Now I'm in the situation where I think I ought to speak up about that. This is in response to a chain of posts which have something to do with that thing about bands playing gay on stage which (a) I do not know anything about and (b) I do not care anything about. As far as I'm concerned, what I'm talking about starts here, with a comment which I am going to come out and say is anti-semitic. chopchica, who I do not know at all, responds here. And finally technosage examined her own discomfort with discussions of antisemitism here.
One of the weirder things about being a member of what we call an invisible minority is the sense that you really are invisible: that honestly, the world would be a simpler and happier place if you simply didn't exist to mess up other people's world view, and that, if you insist on your existence, you're doing something rude. I didn't post this during ibarw because I didn't want to be rude. A lot of people I like and respect are involved in ibarw, and I think it is a good and important thing, and I didn't want to mess it up by insisting on imposing my perspective on it. But I feel silenced by IBARW, not because I don't usually talk about racism in my off-line life, but because I do; but when I talk about racism in these contexts, my experiences and understanding of antisemitism are considered relevant to the discussion, whereas in IBARW I'm not sure they would be welcome.
I think there are a couple reasons for this. The biggest, probably, is that a lot of the IBARW discussions are about white privilege, and American Jews are usually able to take advantage of this. I don't mean to belittle the importance of this: it's a very significant advantage. I would point out that being white and being Christian are not the same things; I don't think I can pass for Christian, although I've never tried. I don't know how relevant that is to most IBARW discussions, honestly, so I understand why the issue gets sidelined; being Jewish -- which includes not being Christian -- is pretty central to my own identity.
The second, and more insidious reason, is that I don't think antisemitism lives in the same places as other forms of racism (or, "as racism," if you want to draw a distinction between the two), which is to say that in my experience you never really know who's going to come out with an anti-semitic comment, and it often seems to me that antisemitism is a bit more acceptable on the left wing than the right wing, at least in the countries I've lived in. The anti-racist "we" may hold a variety of different attitudes toward antisemitism, and bringing the subject up might well end up fracturing that anti-racist "we." I sometimes get the sense that there is a certain amount of denial about this on the left.
I rather feel like I have taken my life into my hands writing that last bit.
And honestly, right now I also want to add that I am not going to discuss Israel in the comments to this post.
I should also make the point that the urge to pass is a strong one: why draw attention to your differences from the majority if you don't have to? And the answer is right there: because eventually, the majority will point them out to you anyway.
We used to joke about a family friend who thought there was an anti-semite hiding under every bed; more and more, the joke seems to be that there usually is.
I'm not sure where else to take this, except that I don't think that it's right that I feel silenced on this issue. And therefore, I am speaking. And that is probably why I will not lock this post.
My perspective may be a little odd. I grew up in San Francisco, which is not a very Jewish city, but which is a pretty tolerant place, and I went to an Ivy League college which was probably 20% Jewish, if not more. Most of my experiences with antisemitism have come while I lived outside the US, either in the UK or in Canada; some of it is just "Oh, aren't you exotic," some of it is the more disturbing habit of taking stereotype for fact. I usually blame anti-semitic comments made to my face on ignorance rather than ill-will. One of the reasons I would like to move back to the US is that Jewishness feeds into my feeling of being alien in both Canada and the UK; visiting New York this summer, a city I have lived in for about ten months total, was like having a weight lifted from my shoulders. I have a lot of issues about Judaism, and my Jewish identity, but they're my issues: my identity isn't going anywhere, while I work them out.