups could form a powerful labour movement, employers started to differentiate between black and Irish, treating the Irish as though they were better than blacks, so that they would identify with white employers more than their black comrades.

    However, I sometimes encounter citizens of the U.S. who claim to be "Irish" instead of white, when anyone looking at them would clearly see them as "white" instead of "Irish." I mean, just how many generations does this sort of "Kiss me, I'm Irish! Don't worry, I'm not white!" card last?

    I think this should be rephrased as "I sometimes encounter citizens of the U.S. who claim that being Irish means that they are not really white" or something like that. When I first read this I thought you were saying that being white means that your ethnic background is insignificant compared to your race, so you shouldn't claim it, and I got pretty angry. Then I realized that that's not what you're saying at all.

    Anecdote:
    A friend of mine (who is white, male, upper-class, cis, hetero, able-bodied, etc.) always tries to pull the "Italians were discriminated against to!" thing. When trying to make this point one time, he told me about how some guys at the country club told his dad, "you're not really white, you're Italian". The very fact that his family was allowed to join a very exclusive, very white country club didn't register as being significant to him at all. It made me *facepalm*.

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  7. I remember reading an interview with Nia Vardalos, the writer of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," where she went on about how she considers herself ethnic... I was like, "Huh?" There is no WAY someone looks at you and thinks, "look at that Greek lady." She's a White American, and she can pull out the "Greek" label whenever she wants to differentiate herself, but if she didn't do that, no one would know!

    My husband is from Syria and he's very light-skinned. His friend from college came to the US also and is fairly dark-skinned. They are both foreigners, Arab and Muslim, and FROM THE SAME TOWN but they've had very different experiences since coming to the U.S. Of course the dark-skinned friend is treated like one of "them" and my husband is one of "us" (i.e. White).

    Someone said some rude thing about Arabs in front of my husband once, and he reminded them that HE is an Arab, and their response was, "But YOU'RE different!"

    So.. in a nutshell, if you look white--hell, even if you are a recent immigrant--you're not going to be treated or looked at the same way as a POC. You just aren't.

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  8. @Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist!

    Another thing with white people -- claiming ancestry pride and roots when their families have lived in the United States for at least 100-200 years!

    First, I would suggest that it would be a positive thing if everyone in America, Canada, Australia, etc. were to hyphenate (Irish-American) no matter how long their family has been there (with the exception of Native peoples). I think it would discourge claims of being a "real American" or "just American" as juxtaposed with recent immigrants and POC. And I think it would remind people that these lands were taken from other people.

    Second, my ancestry is a very important part of my identity. It informs who I am and how I process the world. I'm Ukrainian-Canadian. Which yes, is different from being Ukrainian. But it's also different from being just Canadian. We have a community; Ukrainian churches and Ukrainian schools and arts organizations. We have a history in Canada distinct from that of British-Canadians and French-Canadians.

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  9. I've heard that Irish were treated poorly, but I haven't heard a lot about Irish declaring their ethnicity around my area at least. I know it goes on, but I haven't seen anyone claiming their Irish roots openly, not even on St. Patrick's Day.

    To veer off topic a bit, I do know that there are people who celebrate St. Patrick's Day by simply wearing green or getting drunk (negative stereotypes of Irish people), and yet, they don't even know who St. Patrick is. For a lot of people, it's a day to celebrate the color green, shamrocks, clovers, and leprechans.

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  10. @DIMA

    Should one ever claim 'ancestry pride'? It doesn't seem like any of us had much to do with it.

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  11. @ DIMA

    If you were actually born there or if your parents or grandparents were born there and emigrated to the United States in the 20th century, then you can talk to me about claiming ancestry pride.

    So in your opinion, it's only proper to be proud of one's ancestry going back one or two generations, but nothing occurring prior to our grandparents' generation should substantially influence how we identify and how we situate ourselves within the framework of race/ethnicity/oppression today?

    Some descendants of slaves in America might disagree.

    Also,

    offensive, obnoxious comments, especially coming from Jewish Americans

    nice.

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  12. @Victoria

    Anyway, I've always wondered when we stop claiming our ancestry.

    I have wondered this as well. I also wonder what exactly it would entail. To me, part of claiming one's heritage is claiming the history of your ancestors, remembering that history. It seems to me that to stop claiming one's ancestry is to assimilate one's history. It means forgetting that even among whites, there was more than one immigrant experience.

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  13. laz said:

    "until I feel I will get fair treatment for not being a "minority""

    HUH?

    You think that being a minority means having it easy? You think being white/being perceived as white means you are being treated unfairly? Is that what you're saying here? If so, news flash: policies put in place for minorities are done so to bring them UP TO the level of whites in this society. Not ABOVE.

    Side note: I'm black with with 1 Native American only one(2?) generation back; my grandpapa and I definitely don't claim Native American.

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  14. @laz It's ridiculous that you have the nerve to claim ancestry that you can't even identify with. Go learn about Native American culture (if you even know what tribe your ancestor was from), move to a reservation, and tell me again about how "unfair" it is to be white in a predominately white country.

    Anyway, I feel that people who claim their Irish ancestry are often similar to those who claim Native American ancestry. They're taking an oppressed group and claiming to be part of the group so that they can seem less white, or maybe so that they can claim to be oppressed as well. Not to mention the fact that almost no one in America knows what St. Patrick did.

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  15. It's really interesting to me how white people tend to be pretty divorced form the idea of ethnicity most of the time. This is particularly striking for me, as I come from two distinct (white) ethnic backgrounds, and have different relationships with both.

    My mother is French Canadian, and her family has been on this continent for upwards of twelve generations now. But the FC population still hasn't completely assimilated into the general Canadian population--my mother has a fairly strong accent, as does the rest of her family, and the FC community she comes from tends to be fairly insular. Even though in many ways they are equal to other white Canadians (there's no class issues, for example), there's still some mutual dislike between the FC community and the anglophone community.

    My father, on the other hand, has Scottish ancestry, but while his family probably immigrated more recently (and I grew up outside the FC community), I'm really not in touch with that part of my ethnic heritage at all.

    (On another note, both my parents could claim Metis status if they wanted. I wouldn't see the point--any aboriginal heritage I have is too minor to affect me one way or another)

    For me, it's always been nice to have that FC heritage--it gave me something besides being, uh, a person. Granted, claiming it hasn't always been in my best interests (see above re: mutual dislike). It's nice to have a strong cultural heritage to turn back to, even though it has little effect on my daily life.

    While I can certainly understand why anyone would want to 'pass' for a member of the dominant ethnic group, it's sad that anyone has to feel ashamed of who they are to get ahead.

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  16. Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist, I don't know. As a half black/half white person, I get a ton of flack on St. Patrick's if I try to hang out with friends that have just as little Irish blood as me. My bf and I (he's from Ukraine) threw a St. Patrick's day party, and I was the one (Surprise! /s) that had more Irish in me. It's neat knowing the names of relatives that came from Cork, and I don't like what I'm left with if I can't embrace any nationalities that were part of my family's past. In comparison to my black half, which disappears off into nothingness only a few generations back because of this country's history, it's nice to know more details on my white side beyond history in America. I would love to know if I also had heritage from Ghana, South Africa, etc... but I don't, and probably never will.

    Using a European nationality to deflect whiteness is stupid, yes, but I don't think it's completely bad to know where your family came from. In fact, it's a privilege.

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  17. I go to a White Irish-Catholic university. So far, I know of exactly 1 person who mentioned going to St. Patrick's Day Mass--and she's Black!

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  18. So - a little background: I started commenting on the internet when I found a support site for care-givers of those with Eating Disorders. I chose the name b/c some asshat Dr. had told me "Relax, don't get your Irish up" - meanwhile, our kid was in a pediatric cardiac ICU from the effects of her AN. Fucker. AAANNYWAYY, I have always lived in the NE (NYC and Boston areas), where the Irish came in large #s to escape the Famine, and where identifying as ethnically Irish is common - even encouraged. And yet there was still somebody willing to pull out an ethnic stereotype to bully and silence me.

    THAT said: Most Irish-Americans (which is how my family identifies) now living have not had the experience of being "less than" in the US. We have white privilege in the US, even if we have family histories of having been othered.

    For instance, I am of Northern Irish heritage. And if I had my IRL name, plus my looks, OVER THERE (Northern Ire.) anytime between Cromwell to 2005 I'd be able to say a lot about systemic racist oppression of the Irish. My family came over not all at once, but initially during the 2nd famine, and in fits and starts since - mostly running from the law due to actual or suspected IRA activities. So while I know family stories and histories involving that oppression, while I have not-long deceased relatives who felt that oppression so strongly that they engaged in terrorism - I have NO experience of it personally. The first time I ever heard someone use "Mick" as an *epithet* was in the movie "The Crying Game". The daily experience of the Irish-American has NOTHING in common with the daily experience of POC in the US on this matter.

