Sunday, October 21, 2007

How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says about Race in America

The thesis of this article, by Karen Brodkin, is “The late nineteenth century and early decades of the twentieth saw a steady stream of warnings by scientists, policymakers, and the popular press that “mongrelization” of the Nordic or Anglo-Saxon race- the real Americans- by inferior European races (as well as by inferior non-European ones) was destroying the fabric of the nation” (p.38). This statement basically states that America clearly had anti-Semitism and also believed Jews to be an inferior race, which throughout history showed that their racism and elitist tendencies had put the nation in a worse position than it could have been.

Throughout the article, the author talks about how racist America was against almost every race or religion that was not protestant or was Nordics from northwestern Europe. One of the popular beliefs was that “Jews are members of an inferior race. But Jews were hardly alone…as well as against Asian immigrants, not to mention African Americans, Native Americans, and Mexicans” (p.39). It is believed that the United States have gotten these views of superior versus inferiority standards from Europe, because they discriminated against the Irish, even though their complexion was white, just like those from northwestern Europe. Also, Europe seemed to have different ranks within their continent. There were the superior Nordics of northwestern Europe to the inferior southern and eastern races of the Alpines, Mediterraneans, and Jews (p.40). But before all of this, in America, all of the white European immigrants were considered to be included in the white population. After the 1900s was when the racial divide between all of these different races and groups became clearly apparent in society, and included discrimination against women as well. One of the main events that occurred was the Red Scare of 1919. This event “linked anti-immigrant with anti-working-class sentiment- to the extent that the Seattle general strike by largely native-born workers was blamed on foreign agitators” (p.40). By the 1920s America tried using scientific racism to categorize who the “real Americans” were, also known as finding those who came from northwestern Europe. This racism was apparent from any type of job occupation, the military, and even in the education department. Anyone who was not a northwestern European male would most likely be treated unfairly in society, such as being forced to give up his or her job position for a lower ranking one, just because someone who fit the “real American” description needed to take that place, especially those who have just come back from the war and needed to find a job to support themselves and their own family.

Brodkin argues in this article that America’s anti-Semitism and racist views were directly related to believing Nordics of northwestern Europe were the superior race, and that people were born divided into separate classes and cultures that needed to be given different privileges. I agree with the author’s point of view, because the history of America is not exactly a perfect one. America started out as always having racist views against the Native Americans and the African Americans, because the new settlers strongly believed that they were the superior beings in this new country. As the population of the Native Americans decreased, and African Americans were being shipped over to America, they became the inferior race because of slavery. Once slavery was abolished, there were many white people already living in America. Now the government saw that they should divide superiority between those with white skin. Ideally, they believed the northwestern Europeans were superior, because that was their position over in Europe as being the highest in rank. Therefore, divisions between race, class, gender, and even sexuality became part of the privilege process.

Overall, I found this article to be quite bland. The article describes the Euro-ethnics within America, and continuously relates the racism against Jews to her personal life, and how she inherited much from her parents who grew up during this time period. She also made it quite clear about how America was racists through all these different aspects, and what America believed to be the superior race. Though the article was quite informative, I had a very hard time trying to keep focus on the article. Either it was the content, or the way the article was just delivered, I do not believe that this was a good read.

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