Abstract

Revisiting James Baldwin's under-engaged contribution to heated debates over Black (Christian)-(white) Jewish relations in New York City in the late 1960s, “Blacks Are Anti-Semitic Because They Are Anti-White,” in what follows I explore the surprising ways in which two European Jewish women political theorists, Emma Goldman and Hannah Arendt, otherwise celebrated for their rigorous sobriety, enacted the very blindness that framed their Jewishness as a form of whiteness worthy of Baldwin's criticism. I close by considering the ways of envisioning being Jewish that we might build from Baldwin's reflections, ones that would, in enlarging the distance of Jewishness from whiteness, invite transformative brands of solidarity rather than specifically black forms of anti-Semitism. Ironically, this path would have entailed American Jews' becoming more fully themselves rather than indexing their advancement or flourishing through a white, Christian index. Put slightly differently, this essay turns backward to look forward, aiming to understand what I consider missed opportunities worth lamenting so we might proceed differently.

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