    Irish-American communities in the NE do tend to keep up a connectedness to their Irish roots & relatives in Ireland - whether real or, hmmm ... embellished. That's why I think it's common to find that particularly Irish bit of racism "We did it, why can't you?" (HINT - because IRISH SKIN IS WHITE! AND WE WEREN'T SLAVES! AND ALSO, NO ONE KIDNAPPED US HERE!). The living memory of systemic oppression is still there in many cases, and the history of it has been canonized where the living memory is gone. But because we do have the privilege over HERE, to the extent each of us avoids questioning our role in the patriarchy/kyriarchy, we can ignore how our Irish-American communities here are participating in the same oppressions that have us weeping into our Guinness to "Fields of Athenry" each March 17th.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtQ6a8gA7qk

    I try to hold onto the idea that this day celebrates an allegory of liberation and deliverance, and in that spirit say "Happy St. Patrick's Day", and toast my Guinness "Sliante!"

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  19. @ purvis

    So.. in a nutshell, if you look white--hell, even if you are a recent immigrant--you're not going to be treated or looked at the same way as a POC. You just aren't.

    I sincerely doubt that Nia Vardalos meant that she gets treated the same way as a POC.

    You don't have to be a POC to be "ethnic". You just have to be not WASP. And being "ethnic" is not necessarily something you can take off and put on. Someone can be white and still have people laugh at your name, or have different social norms and expectations, not see your traditions and practices reflected in the media, and (for some European ethnicities) have their family's country of origin being virtually ignored in mainstream history. It's not like experiencing racism. But it still makes one feel like they're outside the norm.

    Of course ethnicity overlaps with race. But it is not co-terminous with it. Claiming one's ethnicity does not mean that one is denying one's whiteness, or denying that one benefits from white privilege. A white person's experience of ethnic difference is nowhere near the discrimination faced by people of colour. But that doesn't mean that that experience should be denied.

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  20. I like what a lot of y'all have to say so far, re: using ancestry claims to excuse whiteness, feeling connected to an ancestral community, and having questions about whether/when to stop claiming a particular heritage. I feel like I agree with most of those points, particularly ethnicity v. whiteness as a hallmark of privilege that allows a white person to disassociate himself from whiteness and the racial baggage it carries. At the same time, I do see the value in recalling our various ethnic heritages as a reminder that with the exception of Native Americans, we are all immigrants here. Given the way the conversation about immigration is going these days, it seems even more important to dispel the myth of the Real American as it currently exists.

    My own experience here is a bit complicated, because I am mixed Filipina-Caucasian and the Caucasian side has always been identified as Irish, although my father's status as an adoptee clouds the issue (meaning, we don't necessarily believe that he's only Irish - probably a nice mix of various European ethnicities like many other white people in the US). My primary identity is as a Filipina, though, because I obviously look Filipina and - having spent a lifetime trying to pretend otherwise - it's important to me to claim that as part of who I am. But I won't lie - I definitely trot out the "Kiss Me I'm Irish!" gear this time of year, because the confusion it invariably causes amuses me. (Take that for what you will, I guess.)

    The question of claiming heritage, though, is an interesting one to me, especially given that I now have a son of my own, who is himself multiracial but looks more white than anything. I wonder whether he'll feel compelled to claim his Filipino roots when he's old enough to understand what they mean, particularly as there's nothing very "Filipino" about our family, except for some of the food that we eat and the fact that our family is, you know, full of Filipinos. We're very assimilated, which (not unlike the Irish, I suppose) was part of my grandfather's attempts to be more socially mobile. And it's worked, for the most part, as his daughters (my mother included) are all college-educated, relatively well-off and comparatively insulated from the harsher effects of racism by their social class. Will my son recognize that history as he ages? I don't know. The lightness of his skin may shield him from ever having to consider himself anything but "normal" - aka white - but if he does claim his heritage, will he then face charges of inauthenticity, or be accused of playing "the ethinicity card"?

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  21. Excellent post! I've seen plenty of examples of this in the Midwest, the South and the East Coast. Often will white people hide behind being Irish-American, Italian-American, Jewish, whatever! I would dare say the same goes for white homosexuals. Walking down the street they all share the white privilege of the majority. I really don't think any resumes with Patrick O'Malley or David Weinberg as the listed name would be given the same treatment as one with Laquisha Johnson on it either!

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  22. I just thought I should clarify this:

    Claiming one's ethnicity does not mean that one is denying one's whiteness, or denying that one benefits from white privilege.

    I just want to emphasize that I'm not arguing that this doesn't happen, just that Nia Vardalos probably wasn't doing it.

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  23. Hey --

    I've been reading your blog for quite some time now, and I really enjoy it. I am commenting on your last post, I would actually really enjoy having a conversation with you at some point, so I am posting here, because well.. there are 125+ comments on the other post..

    The whole debate reminds me of a conversation I had recently. I told one of my friends how much I hate the term "reverse racism", because it implies that only whites can be racist, that even being discriminatory is something that is reserved for whites -- how "white" is the norm, so when anyone else does it, it is "reversed". She told me that in her black studies course her teacher clearly defined racism as white discrimination towards minorities, because racism implies oppression, not just being discriminatory amongst ourselves. That got me thinking, and I realize this is just semantics, but it is a very similar idea as to what was discussed in your blog post.

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  24. Alicia said, "I don't think it's completely bad to know where your family came from. In fact, it's a privilege."

    I agree! It's a privilege that most white Americans don't recognize as a privilege. This reminds me of a conversation with my friend a few years back. My friend was telling me about how he's related to George Washington and I paused for a moment and told him, "what a privilege that you can trace your lineage back that far. Because of immigration and political unrest in China in the last few years, I can trace back maybe one generation past my grandfather but that's it. What privilege for a nation that's experienced relative peace on its soil that all records and information are maintained."

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  25. I come from an Irish and a Black Dutch back ground but when I look in the mirrow all I see is a White man looking back.My parents felt that I needed to know my roots so on St. Patrick's Day we had orange candles and orange napkins and were told we were "Orange Men".Thank God I didn't have to wear orange to school but I wasn't allowed to wear green either. I remember wishing that I had come from a normal family.At least the non irish kids got to wear green.In thinking about it though maybe the message my parents were telling me was that this Irish family had finally become white....

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  26. Some people aren't even Irish and run around all day long acting a fool and people see it as beign ok since it's St. Patty's Day. I wonder if another nationality was a given a day for celebration would anyone say anything.

    Tiffany
    http://liferequiresmorechocolate.blogspot.com

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  27. @ DIMA

    My family on my fathers side is german, and came to this country about WWI. I have met family members who actually emigrated to this country.

    My family on my mother's side is Scottish, and came to this country in the 1700s. I have never met anyone on my mother's side actually from Scotland, for obvious reasons.

    Nevertheless, I consider myself Canadian first and Scottish second, and German only if explicitly reminded. Some people and some families assimilate more completely than others. As I said, I am Canadian first, but my Scottish heritage is there. I know my clan's tartans, and I grew up on black pudding and haggis (neither of which are as nasty as they sound.) I don't speak Gaelic, but my Nova Scotian grandmother was a native speaker (native gaelic speakers are still rare in Scotland, though more and more people now are learning the language.) My family may have come to this country a long time ago, but they didn't throw out their culture when they arrived. The history of my people *is* in this country. I do not pretend that I personally am from scotland, and I'm certainly not stupid enough to think that any of that somehow exempts me from white privelige, but if someone were to ask about my culture, they could expect to hear about that, not hockey and snow.

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  28. "Often will white people hide behind being Irish-American, Italian-American, Jewish, whatever!"

    "Yes, I've met plenty of white people who have made those offensive, obnoxious comments, especially coming from Jewish Americans whose ancestors came here from Europe..."

    I'm a little unnerved that Jewish People are being included in this "common white tendency". I really don't think that you can compare the experience of a completely assimilated white american with Irish heritage to a Jewish american. Mane Jewish people are recognizable by name and appearance, and still face overt ethnic discrimination in this country and most others. They may have come from Europe, but their immigrant experience and their continued experience in America is very, very different from your average white American.

    In addition, unlike most white Americans of Italian or Irish decent, for example, many Jewish people, even families who have lived in the US for generations, are not fully assimilated into the dominant culture! They are often members of a tight-knit cultural community with different customs, food, dress and worldview than the white majority (not to mention religion, if they are practicing Jews).

    Some people might consider Jewish Americans a model minority, but MANY others still regard them with fear or outright hatred, and even attempt to deny or downplay the horrors that their recent ancestors have endured. As you should know, they remain one of the favorite targets of white supremacist organizations.

    Of course, saying, "but I'm Jewish, so I can't be a racist" is just idiotic, but Jewish people share many experiences with other PoC in terms of racism, and I think we can learn from their experiences as much as other PoC. I find it rather offensive to downplay the oppression that the Jewish diaspora continues to endure just because they come from Europe, or their skin is "closer to white" than some other PoC. I hope that's not what anyone was implying. I really don't want this to devolve into a "who is more oppressed?!?" kind of conversation.

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  29. @Interested:


    Of course, saying, "but I'm Jewish, so I can't be a racist" is just idiotic, but Jewish people share many experiences with other PoC in terms of racism, and I think we can learn from their experiences as much as other PoC. I find it rather offensive to downplay the oppression that the Jewish diaspora continues to endure just because they come from Europe, or their skin is "closer to white" than some other PoC. I hope that's not what anyone was implying. I really don't want this to devolve into a "who is more oppressed?!?" kind of conversation.


    I agree with this over 9000%. It's frequently at the back of my mind when I read this blog. Thank you for articulating it.

