Date: Fri, 13 Jan 1995 17:54:06 -0500
Sender: Women's Studies List <WMST-L@UMDD.BITNET>
From: Sharon Vance <svance@CCAT.SAS.UPENN.EDU>
Subject: racism and "reverse racism"

Racism and "reverse racism"

By Sharon Vance. 13 January, 1995.

The following is a response I sent to S. Haley's comment on anti-Semitism. I feel that it is an issue important enough to send to others as well, especially given that this week marks the 50th anniversay of the liberation of auschwitz:

I am writing in response to your response to the issue of racism and "reverse racism." While I agree with your main points, I can not agree with your statement that "we can be anti-semitic and none of this is good, but it is not racism. Racism is a power relationship and a system of oppression." I happen to be gathering a bibliography on ethnicity, some of which includes definitions of race. In many societies and arenas of ethnic conflict peoples not classified in the US as races, such as Irish Catholics and Jews, were defined as races. Even in certain periods of US history, in fact just prior to WWII, Jews were defined as a race. If we consider the history of Europe, particularly prior to colonial expansion, Jews were the resident "Other." At different times in history, and even in countries, such as Argentina and Russia today, Jews are subject to a "power relation and a system of oppression."

It can be, and frequently is, argued that Jews in the State of Israel, as a collectivity, oppress another people. I accept this argument, and being an Israeli citizen, can testify myself to its validity. It does not, however, annul the fact that in other societies and historic periods Jews have constituted an oppressed people and that anti-semitism IS a systematic form of oppression. It just shows that racism and anti-semitism, as well as other systems of oppression, need to be analyzed within very specific, historic contexts. If we want to generate theories that are universally applicable, and not USA-centric, so to speak, we need to take these societal and historic differences into account.

There is quite a lot of literature on anti-semitism, if you are interested. In fact in this week's newsweek there is an article on the final days of auschwitz (this week marks the 50th anniversary of the liberation).

Sharon Vance
Asian and Middle East Studies
University of Pennsylvania

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