Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Jewish identity

Jewish identity is a hot topic around my house lately. Interestingly, two women in my life who are passionate, intellectual lovers of writing have both written on the subject. I've spent a couple of days thinking about their words before responding but have recently left comments on both of their blogs.

If you are interested, Jess writes about it here. An excerpt to whet your palate:
I found it amazing to consider that a man or woman would walk around in a body that was their golden ticket, in the white skin that they wore often without knowing what that white skin entitled them to, and could still feel outcast and in the minority. Perhaps it is a testament to my religious insensitivity that I'm still astonished that a Jewish person could be white and still feel racially different.

Ali responds here.
But this tension arises because we have made race into a visual category into which we toss people rather carelessly. I had friend in college who frequently "passed" without wanting to, despite having a biracial African-American father because of her blond curls and blue eyes. And Jessica's right, white-looking folks tend to "watch purses" (among other things) in response to visual cues about race. But I look at my children, one of whom is Mexican-American and the other of whom is Ethiopian. When they walk around with their white-looking mama, they get tossed into "brown and black" categories or "Guatemalan and Foster Care" categories--none of which fit either of them in their glorious, specific selfhood.

I love these two women and have always loved them for their willingness to be vehement with me while also listening. Although they have never met in the flesh, my relationship with both of them on an individual level is shockingly similar. Go take a look.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure whether I agree with Ms. Young's assessment of the "real, felt frustration" of the people she refers to in her post. I was, of course, not present at this dinner, but I've never heard *any* Jew (and have a difficult time even imagining any Jew upset about this issue) complain about recognizing and/or missing the Jewish look. From that point on, the piece was much to do about nothing. I mean, a couple of Jews kvetching about having poor lansman recognition skills inspires such drama? Sheesh.