Saturday, August 21, 2010

contemporary Anti-Roma/Traveler depictions

My wife started watching The Riches, with Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver as Irish Travelers in the American South, on Netflix. Twenty episodes aired from 2007-2008 on the FX Network and got quite good critical response. I have to say, in many ways it's a fun show. It paints buffers (a word Travelers use for non-Travelers) as mean, hypocritical, selfish, cheats, and we enjoy watching the protagonists cheat them. But still, it's just a plainly racist show. Even if we enjoy watching the heroes scam and steal, it's a show predicated on the stereotypical depiction of Travelers as scammers and theives. There's a nice scholarly article by Peter Kabachnik from the journal Romani Studies.
Most revealing about The Riches is the decision to base the show on how Irish Travelers take on another family’s identity and become settled buffers, parking their caravan in the woods behind the house and ceasing their traveling way of life. Apparently the only way for Irish Travelers to live the American Dream is to steal it.
He also deals with the film Traveller and mentions a few other films, including Snatch. Add these to the standard "gypsy curse" plot from Thinner (the only thing here besides The Riches I've seen) and Drag Me to Hell, and despite the general invisibility of Roma and Travelers there's really quite a lot of plain racist depictions in high profile projects and big star roles.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Catching up -- closet edition

Things I missed while my computer was down:

The ADL's position on the "Ground Zero Mosque" was pretty shameful. I applaud Fareed Zakaria who returned prize from the organization. But, ummm, hey guys, this is not an opportunity for Jew-bashing. For starters, at least the ADL's rejection of the community center (it's not a mosque) was tepid. Many Americans, even many New Yorkers are not nearly as tepid in rejecting it. It's not like the ADL or any other Jewish organization or leader is responsible for the general response. As near as I can tell, the ADL actually doesn't even represent Jewish opinion very well on this particular matter. Other organizations and people, particularly Mike Bloomberg (who is Jewish, if you didn't know), did better.
Brett Domino doing Lady Gaga. I really love these guys. They really lay bare a lot of stuff about popular music. In this case, I think it highlights some of what's so great about Lady Gaga, though previously it was what's so silly about Justin Timberlake. I don't think any of the members of the BD Trio are Jewish, but I think there appeal to me does have something to do with my being Jewish. A lot of Jewish theater and comedy (Seinfeld, e.g.) makes fun of the outsider assimilating into mainstream culture in a way that similarly lays bare the arbitrary conventions and assumptions of that culture.
Racialicious and Mad Men: It's not that Latoya Peterson hasn't got a point when she notes that Mad Men is, like many shows on television, mostly about white people. (This, however, via Racialicious, is much more interesting on that point.) I do think the disagreement with her from the comments, some of it quite pointed, is well worth reading. (And I tend to stand with that disagreement.) But what gets me is that one of the biggest, most important Jewish characters isn't part of the discussion. Latoya writes:
I refer to Rachel Menken, not because “OMG, there’s a Jewish woman” but because she got to say, on screen, that people are racist. She was able to articulate her suffering, she was able to articulate her feelings of being seen as lesser, she was able to make a salient point about being the recipient of prejudice, all while people still claim to like the individual.
But Jimmy Barret (aka Jimmy Bernstein), the comedian from season two, is nowhere in the discussion. Though Latoya says, "most discussion of Jews is framed as anti-Semitic jokes, open curiosity, or thinly veiled contempt," in fact, Jimmy is the target of one of the most blatant, hateful, in-your-face moments in the series when Betty tells him, "You people are ugly and crude." And that line does exactly what Betty intended with it: it silences Jimmy. In fact, the purpose of his character was to show the fine line that most minorities walk if they want to express themselves. Some never can in public. Others, those who have some control over the extent to which they are perceived as minorities (for instance, through name changes) can only express themselves in indirect ways - the source of Barrett's anger. He is introduced in the series on the set of a commercial where he is the consummate professional (instructing the cameraman how to shoot him) playing the fool. If anyone can walk that line, it should be Jimmy Barrett. But in the end, he got shot down. Jimmy Barrett is one of the pivotal characters in a work about closeted identities, yet he's missing from the discussion.

