Ephraim Kishon, a famous Israeli writer, once wrote a story about some kind of an international socialist gathering. It took place in Prague, capital of what used to be communist Czechoslovakia.
A group of Israeli youngsters, quite obviously of the so-called left-wing political persuasion, came to the heart of Europe to take part, too.
And, Kishon wrote, a group of Czechoslovak young communist organization activists used to walk around them, hissing: Jews! Jews!
What are they saying? the young Israelis asked.
Oh, their official interpreter said with an embarrassed expression on his face, they’re saying you’re Jews.
So? asked the young Israelis. So what? Yes, we’re Jews.
A few moments later it hit them: oh, they (the Czechoslovak young communist organization activists) seem to have a problem with THAT. Well, we can hardly care less. They have a problem with the fact that we are Jews. We are, and we don’t.
Mind, these were all children and grandchildren of people who had only very recently experienced the cruelest racist outrage in modern history, the Holocaust.
They were proud of their heritage, and if someone had a problem with it, they just shrugged it off: we won’t be solving others’ problems for them.
Kishon was born in Hungary. As a Holocaust survivor himself, he moved to Israel. He didn’t know a word of Hebrew or Yiddish when he got to the Promised Land. He managed to learn both languages well enough to write for printed publication and, later, for stage and film productions. His written Hebrew was impeccable, his spoken Hebrew reminded all and sundry of his Hungarian origin.
And yet, he never ever even thought of calling himself a Hungarian-Israeli.
Meanwhile, across the Big Pond
Which brings us to the United States and its ongoing battles with what has been called systemic racism.
The fact that Canada’s prime minister seems to think his country has the same problem can be viewed as a side show. It could, if only the so-called spontaneous protest demonstrations were not allowed to break all the limitations imposed by the so-called Covid 1984 (this is not a typo) pandemic.
Those who object to the draconian measures of power-hungry government officials suffer police harassment of the worst kind if they don’t obey the two-metre social distancing rule during their peaceful demonstrations.
Those who have issues with what they view as pervasive racism in our society, can march hand-in-hand in tight crowds, loot, attack innocent bystanders, and not many dare say a word about it (and never mind against it).
One would have expected that laws should treat all of us equally. Seems the expectation has been way too idealistic.
Yes, the outbreak of protest was triggered by inexcusable, criminal, even, treatment of a suspect by an American police officer. And yes, this officer, and all those who were standing around him doing nothing to save the suspect’s life, should be behind bars now, and never be allowed to work in any public office ever again.
Not that George Floyd was an angel in any shape or form, as some try to depict him now. His rap sheet was quite lomg, and it did include violent crimes that landed him in prison, once for five years, and that only because he pled guilty in a plea bargain.
And yes, the police were called in on that tragic day because he was suspected of committing yet another illegal act, while intoxicated.
Still, again, none of it justifies what happened to him, and here’s hoping that justice meted on those officers involved in the tragedy will be swift and just.
But what we are facing now is about something else.
It is about people who seem to suffer from deep-rooted inferiority complexes because of who they are, or what skin colour they happened to be born with.
Systemic discrimination my foot
Not only was the United States one of the first countries to constitutionally abolish slavery, its history has shown that the country has continued to fight to make sure that particular amendment (number XIII) is upheld.
Here’s what it says verbatim:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, and by the House on January 31, 1865, the 16th U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln, signed it into law on February 1, 1965, and the required number of states ratified it on December 6, 1865.
That it would cost Lincoln his life within a few months at the hands of an assassin is another tragic page in U.S. history.
Making sure that this particular amendment becomes reality everybody learns to live by and respect has been a struggle through modern U.S. history.
But none of it constitutes systemic discrimination. Not only has it been banned, but, as time has marched on, equality has become the code word for our existence.
This is not to say there have not been some individual cases of racism. Except, it seems, the definition of racism as used these days is sadly lacking, and so is the definition of discrimination as such.
And, perhaps not even surprisingly, it goes both ways.
Generally speaking, we all discriminate, day in and day out. If we apply for a job and somebody else gets it because s/he has convinced the would-be employer that s/he is the best and most knowledgeable candidate, is it discrimination?
You bet it is.
