White is, white ain't?

The following is quite serious, not snarky and not intended to inflame or insult anyone. OK?

I got my copy of The Religious Leader, “news from the Ministry and Professional Leadership Staff Group” of the UUA in the mail today. You may download it as a PDF here. (Does anyone know a way to get an email pointing to the electronic version in lieu of getting the dead tree version?)

On the last page, there’s an appeal for seminarians of color to loin the DRUUMM Seminarians Causus; contact blogger Joseph Santos-Lyons if interested. (His blog.)

The ethnic “of color” categories are pretty extensive, and they way they are commonly applied paints a picture of “not white (only).” Which, I think we can all concede, is the point of the group.

But a group was left out and usually gets left out, who exist as an ethnicity, have known a great deal of oppression because of it, and who are conspicuously present in Unitarian Universalists pulpits and pews: Jews.

So, are Jews a people of color or not?

Serious discussion, please.

4 Replies to “White is, white ain't?”

  1. Thanks for asking. I don’t know what to say, but I know for a fact that there’s plenty of anti-Semitism in our past and present. I know for a fact that I was undercut for a ministerial position (after being offered it) by a man who declared that he didn’t want “a Jew minister.”

    Someone once asked me what a “Jewgirl like me” was doing with a “Reverend” in front of her name. This is a UU, mind you. During coffee hour. I think she thought she was being hip.

    Interestingly enough, I get lobbied all the time when preaching in other pulpits by folks who automatically assume I’m going to understand their anti-Christian feelings and help them figure out how to lobby for a name change for their congregation (from “Church” to “Congregation”). I listen patiently to them and then tell them I’m a baptized Christian. Talk about a “whiter shade of pale.”

    Oh how very interesting of you to bring it up.

  2. PeaceBang, I did write that hoping you would write, but . . .

    Well, when you’re a studious, dark-haired fifteen year old who doesn’t go to church in suburban Augusta, Georgia — I found the Unitarians at sixteen; the Universalists and Christianity some time thereafter — people think you’re a Jew. Same went for my smart-ass-y, dark-haired extroverted little brother.

    I mean, how many Jews do you know named Wells? Stupid, stupid gossipy people.

    I have to think that’s why the vice-principal (who was Jewish) knew about us. At least she only had us Wells boys pegged as suicide risks.

  3. Good question Scott.

    The UU organization DRUUM uses a defition that many self identified “People of Color” can accept. DRUUM calls itself “a People of Color organization.” The definition of People of Color that DRUUM uses are people who self identify with a racially oppressed group and based on that self identification have come to experience themselves in solidarity with other racially oppressed peoples.

    I will speak from my own experience before speculating about Jews. Given the definition that DRUUM is using, a Cherokee who despise African Americans isn’t a “Person of Color,” although objectively he or she may think of themselves as Cherokee and feel righteously pissed off about being in Oklahoma. Its the solidarity that counts.

    There are Jewish individuals who have experienced anti semitiism and committed themselves to being in solidarity with other racially oppressed people, and there are those who deny the word genocide can be used for any other experience but the one that happened in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.

    The term “People of Color” is intended as a political term, not a pigmentation reference.

  4. This is one of those interesting things. Who is white and who is “of color.” I’m reminded that during the Confederacy Jewish people were considered white and that some Jews held high-ranking positions in the CSA. The distinction that needs to be made is that while Judaism is a religion and an ethnicity, most Jews would not be easily singled out from other Anglo-Americans just walking down the street. Yes, Jews have historically been persecuted in this country and elsewhere but they are not as a group classified separately nowadays from Anglo-Americans by the government–unlike African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans.

    This does not mean that anti-semitism does not exist in our movement. It does persist but it is not as obvious as racism is.

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