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  30. Has anyone on here ever been able to use a white person's identification with an historically disadvantaged ethnic group to get them to empathize with currently disadvantaged POC?

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  31. Wait, so Irish people aren't white? Could've fooled me! I hate when people make that comparison. The 'my ancestors had it bad thing' Your ancestors were not kidnapped and enslaved so the comparison to me is just really daft. Besides you can hide the fact your ancestors were Irish but you can never hide the fact that you are black.

    And DIMA I'll have to disagree with you because as Laz said you just practically said that an African American person isn't African. If they aren't I wonder why they would still have that 'African' term before the 'American' part.

    Laz you have just One Native American parent five generations ago, you don't even look Native American and you claim to be Native American? You just completely proved the whole post!

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  32. "Has anyone on here ever been able to use a white person's identification with an historically disadvantaged ethnic group to get them to empathize with currently disadvantaged POC?"

    No, though it would be interesting to try. I've heard white people try to use their identification with all sorts of disadvantaged groups - whether it's class, gender, able-bodiedness, etc - as an attempt to empathize with currently disadvantaged PoC, so it might be a worthwhile tactic for teaching WP about prejudice.

    But unfortunately, when such conversations arise, WP who aren't educated about racism often do exactly the opposite, ironically enough: they use their identification with a historically disadvantged group as an excuse for NOT empathizing with currently disadvantaged PoC ("if my ancestors could assimilate/pull themselves out of poverty, so can you!"), or for trying to absolve themselves of any complicity in racial discrimination. This has already been discussed so I won't continue.

    But still, I think it could be a useful tactic. Empathy is a good first step.

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  33. "White people still routinely complain about people of color who supposedly "play the race card," but they rarely blame other whites for playing what amounts to the ethnicity card."

    This doesn't sound right. Whites accusing Jews of playing the anti-semitism card is a very common phenomena.

    For example, just today on Andrew Sullivan's Blog I read; "Today on the Dish we watched...Abe Foxman play the Jewish card on Petraeus"

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  34. My mother is uncomfortable with her privilege, so she uses her "I'm not white, I'm Jewish" card. A LOT.

    The thing is, she's not. We're not. Her father was a white Jewish man. Her mother was Catholic. She was raised Christian. She has blue eyes.

    My Dad is mixed Mexican/White/Japanese (except that Mexican heritage doesn't exist anymore? thanks, US census!) so that my sister and I get the "you're exotic looking" nonsense all the time, but we are still white. We benefit from white privilege.

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  35. Things gets really weird with some of those proud ethnics, who claim to be more ethnic and more patriotic than people who live in those actual European countries.
    I lurk on an Eastern European forum, where some of the most rabid ethnonationalists and borderline Holocaust-deniers are hyphenated-Americans who can't even spell 'their' language correctly. Their love of their Fatherland does not make them move back there and try to rebuild it, but they're happy to stir up ethnic hatreds and shit. And to attack anyone who wants to forgive, forget, and get on with their lives.

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  36. In response to DIMA's comments, I think American Ashkenazi Jews, as well as some other groups of "white ethnics" have completely legitimate claims of being otherized and discriminated against in the modern US context. I think their experiences should be listened to and respected.

    It only becomes offensive when people in this capricious "white-ethnic" category use their ethnicity to try to claim that they don't have white privilege (which exists together with their discrimination), or use the "white-ethnic" issue patronizingly to show that they face the same exact issues as POC.

    In my humble opinion, "looks" and what you are "read" as counts for a lot. So does the idea of sub-culture and stereotypes attached to sub-cultures. So to me the Irish-American thing is just ridiculous. However, I think for being Jewish or Greek or whatever, especially if a person of this heritage is surrounded by Protestant Anglo- and Northern European whites, those whites WILL make act in privileged ways against the "white ethnic" person.

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  37. house of pain did a pretty good job of deflecting their whiteness with their Irishness in order to carve out a hip hop career in the early 90's. (jump around) at the time I felt as if they were using it as a shield to protect themselves from the fate of vanilla ice.

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  38. The comments about Jewish Americans got me thinking. The idea of who is 'other' will depend on the culture you grew up in. For example, I never met anyone who was Jewish until I was 18, and I can't tell if someone is Jewish unless they tell me (this includes a friend from Israel). To me, they read as white.

    On the other hand, my mother's family tells me I look like my father, and Dad's family tell me I look like Mom. Normally my French heritage isn't particularly evident (I grew up anglophone, and didn't pick up the accent--for that matter, apparently I resemble my German husband), but it's evident enough--or maybe it's just that I don't hide it--that my dual-heritage got me labeled 'other' regardless of what side of the line I was on growing up. Once I moved away, it stopped mattering.

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  39. @saraspeaking re: "At the same time, I do see the value in recalling our various ethnic heritages as a reminder that with the exception of Native Americans, we are all immigrants here."

    I know this was probably said out of a kind of conversational habit, but of course, the background of most black Americans doesn't involve immigration. The canard "we are a land of immigrants" effectively excludes those whose ancestors came here unwillingly.

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  40. I know this was probably said out of a kind of conversational habit, but of course, the background of most black Americans doesn't involve immigration. The canard "we are a land of immigrants" effectively excludes those whose ancestors came here unwillingly.

    *clap*
    *clap*
    *clap*

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  41. This card gets played a lot by white (Ashkenazi) American Jews. And while I do think there are reasons to be concerned with anti-semitism, I don't think that it's a valid point to claim Jews are oppressed in today's America, which is something I unfortunately hear again and again in the blogosphere (though not in real life).

    Like luckyfatima said: "It only becomes offensive when people in this capricious "white-ethnic" category use their ethnicity to try to claim that they don't have white privilege (which exists together with their discrimination)"

    I find it offensive when certain "white ethnics" claim they're just "passing" as white. No, you're not. You're accepted as white by most of society, therefore you're white for most purposes. If you experience discrimination, we should hear you out, but your discrimination does not trump what's experienced by people of color, and to imply that it does is maddening.

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  42. @bloglogger: Of course. Thank you for correcting that oversight :)

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  43. It always seemed strange to me that someone like Ted Kennedy would call himself Irish. To non-Americans it seems pretty weird that this man with an American accent and family going back generations in the US would see himself as Irish. The Irish themselves call it being a plastic paddy.

    Personally my rule of thumb is that if you're white you should only call yourself a something-American if you grew up in another country, speak with their accent, or speak their language. It just seems so fake otherwise, as well as the derailing potential of these crazy claims.

    There's also the question of things like Asian- or African-Americans (interestingly enough I often seem to hear white people refuse to use the phrase AA, because "you've never even BEEN to Africa harumph". Never heard one of these so-called Irish get that remark though) Anyway it's obvious to me that there's a reason people who physically don't look white would want to use a term like the above, and frankly it's no business of white people to dictate what descriptions can't be used by racial minorities.

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  44. i'm sorry but you can't tell if the vast majority of jews in canada and america are jewish unless told or they're orthodox. are we trying to say they haven't benefited from their white skin? that is the issue, whether it's white to light, there is a benefit a privilege, which is forgotten when someone tries to do the 'me too, so why don't you'.

    sometimes it's not even the people who are irish, jewish, albainian, etc that do this, sometimes it's the so-called 'wasp' that does the derailing/dismissing using them and their history as props for the bootstrap argument.

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  45. @ Jillian,

    What about Jews who are Holocaust survivors? Can they complain about being oppressed? I thought it was relatively accepted that some forms of oppression enacted decades ago left persistent legacies of inequality. Like, the GI Bill, for example. If it's not "valid" for a Jew to testify that she feels oppressed today by crimes that were committed against her grandparents, are other "legacy of oppression" arguments invalid, too?

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  46. Re: The whole Jewish problem. While many of us come from Europe, others don't. Some of us can pass as white Europeans - others cannot. Some Jews identify as white, others don't. And it is true Jewishness is a ethnic background in a way that Baptist is no t(Tay-Sach's disease?) it is also a religion. Perhaps Jews straddle a line between being white and being "other"? You don't see people marching against "normal" white descent but just look at the neo-Nazi group that recently adopted a highway in Missouri.

    Going to a Catholic high school I've met a lot of Irish-Catholics who celebrate St. Patrick's Day and claim discrimination. But just look at how wide-spread St. Patrick's day is celebrated in America! Everyone's Irish! Chicago colors a river green! New York has a parade! Everyone joins in, whereas Chinese New Year, Diwali and other holidays PoC celebrate are shoved aside into the "other" category".

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  47. Thanks macon d for the link and the excellent post. A small quibble: the passage quoted above is actually by me, not Joe.

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  48. "I don't think that it's a valid point to claim Jews are oppressed in today's America, which is something I unfortunately hear again and again in the blogosphere (though not in real life)."

    How do square your assertion with FBI hate crime statistics demonstrating anti-semitic hate crimes to be far and away the most common form religious-bias violence, exceeding even islamophobic crimes (even though the two groups have roughly the same population.)
    http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2008/data/table_01.html

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  49. How can Jews complain about being oppressed in America when they are very white in phenotype and are vastly overrepresented in the media and academia (as well as most other prestigious professions)? It's just as silly for them to invoke the "ethnic card" as the Irish (who also have a legacy of oppression under the English and WASP powers). The only "oppression" that Jews face in America is from Neo-Nazi and KKK members who don't want them in their ranks.