This is not a frivolous attempt to dismiss an important point with a meaningless attempt at a joke. Why not? Because there have been cases where the unsuccessful candidate would start crying discrimination, or, worse still, racism, and the employer would end up fighting for dear life before all those ideologically bent quasi-judicial human rights commissions.
It is intriguing, on the other hand, that there exist publications where authors of any kind whose skin is other than black need not apply. Ebony magazine, anyone?
Just try to imagine the boot on the other foot.
Can’t see it? Yes, and that’s one of the expressions of racism, too.
Or how about affirmative action?
The original 1961 plan by then-President John F. Kennedy included a provision, according to which government contractors were supposed to make sure that applicants for jobs are hired (and employees treated) fairly, without “regard to their race, creed, colour, or national origin.”
Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, added another executive order, demanding that government employers “hire without regard to race, religion and national origin” and “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, colour, religion, sex or national origin.”
Again, fair enough.
Except, instead of only bridging inequalities in employment and pay, increasing access to education, the plan developed into a project to promote diversity (whatever THAT is supposed to mean, it remains in the eye of the beholder), and redress apparent past wrongs, harms, or hindrances.
That history has shown that you can’t right a wrong by another wrong, has become perfectly irrelevant.
There exist some civilized countries in the world that maintain that giving preference to someone just because of their race, ethnicity (or any other standard other than merit) is not only bad for everybody concerned, it is also harmful for the entire society, including those who have supposedly benefitted.
Not so in the lawsuit-happy United States. It’s gone so far that the U.S. Supreme Court held in 2003 that the University of Michigan Law School could consider race as a plus-factor when evaluating applicants holistically. What the word holistically was supposed to mean in this context is left to any future lawyer’s imagination. The ruling only told the University of Michigan Law School not to use quotas.
Hallelujah, what progress when compared to communist countries that used quotas based on university applicants’ parents’ class origins.
So, what’s the issue?
Some of the most cynical political analysts around the world suggest that the issue is based on the fact that, historically, white-skinned Americans would bend over backwards to make sure there is no unfairness in their country. They have been trying, through their history, to repeal and redress the sins of their foreparents. When those who had cried foul were rewarded, they saw an opportunity to win other, even more important, concessions.
It’s called guilt-trips. Those most cynical political analysts say, today’s would-be victims have developed victimhood into artistically embroidered science.
Now, this concept is not new. Just look at Germany. After World War II, the victorious Allies instilled a deep-seated feeling of collective guilt for Nazi atrocities within her population. So, today’s Germans are willing to do whatever the evangelists of modern political correctness order them to do to clear their consciences of crimes committed by their grandparents.
Yes, that may be part of the problem, more generous analysts would say, but they still believe it is the inferiority complex that leads the black population to a certain level of self-pity that demands that others come, crawling on their knees, banging their heads against concrete floors, crying it’s all their fault. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
After all, why would they be changing their American names to Arabic-sounding names? Are they not aware that it was the Muslim Arabs of Africa who made their ancient ancestors slaves? Are they not aware that it was the Muslim Arabs of Africa who sold their ancient ancestors into slavery overseas? Are they not aware that slavery is still very much kosher among the Muslim Arabs of Africa?
Or: why would they be hyphenating the description of their nationality? African-American? Even the poorest in their communities are better off than most of the real black Africans in Africa.
In the early 19th century, a new state emerged in Africa. It became known as Liberia. It came to exist on a land purchased by an American group that thought it might be useful for black Americans freed from slavery to return to their roots.
While the idea may sound far-fetched these days, it may have had its charm then: the enforced arrivals across the Big Pond in the holds of slave ships were still relatively fresh memory then.
There had lived sundry groups in the area that would become Republic of Liberia: some indigenous tribes, as well as a number of immigrants from other African countries, such as Somalia.
The returnees from overseas would become known as Americo-Liberians. They would hold positions of power until the final years of the 20th century: the country was created for them, after all, so, who else should run it?
This arrangement came to a relatively violent end during the last couple of decades, and one of the accusations hurled at the Americo-Liberians insisted that one of the first things they did upon arrival was to enslave some of the locals.
Be that as it may, the fact remains that the influx of Americo-Liberians has all but dried up since the country’s first few decades of existence.
Is there a lesson to learn?