Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Are American Jews an oppressed "minority?"

I must confess that I was never much impressed with Rick Sanchez’s shtick on CNN. A bit of excitable bluster here, a suggestion of being malinformed there trying to bloat something out of nothing, and not being very good at small talk. So Sanchez, apparently angry that he was being shuffled to an inferior post, which may have been warranted, went-off in a radio interview claiming anti-Latino bias. The funny thing is, if a white person were to point out that this bias existed (and let’s face it—CNN has few minorities on the payroll—although more than “liberal” MSNBC), everyone would be nodding in agreement, if they be honest. But Sanchez had the temerity to voice the opinion himself; minorities are not allowed to talk about discrimination, or else they’ll be accused of “racism.” Note that every time Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton open their mouths about alleged racial discrimination, the knee-jerk reaction of many whites is denial and claims of black racism.

However, if Sanchez had simply clammed-up after making the racism accusation, he might still have a job. But Jon Stewart’s poking fun at him on “The Daily Show” may have been “proof” to Sanchez that this kind of talk that was occurring behind his back, leading to his “demotion.” He started talking about Jews, and that is a no-no. Accuse Jews of discrimination (especially if they work for your boss—or are your boss) then what happens to you is what happened to Sanchez: you get fired. Frankly, I found Sanchez’s resorting to attacking Jews to be reactionary, ill-informed, idiotic but most of all foolish ; there may well be large percentage of people of Jewish persuasion in positions of authority in the media, but I must observe that it has done little to” liberalize” it or make the news programs more about news than entertainment—like CNN; even “The Daily Show” really isn’t about news, it’s about making fun of newsmakers. Sanchez’s mistake was forgetting that Stewart really doesn’t have much of a conscience, and thus shouldn't be taken seriously--unlike Stephen Colbert, who I will credit with having somewhat of a moral center the bears examination.

This attacking Jews is bad business, because the fact is that many Jews do live in the past—in fact in another country, where the Holocaust did occurred. But the Jews were not victims of this country’s version of the Holocaust: the destruction of 90 percent of the Native American population in the first three centuries of European exploitation. Jews were also not slaves in this country (new archeological evidence suggests that they were not even slaves in Egypt). They were not interned, like the Japanese. They were not spoken of as pests and vermin as Latinos are in this country today, or being deported even when they have their birth certificates on their persons. Jews were transgressed upon by “gentlemen’s agreements” that barred them from exclusive country clubs and residential areas. But they were not prevented from pursuing careers and making a lot of money. While many Jews were heavily involved in the civil rights struggle, throughout much of the 20th Century, “white” and “Jew” were synonymous with those shopkeepers who were perceived as exploiting inner city black neighborhoods; I found it extremely hypocritical for Jewish leaders to denounce civil rights leader Julian Bond when he made this point. Rather than examine the truth of the matter, Jewish leaders merely claimed that Bond was a “racist.” White (supposedly mostly Jewish) shopkeepers were targeted in riots in Detroit and Los Angeles, and were duly critiqued; on the other hand, as Jewish scholar Jonathan Schorsch observed, speaking of black/Jewish relations by Jewish writers and researchers was permissible only if “subjectivity did not threaten certain conceptions of Jewish passivity and disempowerment." Meaning that speaking of discrimination against blacks by Jews was not to be countenanced.

For racial minorities who continue to be made to feel the substantive effects of racism, resort to talk about remembering the Holocaust should be as much about how racist propaganda and stereotyping is used to dehumanize people and justify discrimination, not just about killing a lot of people (I mean, this is America). Sanchez found himself in additional hot water when the interviewer, Pete Dominick, posed the question “Are not Jews minorities too?” His first response was to find this bogus, before backtracking. But it is a bogus comparison. Jews can be labeled a religious minority, but not a racial minority; that was an anti-Semitic myth. Jews are, at least those in this country, Caucasian. Hardly anyone has Barbara Streisand’s enormous proboscis, so it is impossible to distinguish Jews from any other white American. Even Jerry Falwell or Osama Bin Laden couldn’t tell the difference unless you told them. To compare the issues that Jews confront in this country to that of black and Latinos is to diminish the harsh reality that the latter confront in this society.

CNN never allowed Sanchez to redeem himself by apologizing for his comments on the air, which suggest it was looking for an excuse to fire Sanchez anyways. But you can bet your bottom dollar that CNN commentators will continue to make outrageous claims of sexism without substantiating evidence, and no one will ever be fired over it or be forced to apologize for it. CNN will also not be required to explain why it broadcasts so many negative images of Latinos that help create an atmosphere of hate. Some groups are simply more “relevant,” and powerful, than others.

No comments:

Post a Comment