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  50. @ Jessie Daniels:

    Woops! Sorry about that Jessie, got it fixed. Thanks in return for your excellent post.

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  51. Thank you, bloglogger. I love you.

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  52. "It's just as silly for them to invoke the "ethnic card" as the Irish (who also have a legacy of oppression under the English and WASP powers). The only "oppression" that Jews face in America is from Neo-Nazi and KKK members who don't want them in their ranks."

    Jewish quotas (in uiversities fro example) aren't oppressive in your world view?

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  53. Wow Manju, that's news to me -- which U.S. universities currently have Jewish quotas?

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  54. "Jewish quotas (in uiversities fro example) aren't oppressive in your world view?"

    There are universities that *currently* have "Jewish quotas" in place? I doubt that.

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  55. I'm sure there are some Jews who do experience discrimination, but they are the Sephardic Jews, who look like the other brown people from the Middle East. White Ashkenazi Jews cannot claim the same thing, they even discriminate against non-white Jews, because they themselves are not true descendents of the ancient Israelites, but of Turkic Khazars who inhabited Eastern Europe hundreds of years ago along with other white ethnic groups, and just the rest of the whites who have assimilated into American culture, they reap the benefits of their white skin and when it is convenient hide behind ethnicity just like the Irish or any other white group that is looking for an easy out at the moment. Sure Jews were oppressed during the Holocaust, but so were white Slavs, white gypsies, white homosexuals and white Jehovah's Witness...in Nazi Germany. In America, the Ashkenazi Jews are just as white as the German-Americans who's ancestors oppressed theirs, and denying that is ignoring the facts of the power structure in this country. It's like saying racism is dead because Obama was elected when the statistics and the existence of things like the Tea Parties says the opposite.

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  56. "There are universities that *currently* have "Jewish quotas" in place? I doubt that."

    well, people have cited past opression as evidence so i just did the smae. slavery was bought up in this thread.

    But if your postion is its in the past and doesn't count, for the sake of argument i'll go with that, so please replace "jewish quotas" with th "FBI hate crime stats" I cited in my first post on this thread.

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  57. Um, Manju, which "people" here cited slavery as past oppression, and why did they do so?

    I have big doubts you're all that aware of the general drift of the argument at hand here. . .

    Are you trying to say, with the FBI stats that you've decided to "go with," that Ashkenazi Jews are not now "white" recipients in the U.S. of white privilege? If so, that's silly. Is it instead that they nevertheless still face some discrimination? If so, well, duh!

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  58. "Um, Manju, which "people" here cited slavery as past oppression, and why did they do so?"

    cat and irishup cited slavery to demonstrate how oppression in the past can shape present day realities and identities. so i did the same with quotas.

    "I have big doubts you're all that aware of the general drift of the argument at hand here."

    or perhaps i'm aware of drifts you don't see.

    "Are you trying to say, with the FBI stats that you've decided to "go with," that Ashkenazi Jews are not now "white" recipients in the U.S. of white privilege?"

    i never mentioned white privilege or ashkenaazi jews, so no.

    "If so, that's silly. Is it instead that they nevertheless still face some discrimination? If so, well, duh!"

    well, according to Amun: "The only "oppression" that Jews face in America is from Neo-Nazi and KKK members who don't want them in their ranks."

    gupdil informs us the only jews that experience discrimination are sephardic. ("I'm sure there are some Jews who do experience discrimination, but they are the Sephardic Jews")

    jillian asserts "I don't think that it's a valid point to claim Jews are oppressed in today's America,"

    needless to say, its unlikely the fbi stats confirm these 3 individual's insights. now your assessment is a tad more generous, they "still face some discrimination" you magnanimously concede. but then you scold me because this is obvious ("duh") apparently unaware that its not so obvious to Jillian, Gupdil, and Amun.

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  59. Yay at the Marriedtothesea comic.


    What an awesome couple. Nataliedee is great too.

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  60. My mother says the book "The Invention of the Jewish People" changed her life. Apparently Jewish people are a selection of ethnicities with a common religion (surprise!). For the white ones to claim not to be white seems rather disingenuous.

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  61. Manju,

    Here's my question: Why do you feel so comfortable usurping this conversation?

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  62. My grandparents came from Ireland. I am an Irish American and I am white. Problem solved! I can be proud of my ethnicity and own up to my white privilege at the same time.

    Btw, I can't stand St Patrick's day; I don't celebrate it.

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  63. "Here's my question: Why do you feel so comfortable usurping this conversation?"

    By "usurping" I suppose you mean participating with dissenting views. But I'll answer your question nonetheless

    1. The points I addressed were all unsubstantiated, almost certainly contradictaed by the facts, and happen to overlap with bigotry.

    2. I'm like Barack Obama at the House Republican Retreat, a man comfortable going into the lions den, getting out of ones ideological comfort zone, administering a whoop-ass, while simultaneously conceding the oppostion has some points. Thats just how i roll.

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  64. Manju,

    You really think you . . . administered a whoop-ass?

    Thanks for the laugh! I'm always happy to find one of those on a Friday.

    I read "usurping" as a synonym for "derailing." You should look up the latter, especially -- might help you look like less of a dummy.

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  65. Manju,

    Fine. Your penis is wonderful. It's the most impressive I've ever seen.

    Can we go back to revealing and challenging the implicitly White supremacist assumptions behind common White patterns of behavior, please?

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  66. with the exception of the "administered a whoop-ass" claim, I find manju's posts credible and compelling. it seems like a few people ITT hesitate to admit that jews are a legitimately oppressed group because...why...somehow that means POC aren't? i think it's pretty offensive to blithely downplay the oppression experienced by any group (e.g., "The only 'oppression' that Jews face in America is from Neo-Nazi and KKK members who don't want them in their ranks." )

    @ rvcbard, i agree context matters. but i guess the point i was trying to make ITT is that in many contexts it's disingenuous and/or idiotic (depending upon your level of awareness) to automatically class jews as some whiny, spoiled, maybe marginally-oppressed group who are merely "playing the ethnicity" card if/when they reference the fact that, you know, ~sixty years ago, about one third of them were slaughtered in a cold-blooded ethnic genocide.

    oppression olympics = a stupid line of inquiry, but if you pursued it objectively i think jews would garner plenty of medals. that doesn't mean, ergo, bootstraps, etc., but i don't think it's credible to deny or diminish the horrors these people have endured -- especially in a space that's generally hyper-conscientious about not overlooking or downplaying dynamics of privilege and oppression.

    and to tie this back to the macro topic of this blog, i do think this tangent about whether "it's a valid point to claim that jews are oppressed" bears on the extent to which certain allegedly common white patterns of behavior reflect implicitly white supremacist reasoning. it's been proposed that one common white pattern of behavior is to make selective derailing appeals to the suffering of one's ancestors. in support of this assertion, several commenters have offered the observation (and here i admit i'm loosely paraphrasing): "you know who does this a lot? jews." so the replies to the effect of (still paraphrasing) "no, jews are distinguishable for several reasons from the irish people macon described in the OP and also, come on, jews have been really really oppressed" don't seem to me to significantly sidetrack things. if it turns out jews are not a great example of this common white tendency, then observations about jews aren't great evidence for the prevalence of this white tendency or its relation to white-supremacist thought. which i would think impacts the outcome of our collective analysis ITT.

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  67. laz said...
    I have 1 native american ancestor from 5 generations ago and have blond hair and blue eyes. I have always checked native american on any form and will continue to do so until I feel I will get fair treatment for not being a "minority".


    http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2009/06/claim-they-have-native-american-blood.html
    http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2009/12/wish-they-were-ethnic.html
    http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2009/12/fetishize-native-americans-in-aspic.html

    I couldn't help myself.

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  68. @lurp:

    Clearly you're missing the point lurp,as manju clearly did as well. No one is suggesting downplaying the horrific event that was the Holocaust in favor of somehow pooling Jewishness in with whiteness. In fact, that's far from what is occurring here.

    What you and manju clearly aren't understanding, if I'm assuming correctly, is that this event occurred in Europe and was specifically an off-shoot of the political and social agenda of Nazi-GERMANY!!!! Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but the last time I checked the United States was not part of the Axis powers. I'm not suggesting that Jewish Americans did not suffer from discrimination, but that has nothing to do with Holocaust. If you want to discuss prejudice in European countries so be it, but even then I believe that the Roma trump you (if we were to do something as audacious and ridiculous as "measuring" suffering) since they too were rounded up in great numbers during the Holocaust and are still being HEAVILY discriminated against (Last I checked GB didn't give them their own country in Eastern Europe or the Near East for that matter).

    Second, and I don't know how people seem to forget this unless there is something in the water that causes factual amnesia, but being Jewish DOES NOT PRECLUDE ONE FROM BEING WHITE!!!! There are Arabic Jews! There are African Jews! Jewishness is an ETHNICITY NOT A RACE! Hitler, in all his great incompetence, mystically transformed an ethnic group into an ethnic/racial group the same way the US managed to lump all the various and diverse peoples of Latin America into one category - "Hispanics" before Latinos/as unified themselves under the banner of Latino.

