Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The personal is the political

The Arch-Volokh himself has posted an entry about the efforts by a University of Nevada at Las Vegas Jewish student group to block the appointment of one Justin Chomintra to the editorship of student newspaper Rebel Yell because of supposedly anti-Semitic comments made in his blog.

Sean Whaley, "UNLV STUDENT NEWSPAPER: Petitioners oppose Rebel Yell editor," The Las Vegas Review-Journal, April 29, 2004.
The comments that prompted the request were published by Chomintra on a personal Web page in September about a former girlfriend.
He also criticized a Jewish student for "not wanting Jews to associate or date non-Jews."
[Rebel Yell Advisory Board member] Ched Whitney said Chomintra has been contrite and apologetic about the comments, which were written after a breakup with a girlfriend.

Jim, Rkayn Knowledge, May 5, 2004.
[O]ne possibility...jumped out at me: that the comments in question arose out of being dumped by his (previous) girlfriend - who is Jewish. In addition, it seems that the reason that he was dumped (or at least the reason that he believes he was dumped) was that he was not Jewish.
It seems to me that this is the likely sequence of events:

1. He was dating a Jewish girl.
2. She broke up with him.
3. He believed (rightly or wrongly) that this was due to his not being Jewish.
4. He also believed that a friend of hers had talked her into the break-up, also on the grounds of his not being Jewish.
5. Rather understandably angry and upset, he lashed out on his "web log".
6. After calming down, he deleted the angry tirade.

If this is what really happened, then this [makes] it unlikely (though not impossible) that he is truly anti-Semitic. Dating a Jew would strongly suggest that you do not hate them.

Eugene Volokh, The Volokh Conspiracy, May 4, 2004.
A correspondent asked me: If Chomintra wasn't anti-Semitic, why did he say these things about Jews specifically?....It's hard to tell without seeing more of the context, but Rkayn Knowledge has a sensible conjecture [t]hat would explain why (1) he's annoyed at what he sees as some Jews' excessive focus on Jewishness, and (2) he's saying this about Jews and not about other groups....[T]his is sheer speculation, of course, though consistent with the facts.
This reminded me of the reaction to football (soccer) commentator and former coach Ron Atkinson's description of Chelsea player Marcel Desailly as a "f*cking thick lazy n*gger".
Duleep Allirajah, "Offside," spiked, April 29, 2004.
Ron Atkinson should not be pilloried as a racist for one simple reason - that he treated black players equally. Atkinson became manager of West Bromwich Albion in 1977, a time when black players had bananas hurled at them and were routinely subjected to monkey grunts and chants of 'kill the nigger'. Ron was one of the pioneering managers who ignored skin colour and selected players on merit.
The perception of black footballers back then was perfectly encapsulated by former Crystal Palace chairman Ron Noades' infamous remarks that 'the black players at this club lend the side a lot of skill and flair, but you also need white players in there to balance things up and give the team some brains and some common sense'. Ron Atkinson broke the mould by building his team around three black players - Brendan Batson, Laurie Cunningham, and Cyrille Regis. Atkinson, moreover, debunked the myth that black players did not possess leadership qualities by appointing Batson his club captain.
Paul McGrath, who served under Atkinson at Manchester United, has revealed that he occasionally called black players 'coons' on the training ground. McGrath, though, notably refuses to brand his former boss a racist. 'He was one of the few managers who helped black players in their careers and he treated everyone well', said McGrath. Other black players too, while not condoning Atkinson's words, could not bring themselves to label him a racist. 'I can't defend what he said but there is no way he is a racist', said Carlton Palmer. 'No black player who played under Ron would have done so if he was racist in the way he treated them, but his comments this week were hugely offensive', said Brendan Batson.

The equivocal reaction of these black players towards Big Ron's blunder reflects a wider confusion about how we define racism....The crucial question is whether black people are treated as equals or as inferiors. Ron Atkinson was the first football manager to practise equal treatment. To me that's the essence of anti-racism. Or at least it ought to be....[T]hat's why I'm defending Big Ron regardless of his racial gaffes. In helping to make football one of the few social arenas in which black people are treated as equals, Atkinson did something far more radical than anything the mind-your-language brigade will ever achieve.
In the 60s, the radical "New" Left abandoned the "Old" Left's aspirations of transcending race, ethnicity, religion and gender for a fixation on these very identities. In doing so, bigotry was no longer a matter of how you treated blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, women, etc, but whether you failed to subscribe to "right on" ideas about such matters.
Ziad Doueiri, "Stopping Traffic," Time, April 10, 2000.
[Traffic Officer]: And what do you do?
[Ziad Doueiri]: I work in film.
TO: Like what kind of film?
ZD: Films, you know, like Hollywood films, nothing you would recognize.
TO: Why do you say I don't know?
ZD: O.K., I worked on a film called Pulp Fiction. Have you heard of it?

He summoned other traffic officers, who hurry over.

TO: Check this out. The gentleman knows Travolta!

Questions and comments poured in. "So, how is Johnny? We like Travolta, he is good people? What is he like, nice? Does he like Arabs?"

ZD: I didn't ask him if he likes Arabs.
Instead of leading people to judge each other as individuals regardless of race, religion or gender, identity politics has dragged us back into tribalism, validating innumerable ethnonationalistic narratives, some of which are bound to be antagonistic to each other. The only truly liberal, progressive answer to the question "Do you like Arabs?" "Do you like Jews?" or "Do you like blacks?" is neither "Yes" nor "No" but "It depends on the Arab," "It depends on the Jew," "It depends on the black".

There are millions of Arabs, millions of Jews and millions of blacks in the world. From such large samples, I can guarantee that there are some people in each sample whom I will like. Is it racist to acknowledge, that from such large samples, there will inevitably be some people that I don't?

I'm friends with a Sunni Arab who is one of the most charming, lovely and sophisticated women it has ever been my privilege to know. (Read: Jeet's got a little crush on her because she looks like a cross between Saffron Burrows and Ines Sastre and has the sort of voice men usually have to give their credit card numbers over the telephone to hear.) That doesn't mean I pretend that Osama bin Laden doesn't exist. One of the only childhood friends I bother to keep in touch with is Jewish. That doesn't mean that I don't acknowledge that my former Williamsburg haredi landlord both looks and acts like a caricature straight out of Hermann Goering's propaganda.

Whipping people into conformity with a party line will never lead to a smiley, happy, multicultural utopia. Since only totalitarian measures can force everyone to agree (in public anyway), then we should at least allow ourselves, all of us, to be frank even, no, especially about our disputes without Mao-style post facto "Let a hundred flowers bloom" incrimination.

And for f*ck's sake, that Chomintra kid whose appointment to the editorship of the student newspaper is now being attacked because he got upset about getting dumped for not being Jewish? Go after people actually out to harm Jews or desecrate their religious facilities. Being hardassed d*cks to some poor heartbroken motherf*cker will only end up creating more anti-Semites.