The “Rising Cost” Of Whiteness Studies
[Recently by Athena Kerry:
Multicultural Education—No “Americans” Need Apply]
Spring Break! Defying the stereotype of a
drunken topless coed in Cancun, I`ve spent my time
quietly on campus, sleeping and catching up on homework
while webs of snow cloud my frosted windows. I`ve also
had time to watch a few
movies—a rare luxury, since I lack not only both a
VHS and a DVD player, but also a basic TV.
But judging by the Oscars, giving up Hollywood for Lent
isn`t such a bad idea. Here`s an unwelcome update:
Brokeback Mountain, the favorite for Best
Feature Film and accurately
described by Jonathan Rosenbaum
Michael Moore approved!) Chicago Reader as
the type of "tearjerker that`s often overrated and
smothered with prizes for flattering our tolerance and
sensitivity" was snubbed in favor of
Crash, a convoluted flick known by many as
"the racism movie."
Before rap group 3-6 Mafia received their award, they
performed their, uh….song…in front of
innumerable white actors and actresses who looked
like they were dressed for
a night at the opera. But maybe the audience related
to the song more than you might think. As host Jon
Stewart pointed out, "pimps…they`re
And prostitutes…well, Stewart also noted that
the actresses in the audience "could
enough gown to cover their breasts."
At one point, Stewart even said that Hollywood is out of
touch with mainstream
Stewart`s political humor may be in touch with the
real world, but not with his audience at the Oscars.
Where there was laughter in America`s living rooms,
there was silence in Kodak Theater. Silence when he made
fun of the rich, the
Scientologists, the celebrity efforts toward
political and social justice.
And especially silence at this:
Schindler`s List. Both tremendous films. I think
I speak for all Jews when I say: [crosses fingers]
I can`t wait for what happens to us Jews next!"
Which brings me to my VDARE.COM point. Thanks to my
Catholic university education, I do know what
happens next, Jon:
Jews will be unfairly considered white.
My professor told me so!
This semester, as part of their
continuing orientation program, students working as
Resident Assistants at my school were
required to read an article by an academic called
Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz entitled Jews in the
U.S.: the Rising Costs of Whiteness. It appears in
that indispensable volume Readings for Diversity and Social Justice
An Anthology on Racism, Sexism, Anti-Semitism,
Heterosexism, Classism, and Ableism.
Kaye/Kantrowitz [send her
mail] claims that the U.S. invented all
racial discrimination ("before America, no one
was white…no one was
Asian before they
came to America either"). She quotes with
approval the black writer James Baldwin saying "it
took generations, and a vast
amount of coercion, before this country became a
white country…it is probably the Jewish community…
that in America has paid the highest and most
extraordinary price for becoming white." [On
Being `White` and Other Lies," Essence, April
Kaye goes on to give contradictory examples of that
"extraordinary price for
being white". First, she
reports having a bloody swastika painted on the door
of her new house—proving that she is not accepted as a
white. Then, she suggests that since she was not hassled
but waved on after her last
traffic violation, she is not being treated as a
minority either. And she finds fault with the fact that
Women`s Studies courses, students are encouraged
identify and oppose the
"hierarchy of oppression" but not to discuss
Finally, she complains that "in the academy,
obligatory nods to issues of race/class/gender result in
language so specialized it`s incomprehensible to most
Well, I do agree with that!
By way of introducing a long segment that attempts to
determine whether Judaism is either a race or a
religion, Kaye/Kantrowitz makes this stunning attack on
observant or not—usually operate from the common
self-definition of Christianity, a religion any
individual can embrace through belief, detached from
race, peoplehood, and culture.
I have come to understand this detachment as false. Do
white Christians feel kinship with
African-American Christians? White slave-owners, for
with their slaves? White Klansmen with their black
neighbors? Do white Christians feel akin to Christians
colonists all over the globe? Doesn`t Christianity
really, for most white Christians, imply white?
And for those white Christians, does white really
include Jewish? Think of the massive Christian
evasion of a simple fact:
Jesus Christ was not, was never, a Christian. He was
a Jew. What did he look like, Jesus of Nazareth, 2000
years ago? Blond, blue-eyed?"
So, Professor, here`s what I get out of it: Christians
are a multiracial people who claim to love each other.
Jews are a
multiracial people who don`t claim to love each
other, but were never slave-owners.
Therefore, Christians are intolerant.
But even that is too clear for Kaye/Kantrowitz.
In case her argument is making too much sense, she
She also claims that "Jewish is often
trivialized as something you choose, a preference, like
tea over coffee."
Ultimately, Kaye/Kantrowitz urges all non-Christians to
join up together:
the U.S., Christian, like white, is an
unmarked category in need of marking. Christianness, a
majority, dominant culture, is not about religious
practice or belief any more than Jewishness is. As
names the system that normalizes, honors and rewards
whiteness, we need a word for what
normalizes, honors and rewards
Since Christian domination is destructive to all
non-Christians, not just Jews, Kaye/Kantrowitz argues,
the terms "anti-Semitic" and "Christian
hegemony" should be abandoned in favor of "Christianism",
used pejoratively, because
a term would help contextualize Jewish experience as an
experience of marginality shared with other
non-Christians…in this time of rising Christian
fundamentalism, as school prayer attracts support from
`moderates,` …compelling [progressive Jews] to
seek allies among Muslims and other religious minorities."
Remember, this article was assigned at a
In class, the reaction to this piece was not unlike the
audience reaction on Oscar night: uncomfortable silence.
The RAs were divided into groups of 4-5 for
"discussion time." But far from the spirited
debate the instructors were expecting, Kaye/Kantrowitz`s
piece was the elephant in the room. People discussed
weekend plans or swapped "crazy resident"
stories—anything to avoid the topic assigned.
The closest anyone got to it was a group that initiated
what my friend Maeby calls "storytime,"
(once one person shares a personal anecdote, the class
topples like dominoes). And all the stories started the
same way: "this one time, I was a victim when…"
But there is a big difference between Jon Stewart and my
Stewart won`t be giving Hollywood a grade that goes on
its permanent record. Hollywood can go back to
Beverly Hills and get on with ignoring him.
We students are expected to conform—and like it.
Athena Kerry (email
recently graduated from a Catholic university somewhere in