Aliza Hausman has an interesting article on racism. The article is interesting because it made me think. A couple of things I thought were interesting was that all white people are described as one. It does not make room for the prejudices that the Italian, Irish and white Jewish people have had, all white people are the same.
I love reading Aliza’s blog. She is one of the few people I put on my blog roll. The second thing I thought about was how much I feel bad for Aliza. I am sure she does not want that, but I feel bad that she sees racism in everything.
Aliza has done something very few people do. Aliza converted from the secular Dominican New York community into the homogenious Orthodox community. This community has very few outsiders nevermind a Dominicana. This community does and says some really weird things. This does not surprise me for a community that is so insular. It is not as if this community hangs out with Dominicans or any other subculture in the US. They are orthodox Jews. It is all about them and no one else. So Aliza is rebelling from their stupid ways.
Taking the definition of racist as anything from a group of people using race as a means to subjugate them to being unaware of stupid things one might say, seems like a bit of a stretch.
White Americans and people of color in this country different significantly in their definitions of racism (Blauner 1994). Most whites think in terms of the oppositional categories “racist” and “not racist.” Whites in the “racist” category are defined as disliking or hating blacks and other minorities, and their animosity is portrayed in acts or statements that are blatanly racist (Jaynes and Williams 1989). The white definition of racism is problematic because it does not recognize racism unless it is blatant and/or intended; neither does it acknowledge institutional racism.
I am not sure how this definition takes into account the well meaning white guy. The “white” definiton of racism is problematic because who the heck are we talking about. Asking people the definition and then taking their point of view is a strange way of defining something.
However, some points I would like to make are: making fun of the way names sound in a different culture is naive perhaps stupid at times but does not qualify as racist. Unintended and institutional ways of putting people down by race is racist, I agree. Intolerance and lack of knowledge between 2 groups does not make one racist. Stretching the definition to everything every person feels is not helpful.
For example, black women report that whites often seem surprised to find that a black person has a college degree or is a professional.
Is this really racist? Could be. Could it be that the people do not encounter black people enough and live in their own segregated world?
As a Jew I am sure you can come up with many of these kind of things. Are they all antisemitic? Are they stupid or naive? “Jews are terrible at sports. Or how about I can’t believe your Jewish cuz your poor?” Does that make the person antisemitic?
All this seems to be much closer to the glass half empty version of the world. It reminds me of the lacromonious historical accounts of Judaism. Jews are so picked on and in every generation someone does it again. It is horrible having the life of a Jew. How about having the life of a minority community that has been wiped off the face of the earth? How about the major communities, Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Roman, Greek – which of these communities survived - none.
Please do not think that every stupid comment by a “white” guy is racist and I won’t be blind to the fact that obstacles are still in the way for many minority communities. At the same time remember that you can succeed and you can change the world if you rise above it all
The Well Meaning White Guy