When I first started writing this series on the politically biased, racist, logically confused, and embarrassing "White Privilege"-based Equity training materials used by many public school districts, including Hillsboro, earlier this summer, I wasn't planning to write this article. After all, if you have read my previous blogs, you probably have noticed that I strongly advocate striving to treat everyone as individuals, not divide into groups and count up Victim Points. But who would have predicted that in the summer of 2014 we would see a massive surge of anti-Semitism worldwide, including protestors chanting for the murder of Jews all over the Western world, leading to a Newsweek cover story on the Jewish community beginning to flee Western Europe again , and even local Portland seeing protestors supporting these calls for mass murder? With all this happening, I find it very chilling that our local public schools are teaching Equity classes that directly encourage anti-Semitism. In addition to all their other flaws, it is important to recognize that these Equity classes are failing on their own terms: directly encouraging hatred of a particular minority group, for which open calls to murder have suddenly become fashionable and acceptable.
Why do I say this? Well, keep in mind that the Equity training packet is full of articles discussing various minority groups sympathetically: how they first came to America, their struggles fitting in and being accepted, etc. But let's take a look at what they have to say about Jews:
For example, Jewish people of European ancestry sometimes do not think of themselves as White because for them the term means White Christian. Also, in Nazi Germany, Jews were defined as a distinct, non-Aryan racial group. In the context of an anti-Jewish culture, the salient identity may be the targeted Jewish identity. However, in terms of U.S. racial ideology, Jews of European ancestry are also the beneficiaries of White racial privilege. My White Jewish students often struggle with the tension between being targeted and receiving privilege. (p.31)
Why should we consider this anti-Semitic? Aside from the fact that this form of clinical racial analysis sounds like a throwback to a 1930's KKK pamphlet-- is it really appropriate to pick apart various groups and analyze their levels of Whiteness?-- this analysis is directly picking at one of the sorest scabs in the Jewish racial psyche: the idea that the world has been secretly manipulated to bring invisible privileges to Jews. You may recall that about a hundred years ago, there was a popular book being passed around called the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", supposedly showing how the Jews were manipulating and controlling the world; and its ideas were used to justify rabid anti-Semitism that led to mass murder. This scientific-sounding analysis is essentially making the same charge, that Jews secretly have invisible privileges that have led to their disproportionate success in the economic world. How many who attend these seminars will have these ideas still floating around their subconscious, and have them magnified and legitimized when they are specifically taught to resent Jews for their secret privileges? And worries about this perception leading to real physical danger are not naive or outdated: the Hamas terrorist organization, which massive numbers of these protestors are supporting, specifically cites the Protocols in its charter .
This flabbergasting level of insensitivity to Jewish history is made even worse when you contrast it with the treatment of a fellow "model minority" group, Asians, in the same training materials:
The stereotype is that Asians are hard workers, quiet, and get good grades because they have tremendous pressure from their parents to succeed. While initially appearing to be beneficial, the stereotype has had some negative effects. It has pitted Asian Pacific Americans against other groups targeted by racism, often at the instigation of whites. It has also contributed to White fear and resentment, leading to an increase in sometimes deadly violence. (p.13)
Could there be a starker contrast between the treatment of two minority groups? For the exact same set of stereotypical characteristics that lead to academic and economic success, Jews are guilty of perpetrating White Privilege, while Asians are victims of other groups pitted against them. If you're looking for cases when groups have been "pitted against" each other in order to create violence, here's a question for you: when was the last time you heard about marching crowds all over the Western world openly and unapologetically calling for the deaths of Asians, or for that matter for the death of any other group besides Jews?
Anyway, I'm not advocating that we add another unit to these ridiculous training materials to properly account for anti-Semitism. Horrible gaffes like this are inevitable when you build your Equity philosophy around dividing people into groups and judging racial grievances. If you weren't convinced to protest these materials based on their crazy definition of racism, denial of merit in America , or poorly thought out ad hominem rhetoric, how about the fact that it tacitly encourages anti-Semitic attitudes that are leading to death threats and riots against Jews today, in 2014, all over the world? Be sure to contact your local school district (remember, I found this in Hillsboro, but the same program is being used in many other places), find out if they are teaching about "White Privilege", and carefully examine any materials they are using to train their faculty and staff.