The Volokh Conspiracy

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"Anti-Semitic Propensities" by Race, According to the Anti-Defamation League


The news about one of the suspects in the Jersey City shooting at a kosher supermarket apparently having been a "Black Hebrew Israelite" who apparently"wrote anti-Semitic and anti-police posts," might surprise some who associate anti-Semitism with white nationalists and with extremist Islam or certain forms of Arab nationalism. But hostility to Jews seem to be materially more common among American blacks and American Hispanics than among American whites. (As one might gather, American Black Hebrew Israelites are blacks but not Hebrews or Israelites, at least under the conventional understandings of those terms; some are black supremacists.)

According to an October 2016 Anti-Defamation League survey, "anti-Semitic views" among black respondents were materially more common than among whites, with 23% of black respondents scoring high on the ADL's scale, compared to only 10% of whites. The results remain largely the same when aggregating the ADL's 6 surveys from 2007 to 2016; between that and the oversample of blacks and Hispanics among the 1532 respondents in 2016, the comparison seems likely to be pretty reliable.

Likewise, 31% of Hispanic immigrants score high on the ADL's scale, as do 19% of U.S.-born Hispanics, compared to 10% of whites. ("White" here presumably means "non-Hispanic white.")

Now the ADL's "anti-Semitic index" may be faulted in some measure; it is based on how many of the following statements a responded agrees with, with a high score being defined as at least 6 out of 11 (as the 2013 survey report indicates):

Jews stick together more than other Americans.
Jews always like to be at the head of things.
Jews are more loyal to Israel than America.
Jews have too much power in the U.S. today.
Jews have too much control and influence on Wall Street.
Jews have too much power in the business world.
Jews have a lot of irritating faults.
Jews are more willing than others to use shady practices to get what they want.
Jewish business people are so shrewd that others don't have a fair chance at competition.
Jews don't care what happens to anyone but their own kind.
Jews are (not) just as honest as other business people.

Some of these sentiments might not necessarily reflect hostility to Jews; for instance, Jews may indeed in fact stick together more than other Americans—group solidarity is not uncommon among various ethnic groups and especially religious groups—and different people may view that negatively, positively, or neutrally. Likewise, while it's surely an exaggeration to say that Jews always "like to be at the head of things," it may well be both true and good that Jewish culture promotes more ambition and outspokenness than average. Some of the other sentiments may be hostile to Jews (e.g., "Jews are more loyal to Israel than America") but still be legitimate subjects for inquiry: I don't think American Jews are more loyal to Israel than America, or that such loyalty to another nation is an exclusive trait of Jews, but many Jews do feel a strong emotional link to Israel, and one can legitimately argue that this link may sometimes mislead them, even to America's detriment. And don't get Jews started on our having a lot of irritating faults …. But on balance, despite its limitations, this list seems like a reasonable basis for comparing the general tenor of attitudes among American whites, blacks, and Hispanics.

Of course, none of this can be generalized to all or even most blacks and Hispanics, any more than either the views of white anti-Semites can be generalized to all or most whites. For each group, those that the ADL labels as having especially high anti-Semitic propensities are a minority, and indeed (with the exception of among foreign-born Hispanics) a small minority. And of course even those who have anti-Semitic views will overwhelmingly not engage in crime against Jews.

But I think many people assume, both because of the high historical profile of the Nazis and the KKK, and because of the past images of WASP discrimination against Jews, that anti-Semitism in the U.S. is disproportionately a white phenomenon. Such an assumption, it appears, would be in error.

Credit: My coblogger David Bernstein first alerted me to this, by blogging about an earlier survey on the subject in 2014.