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Friday, August 23, 2002

Blacks, Jews and McKinney- This is a not-too-good piece on black-Jewish political relations after the McKinney defeat of Tuesday. Despite what the media would like to make use think, the Muslim money going to McKinney overwhelmed the Jewish money going to Majette. Black leaders might have to stand up to Muslim groups or face being hounded from office. In the distant past, blacks and Jews were political allies, cohorts in a liberal Democratic coalition. However, that was a day when being Jewish was as detrimental to someone as being black. I remember hearing this Rat Pack-era joke.
Sammy Davis Jr. was on the golf course. He was asked "What's your handicap?" "I'm a one-eyed Jewish Negro. Take your pick."
These days, being Jewish isn't as much of a handicap. While there are pockets of anti-Semitism and the occasional bigot attacking a synagogue, being Jewish isn't a career-stopper any more. Being black has more of a downside, albeit much less of one than fourty years ago. A half-century ago, there was much more institutionalized anti-Semitism along with Jim Crow bigotry; thus, blacks and Jews and a bond of outsiderness that saw Jews being key helpers in the civil rights movement. There have been two key changes that might lead to a greater distance between the two groups.
(1)Jews have become more accepted by Christians of various theological stripes
On the left, universalism has made mainline churches more receptive to generic theistic cooperation with Jewish groups. On the right, a greater interest in Israel's role in eschatology and a muscular Israel have lead evangelicals to become backers of Israel, endearing themselves to Jews who can look past the occasional salvation pitch. It's largely the underchurched that retain a high degree of bigotry. This seems to make Jews feel less separate and a bit more culturally, if not spiritually, assimilated. There seems to be less of a feeling of being an outsider than before. When I was a kid, it was everybody else versus the WASPs. When's the last time you heard WASP? The protestant part fell out as evangelical-versus-mainline became more of a factor. Now, the political divide is whether you take your faith at face value rather than what your faith is. This also will allow for some anti-Semitism to creep in. The more Jews are just whites, the easier it is to trash Jewish businesses.
(2) The growth of Islam as a factor in Democratic politics and the black community
As various Muslin groups start to grow in the black community and immigrant Islamic communities start to vote, support for Israel starts to be problematic. Over the last half-century, Israel has gone from an underdog to a overlord, moving them into the left's doghouse. If coupled with an Islamic presence, this leads many black leftists to be severe critics of Israel. If you couple those two factors, where Jews are becoming more accepted and blacks becoming more anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic, you can easily see the two groups on different sides of many issues. 9/11 might be a catalyst of making Jews less Democratic (I'm not sure yet if I can say more Republican) and this seems to gall establishment black liberals.

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