Tag: anti-semitism

Oy Vey

I’ve written before about the bond between Latinos and Jews. There’s even an official alliance to foster this connection.

And now we have statistical evidence that this bond is growing stronger. According to a study by the Anti-Defamation League  (ADL), anti-Semitism is on the decline among Latinos. About 14 percent of American-born Hispanics hold anti-Semitic views, which “represents a welcome decline” from 2011, when 20 percent of Latinos had issues with people named Goldstein and Silverman.

Of course, 14 percent is still way too high, but at least it’s moving in the right direction.

Now, if you had any doubts that Latinos and Jews are strongly linked, consider this related news story out of my home state of Wisconsin. Apparently, a few weeks ago, a severely inebriated man in Janesville exited a bar late one night and “overheard two men on the street speaking Hebrew. He confronted them, demanding they speak English.”

The drunk guy then hit both men “because he believed they were speaking Spanish.” This member of the English-only league has since been charged with two counts of battery with a hate crime enhancer.

No, it’s not an uplifting story. In fact, it sounds like an Onion headline. But clearly, to some Americans, it doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish or Latino — you’re marked for a beat down.

It’s a good thing, then, that Hispanics and Jews have each other’s backs.


Personally, I Prefer the e4-e5-f4 King’s Gambit

The only game I have on my computer is chess, so I can’t procrastinate on work by playing Gears of War or Dead Space 2 or some other time killer. Taking a break to play chess isn’t such a temptation.

I’m not a bad player, but there is a whole group of kids out here in California who could trounce me faster than you can say, “Bobby Fischer was an anti-Semite.”

I’m talking about the state high school chess champions from Mendota, a “Central Valley town of stilled machinery and packinghouses surrounded by industrial agriculture” where “unemployment hovers around 45 percent.”

Every player is Hispanic, and the teens come from a poverty-stricken area that is “the kind of place that requires durability just to survive. Out here, even sunlight seems hard.”

The team placed first in the Premier Division at the CalChess State Championships, going against kids from rich suburbs and players who had private tutors. So how did this group of Hispanic teens, living in a place where the food bank does booming business, conquer this most intellectual of games?

For starters, “without many chess books or easy access to computers, team members turned to each other — rehashing games, comparing strategies, playing endlessly.” They were also coached by “a black man who doesn’t speak Spanish. When the 100% Latino team acts up, he yells in French.”

Who knows why that tactic works? I guess if someone yelled at me in French that I left my rook hanging, it would get my attention. By the way, the coach is a bit of a redemption story himself, coming across as an African American version of Dennis Hopper’s character in Hoosiers, but with knights and pawns instead of basketballs. He says the kids have inspired him.

In turn, the coach “chooses the team’s captains, based not on ability but on what they need to learn.” This approach at character building seems to have worked. In his nine years of coaching, just two of his players have failed to graduate, astounding in a town where “only one in ten people has a high school diploma.”

And this year, the team won the state championship. Indeed, “for people who live in the world of packing houses and field labor, the town’s success in a game of intellect and imagination has resonated.”

By the way, the kids themselves include the bounced-around foster kid, the insecure teenager, and the overwhelmed immigrant — characters who will only make the feature film version of this all the more poignant.

Of course, if they ever made a movie about the all-Latino chess champions, they would cast half the team with blonde, blue-eyed actors, throw in a car chase, and have the climax feature a player yelling, “Checkmate, bitches!” while a cheerleader jumped into his lap.

I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen here.

Love Thy Neighbor

Recently, everyone’s most charismatic anti-Semitic homophobe, Mel Gibson, expanded his repertoire. According to widely distributed recordings, Gibson has gone beyond disliking just gays and Jews. He also despises women, blacks, and Latinos. I’m talking about those direct threats to his ex-girlfriend and his causal dropping of both the N-word and the W-word.

Now, a common question, besides the snide pondering of what his pals Danny Glover and Jodie Foster think of all this, is how could such a devoutly religious man be so filled with hatred? After all, Gibson directed The Passion of the Christ (a slice of hardcore propaganda for Christianity if ever there was one) and has been vocal about his faith.

As a brief aside, I may have mentioned – once or several hundred times – that I was raised Catholic, as many Hispanics are. I dropped out of the Church when I was a teenager.

One reason I left the Church was that I grew weary of being told I should feel guilty for every thought or action, no matter how innocuous. But I will give credit to my old parish for one thing: It at least told me that I should feel bad if I ignored Jesus Christ’s teachings.

To my surprise, many Americans don’t even have the self-respect to acknowledge when they are contradicting their spiritual foundation. I’m referring, of course, about the recent study that found a positive correlation between religion and racism.

We all know that most U.S. churches are racially homogenous (over 90 percent of them, by some estimates). But this study found that in these ethnically pure places of worship, “strong religious in-group identity was associated with derogation of racial out-groups.” This means that many Christians are looking at one of Christ’s great commands – “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) – and amending it with the phrase “unless they look different than you.”

The researchers found that “religion is practiced largely within race” and as such, “religious in-group identity promotes general ethnocentrism.” This study focused on white Protestants, but the researchers believe that their findings apply to other groups because “all religions teach moral superiority.”

I’d like to say that all this surprises me, but it doesn’t. I’m sure we have all met religious people who struck us as somewhat less than holy. I still remember the older man who told anyone who would listen that he was saved, because he had accepted Jesus Christ as his savior. And then he dropped a few choice comments about minorities.

And my wife told me about the time she was stuck in a car with a group of well-to-do (and supposedly devout) Christians. To her surprise, her fellow passengers joked about running over African Americans on the way to their destination. They were going, of course, to a wedding… in church.

My wife is no longer friends with these people.

What amazes me is the overt contradiction that these feelings should create. Yet there seems to be little internal conflict.

Even religious homophobes who are secretly gay spend time praying to “cure” their supposed affliction. Their tragically wrongheaded approach at least causes them angst.

But many Christians apparently see nothing wrong with praising Jesus and then dismissing one of his central principles. Perhaps the more studious racists in the study can justify it with the ancient argument that all the other races are decedents of Ham, Noah’s ostracized son, and are therefore worthy of scorn. But somehow, I doubt this theological viewpoint comes up too much.

Regardless of how religious people justify it, the effect is real. The researchers “failed to find that racial tolerance arises from humanitarian values, consistent with the idea that religious humanitarianism is largely expressed to in-group members.”

In sum, I can say I’m a good person if I’m nice to people at my church. And it’s best if I don’t think about it too much beyond that.

As such, Mel Gibson has plenty of company.

Again, the study implies that every religion has this dirty little secret. One could argue, in fact, that modern religion demands a certain level of hatred for the mythical Other.

For example, the Amish are as religious as it gets, submitting their lives to a strict version of what they believe God wants. And yet, this very devotion to spiritual belief also requires a certain level of xenophobia. It’s necessary to maintain their theological (and theoretical) purity. Even if the Amish went looking for converts, I doubt they would be in a big hurry to accept a black person (by the way, if the Wayans brothers would like to develop this concept into a zany comedy, tell them to call me and we’ll do lunch).

So was there anything positive about this study? Did the researchers find any group that might offer some hope for the future?

Yes, there was. The researchers said, almost as an aside, that “only religious agnostics were racially tolerant.”

Well, that’s just great. How are we supposed to fit that into a sermon?

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