Norm Geras criticized an article by J.J. Goldberg, editor of the Jewish Daily Forward. Norm is plainly right that Goldberg is redefining antisemitism so as not to offend anyone who isn't named Adolph Hitler. As luck would have it, someone else discussing racism just yesterday wrote:
At the moment, the right’s standard for legitimate charges of racism are quite high: as Chris Rock once put it, you have to have shot Medgar Evers to be a racist. Sliming civil rights leaders, depicting Obama as a thug or a monkey or a watermelon-eating pickaninny, writing about Michelle eating ribs all day—that’s not racist. Shooting Medgar Evers, OK, that’s racist.
But this isn't a conservative, here. This is the editor of the Jewish Daily Forward. Goes to show (further to Jimmy Barrett) that it's not so easy for minorities to speak plainly. But Goldberg also said something Geras didn't address:
Few seemed to notice the irony: Two of the most powerful men in Hollywood, both Jewish, urging a third power player, also Jewish, to punish Stone for suggesting that Jews dominate the media. The bottom line: Stone’s comment that Jewish influence in the media stifles open discussion brought the media crashing down on his head.
Ummm, no. The fact that there are powerful Jews in Hollywood does not mean Jews "dominate" or "control" the media. It only means Jews have some influence and some power. Notably, Jews in the media have never really spoken openly about being Jewish out of fear, which is to say they didn't really have much power even if many were in positions of power. So the New York Times didn't cover the Holocaust, and Hollywood didn't make a film about antisemitism until well after WWII (1947). And they're still making crap like The Reader. But if two of the most powerful men in Hollywood, both Christian, were trying to blacklist a director for being racist, would anyone be decrying the inordinate power of Christians in Hollywood? And, though maybe it would be a good idea, let's note that no one has successfully stopped Stone from anything, yet.
Is England antisemitic? Anthony Julius addresses a controversial statement by Shimon Peres. Julius says a lot of smart things there, but there's something I don't quite like about the interview.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Muslim leaders visit Nazi death camps

Too good to just put in the shared links over on the right. (Via Talk Islam.) Muslim leaders visit Auschwitz and Dachau. At the end, this is great:
Qadhi stressed the importance for Jews and Muslims to understand and accept each other’s narratives of suffering. “There’s no denying that we have problems we need to talk about, but dehumanizing the other is not going to solve our problems...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Liveblogging a Racialicious fiasco

Too much, too much. Elle complains:
I am shocked at the level of anti-Semitism allowed on this blog.
And the response?
Ellen, this is the mission statement of the ADL, taken directly from their website:
I know I sometimes get names wrong, but I make an attempt to replicate them exactly as is. It's just a matter of decency. More importantly, while the response pointing to the ADL's mission statement is technically correct, it hardly matters. Elle made a number of points, none of which are refuted with this.

Furthermore, we could ask why it is that the ADL's mission statement is that way. I would suggest it's because Jews have always felt an inappropriate pressure to subsume our issues to "larger" issues, which is part of what makes us so vulnerable to "colorblind" (really, the analogue of) racism.

Previous. I sincerely hope I have the chance to update this repeatedly.

UPDATE: Well, so far only one more comment. From a Jew disappointed by the whole affair:
I am also terrified that my fellow “progressives” are using this as one more way of painting Jews as the bad guys, the ones in power, the oppressors, the evil Zionists who keep those poor Muslims down. Come on, you guys are smarter than that.
I hope they prove me wrong, but I am afraid, having watched Racialicious fail time and again, that they're not smarter than that.

Computer fixed, plus yet still more anti-racist antisemitism

But I'm going away for the weekend, so that post catching up on what I missed will have to wait.

In the meantime, it's really time Racialicious figures out why they get comments like this:
ADL is beholden to Zionist doctrine, and standing up against islamophobia or for muslim rights are nowhere to be found there. All Zionist linked organizations are in line with this. The Simon Wiesenthal Center is sponsoring a Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem that’s being built on top of muslim graves with complete government approval. Imagine the inverse situation.
Further, why on Earth do they approve those comments. All comments at Racialicious are hand moderated. Granted, none of them are Jews (and really, that's potentially a problem right there, if it's indicative of who they think is worthy of a voice), but still, you'd think they could recognize THAT!

Zionist doctrine? Is that where Jews demand dignity and equality? Then, hell yeah, I'm all for it! Or is it the doctrine that says all Jews hate Muslims, just because we're Jews?

yeah i just want to re-iterate that the ADL has long been a state-sponsored terrorist organization. they are zionist. they are racist. end of story

Monday, August 2, 2010


Oy! Computer died, an due to peculiar circumstances, we're not getting a new one for at least a month. Blogging will be light or lighter.