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What I tell my Black Jewish children about Kanye West, antisemitism and race

TJI Pick
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Published: 27 January 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

JASON STANLEY writes that claims of ‘Black antisemitism’ are a dangerous distraction. The truth is the fates of Black and Jewish Americans are linked.

My two children are seven and 11. They are Black and Jewish and have to understand racism and antisemitism when most adults don’t or won’t understand either. How do we address these issues with them?

Black children growing up in America absorb much about race from their environment. Many live in largely segregated cities and experience largely segregated spaces – they see what is happening from an early age. The repeated instances of police violence and Black protest, followed by white backlash – what the historian Elizabeth Hinton calls “the cycle” – do not go unnoticed by Black children.

Meanwhile, leading Republican candidates talk in antisemitic stereotypes – the “dual loyalty” trope that Jewish Americans have a primary loyalty to Israel, or conspiracy theories such as QAnon that resemble the ancient Christian antisemitic conspiracy theory of blood libel. My 11-year-old likes Ye’s music, and now feels bad listening to it. But it’s important that my kids recognise that the narratives he and others share are already embedded in American society.

For some Jewish Americans, remarks and posts by Black Americans such as rap artist Kanye West (known as Ye), TV host Nick Cannon and basketballer Kyrie Irving come together in a concept that one could, very tendentiously, label “Black antisemitism”. But we must be vigilant to the fact that what could be mislabelled as such is instead antisemitism of other varieties. If Ye describes Jewish financial domination, or control of the media, it is not “Black antisemitism”. It is garden-variety American antisemitism. Christian nationalism is the view that the US was founded as a Christian nation, and its exceptional nature is a testament to the abiding Christian character of its founding laws and culture. Christian nationalism is also a traditional source of antisemitism, the blame for which can hardly be placed on Black Americans.

What I tell my Black Jewish children about Kanye West, antisemitism and race (Guardian)

Federal minister casts doubt on Kanye West being allowed into Australia (SMH)

Photo: Demonstrators support Kanye West on a Los Angeles freeway overpass (Twitter)

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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