When I was in the second grade, I met students who were shocked to learn that the word "Jew" was more than just a slur. Until they met me, they had only used the word in a derogatory or pejorative sense. For myself, I had been taught by my parents that there were some people in the world who looked down on Jews, but this was my first encounter with it.
A similar trend is occurring among the culturally liberal in this country – where I live and now make my home on the Left Coast of the United States. But the word I want to write about today isn't "Jewish"; it's "white." The basic ideas used to demonize Jews for centuries are now being wielded by cultural Marxists to do the same thing to white people in three ways: historical tropes, selective economic statistics, and sociological exaggerations.
Hatred of Jews has a long history, but the grievance against Jews was based on a commonly held history of victimization by later generations of Gentile Christians. To begin with, Jews were held collectively responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the martyrdom of early Christian saints. What made this, like almost every other historical grievance, especially pernicious is that unborn Jews were also made responsible for these events. Saint John Chrysostom, a doctor of the Church, wrote in the fourth century, "the Jews are always degenerate because of their odious assassination of Christ. For this, no expiation is possible, no indulgence, no pardon (no forgiveness)." In other words, this was a charge passed down from generation to generation for which no forgiveness could be attained. To be a Jew was, in short, to be guilty of murdering God Himself.
Similarly, modern leftist thought renders white people guilty of two unforgivable crimes: the enslavement and transport of Africans to the Western Hemisphere and the conquest of the Americas and the displacement of the indigenous people who came before. President Obama may have unwittingly stated this when he said in 2015, "what is also true is that the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives – you know, that casts a long shadow. And that's still part of our DNA that's passed on." Of course, what's in your DNA cannot be expunged. It gets passed on like a disease. Thus, Mother Jones can publish articles titled "America Has Never Truly Atoned For Slavery" without a hint of irony. Dead white bodies carry little meaning in the modern Social Justice War. That over 300,000 Northern white men died to end slavery means nothing to them; and that over 25% of the Southern white male population of military age died will never be a sacrifice that cleanses their descendants of their sins. I don't need to note the contrast between this never-to-be-forgiven viewpoint with that of President Lincoln, who said in 1865 that the Civil War was absolutely an expiation for the sin of slavery.
The history of distorted Jewish wealth and influence is almost as old as the deicide charge. Using cherry-picked data to accuse Jews of unjustly controlling the wealth of various nations or even the world was a tool used long before the Nazis rose to power. In Germany during the pre-Nazi period, it was common to point out that, "while Jews comprised only one percent of the German population, they accounted for 18 percent of bank owners[.] ... [O]f the 29 German families with fortunes over 50 million marks, 9 were Jewish[.] ... Jews made up 22% of employees in the Prussian banking and stock exchange[.] ... Jews were 18% of all doctors, 15% of dentists, and 25% of lawyers in the German state of Prussia." The fact that the Jews living in the Pale of Settlement (modern-day Poland, Ukraine, and Belorussia) were some of the poorest Europeans was ignored. Envy at Jewish success and wealth led time and again to monetary expropriation long before the Nazis levied a specific tax on Jewish wealth. European Christian and medieval Islamic rulers expelled and massacred their Jewish populations to either expropriate their wealth or to avoid paying debts which they had chosen to accumulate. Usually these moves were justified by saying that Jews had acquired their wealth using ill begotten means – usury being the most charged of the accusations.
Today, hardly a day goes by without some tirade about the racialized distribution of income and wealth in the United States., such as this one from the New York Times. The chief targets are whites. It is taken as a matter of course that these gaps are caused by white racism and exist because of the ill gotten wealth that the ancestors of white people stole from black slaves or conquered red bodies. The Washington Post trumpets that "White Families Have Nearly Ten Times The Net Wealth of Black Families"; the Guardian tells us that "The Median Wealth of Black Americans 'Will Fall to Zero by 2053." These claims are always couched so as to lay the majority of blame on white people and "white institutions." The implication being that only the income and wealth of white people can "fix" these problems by being expropriated and redistributed, like in one absurd article about a "White Equality Tax" to pay for the historical sins of slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, etc.
And finally, Jews were accused of being disposed to privileging their own over non-Jews. This sociological lie says that Jews simply cannot help but be parasitic. That we have no culture of our own; that all we know how to do is to steal from others or profit from their work. Henry Ford published this "Jew as parasite" trope in 1920: "if this genius be described as parasitic, the term would seem to be justified by a certain fitness." Ford asserted that the New York Stock Exchange was run by Jews, as if Jews were consciously or even biologically disposed to pushing out non-Jewish stockbrokers. Similar arguments were raised by anti-Semites like Kevin MacDonald as regards the medical profession, law, and other trades.
The same arguments are leveled against whites today by people masquerading as academics. Take the apoplectic hysteria over the term gentrification. This is really a leftist dog whistle implying that gentrifiers – usually white – are parasites, and their victims are usually people of color. From the UMKC editorial "What Appropriation and Gentrification Have In Common": "A parasitic relationship, gentrification utilizes tactics like rent-hiking to drive out original tenants[.] ... [V]ictims of gentrification are often black and Hispanic. Cultural appropriation, black face and gentrification all benefit and profit from exploitation and pain of historically oppressed people." Another article describes current musical trends as being of white parasitism and black victimhood.
These concepts are commonly taught to K-12 students, who start learning about racialized wealth gaps as early as second grade and are made to watch videos depicting all social problems as being the result of historical sins. At university level, these concepts take a more elaborate turn as college students imbibe lessons on gentrification and cultural appropriation while learning of an all-encompassing boogeyman called "whiteness," in "Whiteness Studies" courses. What good can come of these intellectual pursuits but demonization? What end are the proponents of these issues aiming at? Are they conscious of the downsides to their rhetoric? Do they even care?
As Andrew Sullivan notes, the most terrifying possibility is that these rhetorical devices will be used against American Jews as the "apex" of the white hierarchy: "once you posit secret forces defined by race, and link these forces to human beings of that race, you are at risk of mimicking the very structure of anti-Semitic thought. And when Jews are understood as "white," and are indeed among the most prosperous and successful "whites," then "white supremacy" can easily segue into "Jewish supremacy." Fliers purporting to say just that were passed around at the University of Illinois back in 2017. The thought is not altogether impossible.
Perhaps these phenomena explain why, if you listen to almost any liberal on social media or mainstream media these days, the word "white" is, for them, a pejorative slur. It is a word they almost exclusively use to describe something they find abhorrent, distasteful, and negative. To the modern leftist, the word "white" is what the word "Jew" was to my elementary-school classmates. But for people who claim to be concerned with the meaning and use of words, they don't seem to care how cavalierly this word is misused. Ideas have consequences, especially bad ones.