    So, while no one is attempting to downplay the discrimination a Jewish-American might face in their day to day life, the fact of the matter still remains that, especially in this day and age, Jewish people are not as heavily discriminated against as POCs. Or am I wrong? Are Jewish people victims of mass and largely unjust incarceration? Are they victims of DWB (Driving. While. Black) or DWL (Driving. While. Latino)? Are they structurally relegated to living in segregated neighborhoods with inferior schooling and public services? Do banks do predatory lending with them? Do white males fetishize them like it's going out of style and commodify them as sexual objects and hardly anything more? Do white people ask Jews, "So what part of Europe are you from?" or "You speak English so well!" Or are they made, through the media, to be abnormally violent or abnormally sexually promiscuous? Do people say, "Oh! You're pretty for a Jewish girl!" or "You're actually kinda handsome/cute for a Jewish guy!" when they actually do acknowledge their existence?

    Seriously, manju didn't do ish but make himself look like an ass. Now, please, I would kindly request that you two stop derailing and add something productive to the conversation. Thank you.

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  69. There is no WAY someone looks at you and thinks, "look at that Greek lady."

    You can bet that's exactly what they do in her home town of Chicago. Everything there breaks down along ethnic lines, and the locals can definitely tell each other apart. She's not saying she's "not white." But she speaks Greek, has a Greek family, and likely goes to a Greek church. You're going to say she's not Greek-American?

    I understand the context of the post in terms of the silliness of "playing the ethnic card," but trying to claim that Nia Vardalos shouldn't be claiming she's Greek or Ted Kennedy should have identified with being Irish is just rank silliness.

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  70. Tryo, you're technically correct, but as you pick that nit, you're avoiding the larger point. Far as I can tell, no one here is saying that whites should totally relinquish their ethnic affiliations. The problem being highlighting here -- a problem that, again, you seem to be avoiding -- is the way a lot of white people cling to ethnicity in ways that avoid or deflect from the significance of their white privilege, and of the more general facts of de facto white supremacy.

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  71. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  72. I like Michael's point. Personal identity aside, benefitting from white previelige is a lot about how you are percieved by others, and the options that opens up to you. Even if you are completely culturally Irish (to use just one example,) and still remember the opression that your ancestors went through, here and now you will benefit from looking white, regardless of whether or not you are culturally American/Canadian/whatever.

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  73. "What you and manju clearly aren't understanding, if I'm assuming correctly, is that this event occurred in Europe and was specifically an off-shoot of the political and social agenda of Nazi-GERMANY!!!!"

    While I do not concede what happenned under the 3rd Reich can be so detached from american anti-semitism (I think they both have roots in european notions of the jew, including them being a seperate race) the fact of the matter is I never mentioned the holoccaust (till now), so this argument is completely without merit (at least as it pertains to me).

    What i did cite to substanitate my argument is an historiical fact (quotas) and a modern-day one (FBI hate crime stats).

    to furher substanitate my argument, didn't we just withness an antisemite go on a shooting spree at the Holocaust Memorial Museum? did he not advocate popular 9/11 conspiracy theories, which intersect nicely with antisemitism (the jews, er zionists, did it), which provides furhter evidence of anti-semitsm in the usa (the all powerful jew mythology)

    not too long ago an antisemite opened fire on the Seattle Jewish Federation, killing 6 jewish women. the guy who shot a military recruiter in lttle rock researched Jewish institutions throughout the country for targets. these are all recent incidents. i could go on.

    "no one is attempting to downplay the discrimination a Jewish-American might face in their day to day life"

    I fail to see how you can make this asssertion without addressing the very quotes in dispute:

    1. "The only "oppression" that Jews face in America is from Neo-Nazi and KKK members who don't want them in their ranks."

    2. "I'm sure there are some Jews who do experience discrimination, but they are the Sephardic Jews"

    3."I don't think that it's a valid point to claim Jews are oppressed in today's America,"

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  74. macon, I don't see where I disagreed with the premise. I did see sone people question the idea of whether some people with the most tenuous connections to their ancestry claiming/embracing ethnic backgrounds in general, and I saw someone rather ignorantly take issue with Nia Vardalos's ethnic identification in particular.

    I understand and even might agree with the premise of the post, but there is an underlying hostility to any ethnic identification among whites, to the point where, unbelieveably, we have someone like purvis taking issue that the fact that someone with foreign born parents who grew up speaking a foreign language in her home and lived in a city where identity breaks down starkly along ethnic lines, well, it is a bit of a stretch and to me is even more of a denial of the central issue of the post.

    Not to mention that if Ted Kennedy was not Irish and Catholic and was instead the Protestant Edward Smith, he would be just another guy from a rich Boston family that none of us had ever heard of.

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  75. It is also worth considering in the context of Jewish Anericans that were it not for the fact that they have a specific cultural experience and identity with being permanent minorities and outsiders in their home countries, they would have been less supportive of civil rights laws and consistent supporters of liberal policies put in place to protect and benefit POCs, even when their economic status would suggest that their interests are aligned more closely with conservatives.

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  76. @ macabre (part 1/2)

    clearly you're missing the point
    or maybe you're missing mine.

    no one is downplaying the horrific event that was the Holocaust
    well, if people are suggesting that members of other maligned groups have valid scars-from-past-incidents-of-oppression claims but that jews don't, then IMO that's exactly what they're doing. Maybe that's not their intent -- but, since you like to throw around conclusory accusations of derailing, i assume you realize that with respect to these matters, intent is irrelevant.


    what you and manju clearly aren't understanding...is that this event occurred in Europe
    Since I've visited the sites where my blood relatives were gassed, I actually have come away with a pretty decent understanding re: the geographic footprint of the Holocaust. Last i checked, SWPD wasn't an America-specific blog, so i'm not sure the fact that the Holocaust happened in Europe makes it somehow irrelevant, especially because there are still survivors walking around in America today. Nazi atrocities are also pretty relevant when you consider that a significant percentage of the anti-semitic hate crimes manju cites probably involved acts designed to evoke the Holocaust and Naziism. One of many reasons that the post-Civil War lynchings of Afican Americans remain so horrifyingly relevant even over one hundred years later is that people still hang nooses, etc. Those signifiers are still around, and they're still used to injure and silence people. Likewise, probably everyone ITT has encountered at least one swastika scrawled somewhere as part of an apparent design to intimidate/offend. If you think the noose/swastika comparison is inapposite, please explain why.

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  77. @ macabre (part 2/2)


    If you want to discuss prejudice in European countries...the Roma trump you
    I never asserted that anyone "trumped"anyone -- in fact, I think I called this a "stupid line of inquiry" (so I guess I'm unsurprised that you've pursued it). I did say that "Jews would garner plenty of medals" in the OO, but I don't see how any intelligent person could construe that to mean, "Jews were more oppressed during the holocaust and are more oppressed in Europe today than any single population evar." Is that how you construed it?

    Jewishness an ETHNICITY NOT A RACE! Hitler...mystically transformed an ethnic group into an ethnic/racial group
    Huh. It was my understanding that all racial classifications were social constructs created (usually) by oppressor groups and lacking any underlying basis in innate traits. Anyways, can you point to where I argued that being Jewish precluded a person from being white, and/or that Jewishness was "a race" as opposed to "an ethnicity"?

    So, while no one is attempting to downplay the discrimination a Jewish-American might face
    "Attempting" sounds like an intent reference. If that's the case, pls see above. And actually, scanning through this thread, I don't think I'm the only person who's interpreted several comments in this way. Manju (in his post at 10:48pm) singles out several comments that I think are particularly susceptible to such an interpretation.

    Jewish people are not as heavily discriminated against as POCs
    Nor Roma, right? Have you worked out an official oppression ranking you'd like to share? Since this blog has also discussed Islamophobia, would you say in light of Manju's hate crime stats that there's a reasonable argument anti-semitism remains just as formidable?

    [Ashekenazi] Jewish Americans as a statistical matter are likelier to be class-privileged than certain other marginalized groups. Obviously this confers some "power," and so when racism is defined according to the power+prejuce equation, [Ashkenazi] Jews aren't victimized as pervasively. But there is also a bit of a "model minority" stereotype at work here. And there is a lot of sincere anti-semitic animus, and not just within those KKK ranks I yearn to join. And, um, finally,

    Do people say, "Oh! You're pretty for a Jewish girl!"
    Yes.


    I would kindly request that you two stop derailing and add something productive
    How kind of you, indeed, to appoint yourself the arbiter of what constitutes a productive addition. I can't speak for Manju, but I wrote a paragraph above wherein I explained why these posts did not feel terribly off-topic to me. I DO think it's counterproductive to sit and argue about what's off-topic and what's not, but if you want to make the derailing accustion a major prong of your post then I guess I'd be grateful if you offered some supporting rationale.

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  78. @manju:

    "While I do not concede what happenned under the 3rd Reich can be so detached from american anti-semitism (I think they both have roots in european notions of the jew, including them being a seperate race) the fact of the matter is I never mentioned the holoccaust (till now), so this argument is completely without merit (at least as it pertains to me)."

    First, and foremost, the Holocaust comment was not directed at you but rather lurp who I was primarily addressing. So there was not much question of merit aside from your seemingly needless interest in addressing a point that could be possibly inferred as not pertaining to you. The segment addressed to you was, specifically, that pertaining to Jewish discrimination in the United States.

