The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Chemerinsky: "Anti-Semitism is not taken as seriously as other kinds of prejudice"

"A plainly anti-Semitic poster received just a handful of complaints from Jewish staff and students"


Dean Erwin Chemerinsky wrote an essay in The Atlantic about the protest at his home. The Dean provides more details on the facts leading up to, and during the protest. But the one paragraph towards the bottom is perhaps the most important:

Overall, though, this experience has been enormously sad. It made me realize how anti-Semitism is not taken as seriously as other kinds of prejudice. If a student group had put up posters that included a racist caricature of a Black dean or played on hateful tropes about Asian American or LGBTQ people, the school would have erupted—and understandably so. But a plainly anti-Semitic poster received just a handful of complaints from Jewish staff and students.

Chemerinsky is exactly right. The double standard is painful, but utterly unsurprising for anyone who has studied anti-semitism. And if silence is violence, there was a bloodbath in what was once Boalt Hall. The fact that only Jewish staff and students complained about the poster demonstrates the problems with the DEI industrial complex: only certain types of diversity are to be promoted. Jews with any attachment to the Jewish state need not apply. And forget ideological diversity.

In every generation, there is anti-semitism. 1619 was four centuries ago, but Jewish oppressions stretches back to the beginning of recorded history. Yet Jewish people will never fit into the DEI intersectional hierarchy. The aftermath of October 7 reveals that anti-semitism is always present; it just manifests in different forms.

In December I wrote:

Regrettably, as soon as Israel was established, the millennia-long train of anti-semitism simply morphed into its latest manifestation: anti-Zionism. They don't hate all Jews, they just oppose all Jews who seek to protect the the only speck on planet Earth devoted for their protection. This doctrine was dressed up in all the academic garb of Marxism, anti-colonialism, and critical racial studies. Anti-Zionism was championed by elite academics on campuses. DEI apparatchiks, ostensibly hired to promote equity, reified the anti-Zionist trope. Students, who are woefully unfamiliar with world history, see the children of the Holocaust as just another oppressor. And, as they are taught, any act of resistance against the oppressors is not only justified, but necessary. The right type of violence demands silence.

What lessons will Chemerinsky and other progressives draw from this experience? Will they reflect on how spending countless hours and dollars on DEI yielded nothing but crickets? Or will they realize that DEI enables and emboldens these students to engage in such antisemitic activity?

I'll admit that when conservative states started to clamp down on DEI, I thought it was mostly performative virtue signaling. But the events of the past few weeks have convinced me that these efforts are not just prudent, but may be necessary for the survival of higher education. I think a significant issue in the 2024 election should be how the Department of Education enforces Title VI.