The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Every so often, the headline of a New York Times article reveals in an uncomplimentary way the underlying ideological blinders that guide the newspaper's implicit editorial line. The classic example is "Prison Population Growing Although Crime Rates Drops," which caused great mirth among conservatives, because it suggested that it never occurred to the headline writer that perhaps crimes rates were dropping because more criminals were in jail.
Today's Times has another good example, "Campus Debates on Israel Drive a Wedge Between Jews and Minorities." One assumption implicit in the headline is that the minority of far-left activists who run "minority" organizations on campus represent "minorities" in general. (Since the article suggests that the conflict in question is making even non-activist Jews feel uncomfortable on some campuses, I'll give the Times a pass on whether it's conflating pro-Israel activists with Jews.)
But even more telling is that the Times headline writer implicitly decided that Jews are not a minority group. Now you might argue that the writer is simply following American affirmative action convention, in which "people of color" are considered minorities, and no one else is. But in fact, the article also references gay student organizations, and quotes on the "minority" side an "Egyptian-American" student. Why are gays a "minority," but not Jews? Why would a person of Egyptian descent, who is considered as "white" in American racial parlance as Jews, be a member of a minority group, but not Jews? [UPDATE: Not to mention "feminists," another group identified in the article as being in conflict with pro-Israel Jewish students.]
There is no rhyme or reason to this sort of thing; who is deemed to be a minority is a social construction often dependent on the political needs of whomever is doing a construction. And in the political environment of elite American campuses, gays, persons of Middle Eastern descent (unless they are Jews, like my Iraqi wife), Muslims, and others (people whose ancestors spoke Spanish, even if they are directly descended from Spanish conquistadors and are of pure European ancestry) are deemed to be minorities, while Jews are mere "privileged whites"-again, even if they happen to be Hispanic or Middle Eastern, or even if their ancestors recently survived the Holocaust.
As I said, I think there is no rhyme or reason to this beyond politics, but that's not my point, nor is my point that I want Jews to be considered a "minority" group; I'm not a fan of victimology, comparative or otherwise, and it's likely just as well for American Jews that Jewish college students haven't wholesale adopted victim status and the socio-politics that seems to accompany it on campus.
Rather, my point that the Times' headline implicitly sides with campus leftist politics that deems lots of other dubious contenders, but not Jews, to be minorities. Surely the headline could instead have said, "Campus Debates on Israel Drive a Wedge Between Jews and OTHER Minorities," and would have been at least as accurate.
UPDATE: On further reflection, the headline reflects the left-wing view that Jews cannot be deemed a minority in the context of any controversy that relates to Jews supporting Israel, because "minorities" only qualify when they are on the "progressive" side. Thus, if a Neo-Nazi group started handing out racist and anti-Semitic flyers on campus, there would no problem deeming Jews to be members of a "minority" coalition protesting the flyers. If the same anti-Semitic flyers were handed out by Students for Justice in Palestine to favor their cause, though, then to many on the far left Jews become part of the white elite who need to "check their privilege."
Similarly, if an Asian-American student group were to oppose affirmative action preferences as damaging to their constituency, I could easily envision a Times headline,"Campus Debates on Affirmative Action Drive a Wedge Between Asians and Minorities."
Speaking of SJP, Prof. Jacobson has a nice piece on the hatred their chapters often embody at NRO.