Jewish/Black Relationships in the USA

During the Civil Rights movement there were quiet a few Jews who came down to the South to lend a hand. Since then, for some reason, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of love lost between the African American community and the Jewish community at large. What gives? How could two groups that seemed to work towards common goals just a scant 50 years ago be on such unfriendly terms?

Am I mistaken about relationships between the black and Jewish community?
Odesio
PS: I put this in GD rather than General Questions because I didn’t think there was a factual answer and figured there might be a chance for controversy.

A lot of the bad blood is due to scumfucks like Farakahn and his cronies who fabricated stories that Jews were at the heart of the slave trade, and so on. There are, unfortunately, more than a few vile beasts with political power amongst the black community who haven’t been above gaining political clout by picking on a group they viewed as even more vulnerable. Hymie Town, and all that.

As I recall, I believe it was Jesse Jackson who made the “Hymie Town” remark. …Was it a Farakahn remark?

Nope, you are correct. It’s not just the NOI folks, the Jews are an easy target and attacking Jews can gain someone political capital, even if they, themselves, are a traditionally oppressed group.

Part of it is the fact that during the civil rights era, the Jews saw themselves as having more in common with the blacks, but the blacks saw the Jews as having more in common with the white population at large. A lot of blacks see white efforts to help blacks as being patronizing (not incorrectly) and that includes the efforts of Jews.

The blacks were a proud people. They did not want to see themselves or be seen by others as wanting or needing help from outsiders. After the assassination of King, the blacks largely ditched their Jewish helpers and turned to black-nationalist groups like the Panthers and other organizations that stressed complete self-reliance and autonomy. And they can’t be blamed for doing so. Nobody wants to think of himself as dependent on others.

All of my best friends are Jews…

THE single best book on black-Jewish relations in America is Lovesong by Julius Lester. Lester was a black militant and radical activist who later converted to Judaism. His book presents a very detailed and nuanced view of both of these phases in his life, and it is very, very well-written.

Heh heh.

Just to be clear I don’t think all blacks in the U.S. hate Jews or vice versa. Supposedly antisemitism has been on the rise in black communities and I was just curious to find out why.

I’ll link to a previous post of mine which has a cite in it. I’m lazy, sue me. :smiley:

A book you might be interested in is Black, White and Jewish by Rebecca Walker. She’s the daughter of Alice Walker (The Color Purple) and Mel Leventhal, who claim to have been the first interracial couple [let alone Christian-Jewish interracial couple] to have legally married in Mississippi. In the 12 pages of the book where she’s not whining about how “My famous mommy was a scuzbucket and I don’t want anything to do with her which is why I changed my name from Leventhal and say ‘daughter of Alice Walker’ on everything I write” part she addresses this somewhat.

In her particular case she felt that when civil rights movement receded a bit the blacks and white Jews concentrated more on their differences than their similarities. Also of course most of the Jews who came south during that era were young (teenagers or 20-somethings) and from well-to-do families (not saying Jews are all well to do, but if you’re a young adult and traveling you probably have family supporting you) and as they got older and started families they did what other kids starting families do. In Walker’s case her father still took civil rights cases, but he was from a particularly wealthy family and even he had to start giving some thought to being self supporting and took academic positions and ‘paying cases’ as well after divorcing, remarrying, having more kids, health concerns, and the like; most weren’t that wealthy and ended up having to get a job to pay the bills because they didn’t have enough family money to support them beyond college kid lifestyle. So, like work-friends who move onto better jobs, they lost touch.

Also there’s a woeful ignorance of the history of the Civil Rights movement. Part is because history is made out of people and people often have bad sides it gets cleaned up and in so doing much of the gristle gets trimmed and the result is a lot prettier but misleading. For example: conventional history is that Rosa Parks was arrested for not yielding her seat and Martin Luther King started a bus boycott and everybody lived happily ever after except King who was shot. Obviously the truth is a bit more complicated, but the above is what works nice in a sound blip or for a U.S. history course that’s only to 1955 and has just a month to bring it up to 2009.

Virginia Durr in Montgomery (as liberal as the day was long but had no love for King) was the reason Rosa Parks lived to be old because both she and Mr. Parks lost their jobs, were untouchable, getting constant death threats, and had they stayed here if the bigots hadn’t killed them the stress probably would have. (I knew Durr slightly when she was old and her mind had slowed down and she was forgotten by most; her name’s not taught in schools, they didn’t name things after her, she stayed in contact with Parks til she died and got invited to the same functions but didn’t get introduced, and incidentally it wasn’t just her incontinence that had her quite pissed about it.) Likewise the fact that the first president of the NAACP was white and most of the board members Jewish (I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, just that it’s a thing) is not widely known.

Some romanticism was perhaps considered a necessity in a group trying to achieve respect. (Please don’t misunderstand- they were no more flawed than their white contemporaries, but their white contemporaries didn’t have to fight to get treated like citizens.) I think much of this was to the detriment of those commemorated in the RAGTIME verse “And tell them, in our struggle,
We were not the only ones”- when you build a mound it’s going to leave a hole somewhere.

I’ve done some research on the role of homosexuality in black history and that is an interesting topic as well. There was a good bit of ‘dehomosexualization’ of important gay black figures: Harlem Renaissance writers like Langston Hughes became ‘asexual/shy around girls’ in the retellings, or Countee Cullen (one of the most brilliant poets in American literature but a man who would give Capote a run for his money in the butch olympics) who entered into an arranged marriage of inconvenience with W.E.B. Dubois’ daughter (the poor bride was about the only person who didn’t know his little secret) to make him seem more ‘respectable’ for the media. George Washington Carver’s companion, Dr. Austin Curtis, Jr. (a much younger professor who quit his job to devote full time to Carver- Curtis succeeded a longtime companion who had died) not only took better care of Carver’s notes than Carver himself did (Carver was notoriously ADHD) but after his death was Carver’s priest dedicated to his memory, was pushed out of view at fundraisers or introduced as “Dr. Carver’s onetime assistant”. (Curtis got fed up with his treatment by Tuskegee eventually, moved to California, founded a chemical consulting company and died very old and very rich about 5 years ago; spoke some on his relationship with Carver towards the end- very interesting.) James Baldwin largely moved to Paris because he didn’t want to be asexualized anymore than he wanted to deal with U.S. legal discrimination against blacks.

While whites also had no shortage of homosexuals and tried to clean a few up for the history books, they could afford them. Whites had plenty of heroes and great people to admire, while blacks were only 12% of the population to begin with and coming out of centuries of enslavement and enforced ignorance so they didn’t have a lot of public intellectuals to spare, and again this was when homosexuality was both a mental illness and a felony, thus a biographical ‘cleansing’ of sorts began.

Point of the way off topic hijack is that I think similar cleansings simplified Civil Rights history, and I think that simplified history is one (of several factors) in the breakdown of the Afro-Judeo alliance (to the extent that there was one; obviously there were always racist Jewish people and anti-Semitic black people and a great majority who probably couldn’t care less one way or the other about the other group.)