I Got No Problem With the Colored Jews


SF Chronicle columnist gets accused of anti-Semitism for calling Jews "folks of color." Before we roll out the Sammy Davis, Jr. jokes, it's worth asking why anybody would consider being called "of color" an insult. Nakao, an Asian-American, included the comment innocently enough, in the phrase: "Plenty of other folks of color became Eichler owners—Jews, Chinese and Japanese . . ." If anybody's acting like a bigot here, it's not Nakao but those who considered her comment offensive. Which is not to say you can't quibble with her racial categories, or with the precious phrase "people of color" itself (and some of Nakao's interlocutors made that quibble, in a jocular manner). But even here the history is fairly complex. Seth Sanders, my go-to man on Whiteness Studies, put it best in another context:

Fads (what rock's apologists refer to as "pop moments") have always been central to the enjoyment of rock, and one of the first things rock's detractors have cited as evidence of its status as "non-art." ("In my day, it was swallowing goldfish, now it's this Beatles stuff"). Film (or "the movies," as it was then known), was once just as disreputable — a fact of which it is the merit of teen comedies, action thrillers, and porn to constantly remind us — but at some point became art, and thus worthy of Criticism. Much in the same way that ethnic groups such as Jews, Irish or Italians eventually became "white."

To which I can only add: Italians are considered white now? Jeez Louise, are there no standards anymore?