    Second, if an event in which a genocidal fascist conservative party was voted into power did occur in the US, Jewish individuals would be on a rather long list with Blacks and Latinos likely metaphorical miles ahead of them. Jewish-Americans are only one source of white nationalist ire. After all, as we've seen, conservative news outlets, such as Fox, seemed to place a considerable amount of blame on poor POCs (blacks and latinos) as one of the primary reasons the United States is in a recession.

    "What i did cite to substanitate my argument is an historiical fact (quotas) and a modern-day one (FBI hate crime stats)."

    First of all, when it comes to quotas their is a disparity when it comes to the atrocious crimes committed against blacks and latinos. Lynchings, for one, are alleged to be under reported. Further, brutality against Latino immigrants who work on commercial farms under slave like conditions is almost never reported, especially not officially since many of them are deemed to be illegal immigrants. Police brutality and the going-ons within prisons are not reported either. There are several other instances of quotas and statistics being lacking, but I believe you understand my point.

    The fact of the matter remains the statistics and quotas you referenced are very compelling and prove something I, and likely others, already knew to be true. But tell me, what do you know of the slave labour that goes into subsidizing the American food industry in the South? What can you tell me about those individuals, those men and women of colour, who are brutalized and exploited simply because they do not have legal documentation or are still deemed to be second class citizens?

    That is my point, manju. I would never make a claim that anti-Semitic attitudes are not a problem in the United States, unlike, it seems, a few did. But, when you put it in perspective there are no prominent physical descriptors that distinguish a Jewish-American from your average white American, at least not initially. Most see an individual's skin colour and facial features before they see one's ethnicity, or, to put things into perspective, before they see one's sexuality.

    I cannot downplay or hide my blackness even if it is necessary for my safety, manju. White people do not need to get to know me to know that I'm black. They see it when they first set eyes on me and my interactions with them are shaped by that. Can the same be said for being Jewish-American? Do Natalie Portman and Seth Roggan, for example, look profoundly different from Nicole Kidman and Jim Carey?

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  79. Well, I've read through the comments and now my hackles are thoroughly raised. It always astounds me how so many otherwise racially-educated people, POC and otherwise, end up repeating the very behaviors they claim to fight against whenever Jews come up. And, of course, "Jews" always means "Ashkenazi Jew," because there are of course no other Jews. The Holy Land was somewhere in Europe, right?

    Me? I'm an Ashkenazi Jew. I benefit from white privilege. I would never argue that I don't. But I don't think that everyone who benefits from white privilege automatically qualifies as white. Would you say that a light-skinned Latina who benefits from that privilege is white? Being a Jewish American is not like being an Irish American. It is race, religion, and ethnicity rolled into one. I'm not even going to go into the Holocaust, because I'm NOT interested in a round of Oppression Olympics here. But Jewishness has existed for thousands of years longer than Whiteness. Which do you expect me to answer when I'm asked?

    It's disgusting for an Ashkenazi Jew to deny and downplay the oppression of POC, as many have noted, because Jews of all colors are Othered by white Americans. And it's equally disgusting for a POC to roll their eyes and mutter "ethnicity card" when an Ashkenazi Jew doesn't sell out their identity to whiteness. BOTH are Othered and oppressed--Ashkenazi Jews to a lesser extent than other Jews and POC--and this should be a battle that both fight together. But from the look of this comment trail, that won't be happening any damn time soon.

    Again, some of us get white privilege. But just because I had a few lighter ancestors somewhere down the line than my (gasp! "Original" Jews are BROWN PEOPLE!) cousins in Israel does not discount my connection with them. I am a Jew, and a Jew is a Jew is a Jew, regardless of skin tone.

    And here's a fun little closing fact from my nursing major room mate: Ashkenazi Jews are still classified as a "non-white" group in the medical books, regardless of whatever privilege they might receive outside the waiting room.

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  81. no one is denying that white jews suffer othering and prejudice because of their -ethnicity-, as defined above. there are more than enough examples in the modern world, let alone the whole of history (though whiteness is a comparatively recent invention). but as disgusting as it may feel to feel like you're required to surrender your identity, the privilege that defines you as white for the purposes of this discussion is your ability to do just that. if you benefit from white privilege, that means you are white.

    THIS.

    Would you say that a light-skinned Latina who benefits from that privilege is white?

    It is totally irresponsible to isolate white privilege to colorism, as a person can obviously possess fair skin tones, yet still be marked as black (one drop rule and all) or Asian or Latina etc.

    It always astounds me how so many otherwise racially-educated people, POC and otherwise, end up repeating the very behaviors they claim to fight against whenever Jews come up.

    POC can be oh-so racist against those with white privilege! (Yes, this IS what you are saying given that you are speaking within the context of race.)

    OH WAIT, THAT'S RIGHT.

    Anti-semitism can obviously intersect with racism, but that intersectionality is only for Jews who LACK white privilege.

    And it's equally disgusting for a POC to roll their eyes and mutter "ethnicity card" when an Ashkenazi Jew doesn't sell out their identity to whiteness.

    For white Jews, refusing to "sell out" as you put it is simply refusing to admit your white privilege, therefore a disavowal of your accountability in racial oppression.

    And just because you are oppressed in one context DOES NOT work to cancel out your privilege in another. Claiming otherwise is such a common derailing technique that there's no need to even say anymore.

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  82. @ Michael

    it is important to distinguish between 'doing' race - exihibiting certain cultural cues...such as speaking a non-english language or wearing non-american clothes...and 'having race done to you', where stereotypes are projected onto you by an observer

    I agree it's valuable for purposes of this thread to distinguish what we mean by "race" vs "ethnicity" and I like this contribution, but I think the distinction you pose is somewhat problematic in its application to Jews. Many are identifiable on sight as such, and not just because they walk around sporting Orthodox garb and speaking Hebrew. If you were to stereotype "Jewy" facial features or hair, most people would know what you meant. Fox News, a racist villain mentioned elsewhere ITT (and in other posts on SWPD), has trafficked in these stereotypes in much the same way that some unscrupulous media outlets darken the skin of POCs receiving negative coverage. The second I laid eyes on Seth Rogen, I knew he was Jewish, but it was not likewise obvious to me that Thandie Newton was black or that Christina Aguilera was Latina.

    Commie Bastard says,

    It is totally irresponsible to isolate white privilege to colorism, as a person can obviously possess fair skin tones, yet still be marked as black (one drop rule and all) or Asian or Latina

    Well, if by "marked" we mean identified on sight, then it's unclear to me that an Ashkenazi Jew is so distinct from a light-skinned Latina. If we're talking about beliefs and constructs like the one drop rule, then it may be worth noting that Jews are one of the few groups aside from black people to whom the one drop rule has been applied.

    I would intuitively have ventured that to the extent people visibly identify you as white, you've benefitted from white privilege. Not all aspects of white privilege (e.g., maybe your family hasn't had the unearned opportunity to accumulate generations of wealth due to stuff like the GI Bill...or, maybe your family's assets were expropriated by Nazis), but many aspects thereof (no one is going to exit a public pool the minute you dip a toe in, nor approach you in a restaurant and ask where you're "really" from).

    For white Jews, refusing to "sell out" as you put it is simply refusing to admit your white privilege

    Except that Kvetchin' explicitly admits his white privilege at least twice in his post. I think the claim that benefitting from white privilege !="being" white is interesting, and I'm not sure where I come down on it. On one hand, it makes sense to claim that for purposes of privilege/oppression analysis, having white privilege and being white are the same thing. But since some people benefit from white privilege in more instances than others, does it follow that there are gradations of whiteness and some people are more/less white than others?

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  83. Woah Commie Bastard, if you'll step down off the Assumption Bus for a moment, I'll try to rephrase that in less privilege-y words.

    I'm pretty sure that I said several times in my post that Ashkenazi Jews have white privilege. I am not arguing that in the slightest. And we're damn well accountable for combating racism, particularly within our own synagogues where some Ashkenazi have forgotten that they aren't the only Jews.

    But I, and several others, have also tried to make clear why a Jew, no matter what color their skin is, will consider themselves Jewish above all else. And if you actually knew anything about our history and culture other than the fact that a certain percentage of us benefit from white privilege, you'd understand that well. That's really the only point I'm trying to make here.

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  84. @lurp

    "I think I called this a "stupid line of inquiry" (so I guess I'm unsurprised that you've pursued it)"

    "I don't see how any intelligent person could construe that to mean, 'Jews were more oppressed during the holocaust and are more oppressed in Europe today than any single population evar.' Is that how you construed it?"

    Wow, lurp. Really? Base insults against intellect? If someone disagrees with you, they must be un-intelligent, and here I thought the rest of us, even Manju, were having a constuctive conversation about receiving the benefits of white privilege vs. hiding behind one's ethncity, and how white jews fit into that or not. But then again, we all know about Ashkenazi intelligence, don't we? How mighty white of you.

    I guess I should take my black goyim self and watch some NCAA games since obviously this conversion is too cerebral to become a part of. I guess I'm not privileged enough.

