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« Thomas Schelling Wins the Economics Nobel Prize | Main | Milton Obote is Dead »

October 10, 2005

Comments

Factory

Hmm they are prolly seeing if the old adage of lots of Jewish ppl winning nobel prizes is still holding up well. Assuming that they are anti-semetic is a bit off, surely if you see someone _might_ be Nigerian doing well you also might be inclined to take more interest in the subject, and find out if they really are Nigerian?

Darach

"Assuming that they are anti-semetic is a bit off,"

I don't think that wa sthe point. Members of a group can buy into and feed off of bigoted stereotypes that target that group. I think that is what Abiola may have been referring to. A classic example of this is the "big black buck" stereotype in America. It is very oppressive and yet some people cling to it, sometimes as a means of survival. In this case the anti-Semtitic sterotype just gives a temporary ego-boost, sort of a psychic crystal meth.

Julian Elson

Well... could be sorta naïve curiousity. They're just kinda wondering, so they decide to type it into Google and see what comes up, and they don't really think about sanctimonious bloggers who might be looking at their referrals and drawing inferences about their state of mind when they searched it. ;^)

The thing about Google searches is that they're very, very easy to conduct, so you don't really need to be very curious about something to search about it, as you would for, say, going to the library and looking up books in the subject, and writing down numbers from catalogs, and trawling through stacks. You just need to be very slightly curious.

Of course, the fact that your post doesn't come up until the second page implies that they went at least two pages into the Google search before they got bored again and did something else, so it does imply that they were curious enough to look at more than, say, the first three or four entries before giving up on finding the juicy facts.

Abiola Lapite

" Hmm they are prolly seeing if the old adage of lots of Jewish ppl winning nobel prizes is still holding up well."

And what is that if not a stereotype? Nothing in Schelling's name leads one to assume he's Jewish - even on the assumption that "Schelling" is German rather than English in origin, a full third of all Americans have German ancestry.

"if you see someone _might_ be Nigerian doing well you also might be inclined to take more interest in the subject, and find out if they really are Nigerian?"

I don't just assume off the bat that every black person I see is a Nigerian, nor do I care to check unless there's some explicit tie to Nigeria in the first place.

" In this case the anti-Semtitic sterotype just gives a temporary ego-boost, sort of a psychic crystal meth."

Exactly. The downside to going along with the "Jews are so clever!" stereotype is that one can't suddenly turn around and protest when some nut starts muttering about "cunning" Jews hatching "clever" plots to cheat the goyim.

"Well... could be sorta naïve curiousity."

"Curiosity", sure, but "naive" I think not. Do you bother to look into the Jewishness of every notable person you hear about? I think people who do that kind of thing are either bigots looking to blame some aspect of a person they dislike on his or her Jewish ancestry, or else they're the Jewish equivalent of the Afrocentric chauvinists who want to show that every great musician, philosopher and scientist of antiquity was at least part black.

Julian Elson

Maybe you're right that a good fraction of these search referrals are from Jewish chauvinists or anti-Semites. I guess if you get lots of unusual referrals, it is worth asking "why." My initial thought was, "people search for all sorts of random crap on Google," though, if it were people searching for random crap, I guess it would tend to be more random, and less homogeneous. I still think you're being a bit quick to ascribe bad motives based on two words in a Google referral.

I didn't Google to find out if Schelling was Jewish until you provided the link, nor do I usually do so when I find out about a "possibly" Jewish notable person, but I must confess, I have Googled to find out if the Berenstain Bears were Jewish. Their authors seem to be, though I still haven't been able to figure out whether the anthropomorphic bears themselves have any religious affiliation.

Julian Elson

Correction: Stan Berenstain is. Jan may or may not be, based on the Forward article I just looked at to refresh my memory.

Peter Lund

Why would it be racism and not just curiosity?

Emigrant groups usually don't maintain an identity of their own for so long (what happened to the Vandals, the Visigoth, the Cimbres?) -- that alone makes Jews, Parsees, and Romas interesting.

And why do the (Eastern European) Jews and the Parsees do so much better than the Romas?

I find it puzzling and I am neither Jewish or an anti-semite.

Alice Kell

As obituaries editor and senior associate moderator of EEJH, The Electronic Emporium of Jewish History, News and Opinion, I am responsible for posting obituaries of Jewish personalities to the group website. I am expected to verify that the decedent is indeed Jewish before posting the obituary. This means that, at times, I Google "[decedent's name] Jewish" as it is one of the most effective ways of verification.

"Berenstain Jewish" brought up this page. Stan Berenstain passed away over the weekend. I believe it is very unfair to stereotype every one who does this kind of search as a Jew-hater or ethnically insecure. It is the same kind of behavior that is being condemned on this page. Fact-checking is not "hate" behavior. Please take my comments as edification, building up, not tearing down.

Abiola Lapite

Alice,

Thank you for your response. However, I must say this much:

1 - While *you* may have a valid reason to look up such information, the likelihood that most of those who were concerned about this issue had similar reasons in mind is vanishingly small. The great majority of material online which points to the (often entirely imaginary) Jewishness of some notable personage or other does indeed fall into either the blazingly anti-semitic or obnoxiously chauvinistic categories.

2 - As a factual matter, I am not really much of a fan of the kind of thing where one assembles all material relating to people who happen to share a common religion or ethnicity, as I simply don't accept that defining people by such measures is a good idea. While I can certainly understand the desire to preserve the shared Jewish cultural heritage in the face of 2000 years of attempts to eradicate it, I think it ought to be left up to people themselves to decide whether to wear the label "Jewish" or not, rather than for others to go foraging into their backgrounds for possible Jewish antecedents: such behavior smacks of adopting the very mindset which defined "Jewishness" as some sort of ineradicable biological taint.

If Thomas Schelling were active in Jewish affairs and spoke out on Jewish concerns it would be one thing, but there's not an iota of evidence to suggest anything of the sort, which is why I find efforts to ferret out his religious background as repulsive as someone looking to "out" a person for having a black ancestor in the family tree: no one has the right to take it upon him or herself to apply an ethnic label to someone else against that person's choosing, no matter how convenient such labelling may be. If none of the obits about Stan Berenstain mentioned his Jewishness, have you considered that it might be because he didn't *wish* to be identified as such, even on the assumption* that he did have Jewish ancestry?

*And not a necessarily sound one, either - as I noted earlier, one in three of all Americans has some German ancestry.

Jim

"And not a necessarily sound one, either - as I noted earlier, one in three of all Americans has some German ancestry."

Including a lot of the ones with Jewish ancestry too, perhaps. Lots of Americans with German ancestry came over before High German spelling conventions became the general norm, and so they have dialectal spellings of their names, and Berenstain could be one such. The reference to jewelry makes the name more likely to have a Jewish connection, like names such as Pearl or Rubenstein.

MT

you know we all decended from Africa. I don't understand why people are surprised of anybody as being identified as having an African decent. denying this makes you a cowered and foolish
you are African and godamen black all of you there is no shame in this sukitup!

Johnny

I gather that Schnelling IS Jewish, then.

Abiola

From where, the same sources which tell us Franklin D. Roosevelt was a Jew? Hint: most Americans with German surnames are *NOT* Jewish, nor are there any stigmata which will automatically give away one's Jewishness.

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