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  86. @Michael: Then I think we've reached an agreement here. Nice debating with you! :)

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  87. @Kvetchin': And if you "actually" knew anything about race and white privilege, you wouldn't be executing such intricate yet shallow Whitey D-Dance maneuvers in an attempt to cover your ass by earnestly (grudgingly) citing your white privilege, only to then bust out such gems like "[b]ut I don't think that everyone who benefits from white privilege automatically qualifies as white."

    You know, POC can actually see for themselves the self-defeating "logic" of white privilege apologists, and it's pretty fucking ridiculous when you revert to White Condescenscion(tm) mode, dismissing the basic powers of observation of nonwhites as assumptions. Or "Assumption Bus," as you put it. Dayum, that's some white-hot wit ya got there.

    I'll just give it up for another shining instance of a white privileged person talking down to a POC in an antiracist context! And just because you're Jewish, or gay, or poor or anything else, does NOT absolve you of such unintentionally(?) racist douchebaggery.

    And just to circumvent further attempts at derailing, you don't know anything about me or the intersectionality of racism with other types of oppression I experience firsthand.

    On that note, it's interesting just how easily you seem to speak for Jews lacking white privilege, despite possessing it yourself.

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  88. 'Kay, CB, you're right, I'm wrong, and I'll just go back to eating bagels and ruining economies now. Shalom!

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  89. I'm very disturbed that people automatically assume that Jewish = white. It does NOT. 'Jewish' is a religious affiliation, NOT an ethnicity. What about non-white Jews? They're constantly ignored. What, do they not matter because they're not white? Does it not matter if they sufferend during the Holocaust too, and WHY do people seem to enjoy bringing up the Holocaust topic, always trying to compare one group's suffering to another? It's just as absurd as assuming all Muslims are Arab or from the Middle East, and all Christians are white. How come no one's seemed to realize the white privilege that comes with saying who gets to be in which religion, but completely ignoring the actual people IN each religion? Also, about the ancestry thing. As a black female, I will NEVER know who my ancestors are or where they came from or anything about them. As far as I'm concerned, my family's history doesn't exist beyond America (the education system and media only help to repeat this, as any time black people are discussed it's ONLY in the context of dealing with white people, as if we just magically appeared out of nowhere once white people ran into Africa - nevermind that every place in Africa had its own rich history and traditions long BEFORE non-black people even knew we existed or had established their great civilizations). Forget WHITE privilege, that's a privilege most ANYONE who isn't a Black American can take advantage of. I'll NEVER know where exactly I come from. I can't think of any other group of people who can say that.

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  90. @ Michael,

    do you think it's productive to distinguish between the 'internal' and 'external' aspects of privilege?

    I think it's illuminating for purposes of this discussion. I think, too, there are other subtypes of privilege that could possibly be broken down -- lingering historical privilege, for example, vs. privilege arising from stuff still being enacted today. Cat introduced and I ran with the example of the GI Bill, which is often cited as something that has privileged whites. Even a white family living in total poverty today benefits in a way that its black counterpart doesn't, because 50 or 100 years ago, someone gave their white ancestors some student loans or some land. A mixed person who often "passes" as white will still be victimized by this historical dynamic, since presumably many of his ancestors did not likewise "pass."

    This lingering historical oppression is something I think some ethnic whites -- including, yes, some Ashkenazi Jews -- can legitimately claim, too.

    My instinct is it probably does make sense to say some people have more white privilege than others -- some people benefit from both the internal and external, historical and contemporary aspects, while others may benefit from only one or two of the above. For some reason, though, thinking about whiteness/POC status as a continuum rather than a binary feels heretical to me. I'm not sure why.

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  91. @Lurp: Not to mention, though I will give ell to ell the benefit of the doubt and assume that she didn't know this, the "Ashkenazi Jews are smart" stereotype originated out of a survival-of-the-fittest notion that only the "smart Jews" could survive the Holocaust. It's pretty insensitive when people throw it out there.

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  92. lurp (is commenting yet again)March 22, 2010 at 12:08 PM

    @ Kvetchin'

    Very good point.

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  93. Oh look, ye olde fallback spin of the Whitey derailment "POC pointing out my privilege and racism is in fact racist against meeee!" Only substitute "racist" with "anti-semitic/homophobic/classist" etc.

    Oh, and by the way Kvetchin', I'm a transracial, transnational, child trafficking & abuse survivor with a white Jewish adoptive mother. And that's just SOME of the clusterfucked intersectionality I live every single fucking day.

    And while I'm completely inured to the denial of ANY part of my adoptive matrilineal heritage at this point in my life (because dear god, the orphaned child of a lesser god doesn't actually count as one's 'OWN'!!!!11), your spitting self-righteousness of knowing nothing about "YOUR" history and "YOUR" culture is much rarer.

    (Don't go thinking you're a snowflake yet - I've still encountered it plenty, though oddly enough only from white Jews.)

    LOL, even the most vainglorious douchebags try to glean some slight knowledge of their perceived inferior before they volley statements that would be absurdly arrogant no matter WHO my mother is, lest they make completely disgraceful fools of themselves.

    No wonder you're so so clever at turning phrases regarding assumptions, you're so used to living them.

    Your little tantrum is especially pathetic seeing as I actually know white Jews who'd be just as clear to call you out on your racist, derailing bullshit.

    I'm sure you know plenty of POC Jews who'll back up your Whitey D-Dance and your shallow, less-than-remedial awareness of race as a SOCIAL CONSTRUCT - not that you need invoke them, seeing as you already pretty much speak for all Jews against a POC who dares raise their voice above obeisance to Whitey-Knows-Best.

    And a reminder to ell to ell - ONLY WHITE PEOPLE ARE ALLOWED TO BE SARCASTIC ABOUT OPPRESSION. THEY are entitled to speak for and educate us about our own experiences, citing their privilege and the tone argument even while exercising both furiously, capiche?

    Peace out; these white fools have derailed this thread so thoroughly now that it's bushwacking through pine trees.

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  94. Where do you get the idea that anybody is trying to deny your struggles, CB? I sure as hell haven't said anything about your experiences.

    And yes, if you pull out stereotypes with that kind of origin against a group of people in your argument, you're a dick. I don't care what color your skin is, IT'S A BAD THING. Go ahead and insert some "cry more whitey" derailment jizz at this, but I haven't seen any of us white Jews doing it to anyone else here.

    This is the absolutely last time I'm replying to you, because I will admit that my previous address to you is a shitty way to end an argument. You're only going to throw out Oppression Olympics and Derailment Memes no matter what point anyone makes.

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  95. doubt and assume that she didn't know this, the "Ashkenazi Jews are smart" stereotype originated out of a survival-of-the-fittest notion that only the "smart Jews" could survive the Holocaust. It's pretty insensitive when people throw it out there.
    **********************

    Most people don't know that. The Jews are smart meme has been repeated by White Jews and has been used in tomes like the Bell Curve to prove the heritability of Jewish Genius. Whatever you may think Charles Murray and Herrnstein and the validity of their “research”, their views have continually confirmed the social assumption that even though some Jews are not quite White and are insular, at least they are smart. Nobel winners, scientists, thinkers, and musicians are also used as evidence that Jews have a genetic gift of being naturally smart since an overwhelming percetnage of Nobel winners et al have been White Jews. It goes even further back in Europe, in that Jews are always seen as crafty, scheming, and miserly, from the Renaissance, to Shakespeare's own Merchant of Venice but at least they are smart.

    The Jews are smart meme, may have had deeper resonance to the Holocaust, but most average Americans don’t know about that comparison since they are often thinking of European traditional meanings, before Hitler and how Jews interacted when they came to this country in large numbers as being insular, usuries, but smart.

    Still an American White Jew’s experience may be different than a WASP, but I just don’t see how a person who is white and is evaluated as White, especially with the assumption that you are just naturally smart, is in any way comparably to Blacks who have been told for at least 5 centuries that we are sub human genetic throwbacks. If that’s playing oppression Olympics oh well, I would rather be seen as smart, as opposed to a lip dribbling monkey with no discernible gray matter.

    The two experiences are incompatible.

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  96. @Dark Moon
    A long while back, I was walking in a bookshop with my grandma. I saw a copy of "Stuff White People Like" in its paperback form, read the back, and decided it was just the type of satire I was looking for. I showed it to my grandma, who said, "Oh, don't get that. It's talking about WASPs, not people like us. After hearing an explanation of a WASP, I said "Well, the cover doesn't say 'Stuff White Anglo Saxon Protestants Like'. It says 'Stuff White People Like', and I'm certainly not black." Grandma was not very happy with me.

    Also, "Jews are smart" is Social Darwinism, which is pseudoscience, which is unacceptable. Period. Even though I know you weren't attempting to validate it, the very mention of such a stupid, arrogant, dated philosophy offends my eyes.

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  97. @Ben---So noted. Using the examples of racial realists and eugenicts (sp) may be offensive, but the belief in White Jewish intellectual capacity goes back centuries.” They” have only articulated in a ham hocked semi reasonable way, what most people in the mainstream believe albeit grudgingly. That meme has only recently been quantified to enhance white racial superiority even though ironically, Jews have in the past, been traditionally seen as an ethnic other. Most people, if asked to describe a Jewish person would include intelligent, if not crafty devious or rulers of a secret society for the most paranoid and delusional. The same could not be said of Black people, who have consistently been denigrated in legitimate science (see Watson among others) and pseudoscience as stunted sub-humans on par with apes.

    Whatever the case, I agree with your example, that in these modern times and in this century, White Jewish people are evaluated as White and despite the underlying anti-Semitism in some parts of America, have always been intensely embedded in every capacity from banking , academia, to science and politics in which their intellectual supremacy is beyond dispute and thus continues to enhance a white ideal.

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  98. @j2j: seriously? are you in that much denial over heterosexual privilege? I don't deny that POC face some serious oppression issues. But you don't usually get kicked out of your home for being black, or told you can't get married to another black person. Let's face it, if Laquisha Johnson applies for a job, especially if she has worked for say, a black christian organization (many of which, let's face it, don't hesitate in denying marriage rights to same sex couples of all races), she's going to get treated A LOT better then say, a lesbian or bisexual women (or man, or even worse a transgender person) of any color who has worked for say, "The Gay and Lesbian Taskforce" and put that down on their resume. And look at how LBGT people of color are treated and shunned in their own communities. You don't want white people to deny white privilege, you're right, they shouldn't. But don't be a hypocrite and deny your hetero privilege.

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  99. First off, nice jumping in to the conversation a month later, Dana! Second, there is no such thing as hetero privilege, because just like the whopping majority of white ethnicities, outside of action on the part of the so called downtrodden proclaiming their involvement in a particular oppressed group, no one can look at a gay person and tell that they are gay. They can make an assumption, but if you look at someone who is black, that doesn't wash off and can't be hidden. In America, Gays, Jews, etc. experience much more self segregation and self oppression than that blacks get by looking the part. That is the point.

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  100. SWPD: treat all systems of oppression the same way.

    Signed,

    Queer Black Jewish woman.

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  101. @j2j

    Are you joking? Of course there's heterosexual privilege.

    I was going make a list myself but I googled "heterosexual privilege" and got a more extensive list then I would've been able to think of unless I put aside a significant amount of time to think about it. So yeah, have a read of that and tell me again that straight people do not have heterosexual privilege.

    White priviledge is going to be a different kind of animal, that certainly is true, but I'm incredibly frustrated with the way you completely dismissed what gay people go through and the benefits straight people benefit from.

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  102. @ Interested

    You are EXACTLY the kind of person this article is refering to!

    "I'm a little unnerved that Jewish People are being included in this 'common white tendency'. I really don't think that you can compare the experience of a completely assimilated white american with Irish heritage to a Jewish american."

    Really? Why not? Let's look at your reasons why:

    "Mane Jewish people are recognizable by name..."

    Last month, I was giving a friend of mine a tour of Lancaster County, PA. She remarked about all the "Jewish" names of the local businesses... But the names weren't "Jewish", they were German. Central PA attracted a large German population in colonial times, and to this day it retains a certain German character to it. Moral of the story is, "Jewish" names aren't really any more distinctive than other white ethnic names, like O'Neil or Rossi, especially since more-or-less "completely assimilated white Americans" with German heritage can have the same or similar surnames.

    "and appearance"

    ...If we're going by stereotypes, that is. Does Alicia Silverstone look particularly different from other white Americans to you? The stereotypical Irishman has pale skin, freckles, green eyes, and red hair. The stereotypical Swede is tall with blond hair and blue eyes. The stereotypical Sicilian has tan skin, brown eyes, and coarse, jet-black hair. That doesn't mean everyone with those heritages looks like that, nor that everyone with those appearances has those respective heritages.

    "and still face overt ethnic discrimination in this country and most others. They may have come from Europe, but their immigrant experience and their continued experience in America is very, very different from your average white American."

    ...Just like every European ethnic group has and continues to have its own unique experience in the United States. Sure, Jewish Americans have faced discrimination in this country. So have the Irish, the Italians, and many other groups that now share white privilege. Did you not read the original article?

    "In addition, unlike most white Americans of Italian or Irish decent, for example, many Jewish people, even families who have lived in the US for generations, are not fully assimilated into the dominant culture! They are often members of a tight-knit cultural community with different customs, food, dress and worldview than the white majority"

    Other white ethnic groups don't have their own communities and customs? You don't really get out much, do you?

    "(not to mention religion, if they are practicing Jews)."

    It's great to paint all Christian sects with the same brush, isn't it? To be Amish is very different from Catholic which in turn is different from Pentecostal. And then there are all of the nonreligious, agnostic, and atheist non-Jewish whites whose beliefs aren't that different from the large number of nonreligious, agnostic, and atheist Jewish Americans.

    "Of course, saying, 'but I'm Jewish, so I can't be a racist' is just idiotic, but Jewish people share many experiences with other PoC in terms of racism, and I think we can learn from their experiences as much as other PoC. I find it rather offensive to downplay the oppression that the Jewish diaspora continues to endure just because they come from Europe, or their skin is "closer to white" than some other PoC. I hope that's not what anyone was implying. I really don't want this to devolve into a 'who is more oppressed?!?" kind of conversation.'"

    This is such an odd paragraph, because the "who is more oppressed" game is exactly what you are doing when you try to play up the white Jewish American experience as being exclusively different from other white Americans.

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  103. @j2j

    I think you need to learn the difference between a visible minoritiy and an invisible one. As a gay male I am very conscious of the fact that I live in a heterocentric society. Since I don't speak with a lisp and I don't wear flamboyant clothing, people automatically assume I'm straight. They'll find it okay to voice their anti-gay bigotry right to my face since they feel they're in safe company. That isn't hurtful? That's not the mention the liberal use of gay slurs without any regard for who might be listening. As an autistic person, I'm also very aware of the ways in which society is not structured in my favor in that regard, too.

    I would never, ever try to compare my experiences with those of black people, though. The form of societal bias visible minorities is just too different from the form of societal bias against invisible minorities. The simple fact of the matter is that all these forms of bias are negative.

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  104. OK, so what i am seeing on this post is that ~ALL WHITE PEOPLE~ have it so much better, so they shouldn't even acknowledge ancestry that haa had a tougher time in the past? I have never actually heard an irish person call theirself not white, white is such a generic term anyway. Oh yes, the whole ~ALL WHITE PEOPLE~ play the minority or person from an ethnic background that has suffered card is so ignorant. Until you have talked to every white person and heard it from every white persons mouth, don't assume all play that stupid game. I hear about how racist and ignorant and prejudiced ~ALL WHITE PEOPLE~ are, but it is amazing when people discuss a bad experience and it becomes ~ALL WHITE PEOPLE~ that are responsible for that bad experience. Please stop putting ~ALL WHITE PEOPLE~ in the same category. That pisses me off so bad!

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  105. disait,

    Nothing here is about ALL white people (except the "social fact" that they're all considered white)--read the subtitle of the blog.

    If it ain't about you, then it ain't about you.

    I hope you feel less pissed off now.

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  106. Having a disclaimer in the subtitle of the blog isnt gonna change anything...the message is still clear "white people do this, white people do that" I'm white english with a mixed race son. I'm so happy he's going to grow up in a country that isn't so clearly riven into pieces by racial politics. What's the solution people? Keep bitchin? We gotta love a little more and hate a little less. Constructive debate, yes, but the moment you title a blog 'stuff white people do" you're throwing gasoline on the fire, whilst preaching to the converted. I'm a foreignor who's always admired the diversity of the US and the amazing possibilities thrown up by the collision of cultures (think jazz for example). I'm also a staunch defender of Americans when they face knee-jerk anti-americanism over here in Europe. I can't stand that bullshit patronising English attitude towards new worlders either. At the end of the day we have to understand we're increasingly living in a pluralistic society. I'm sooo excited about it. But the more we dwell on our differences, the more we exacerbate them. I don't want my son to be corralled into thinking this or thinking that, having to label himself one way or another through over-exposure to what I regard as politically correct totalitarian thought control. I want him growing up to have a deep respect for all whilst at the same time having a profound belief in his rights to his own choices regardless of society. Yeah, sure, he'll drop some clangers along the way, but at least he'll be an INDIVIDUAL.
    If you want to make a change in this world, realise that it's not so much about race as about money/class and all the thought control people in power want to exert on those below them. We live in an increasingly consumerist culture that seems to have only one way of attributing value, multiplying distractions to appease our insatiability. Lets free ourselves from mind-numbing consumerism before we can really free ourselves. Insha'Allah.

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  107. What I gather is that if you are a person of color, no matter how many generations you stay in the country and no matter the level of education you achieve, you will always be cast with the "other." Whereas if you're white of any ethnicity (Jewish, Irish, Albanian, Arab, etc.), as long as your skin is white and you have western features, you will be accepted as a white person and will benefit from white privilege. That is why a white person have been oppressed in another country or in this country during a particular period, is not the same as someone with a different skin color who will be forever treated the same way.

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  108. Some of this confuses me. I am Jewish and I would agree 100% that in the US, if you are white and Jewish you are party to white privilege....until people find out you are Jewish. I have been thrown out of a dinner party after admitting to being Jewish. Friends of mine stopped talking to me after they found I was Jewish. I've heard on the news/radio/TV numerous times that Jews are not white. So, it's confusing: we're white enough not to be a disadvantaged group (and as I said above I agree that we do experience white privilege), but different enough to be considered non-white by white christians. So what does that make us? Nothing and disliked by all. Which I guess is why I don't usually mention that I am Jewish.

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