Jews on NPR: “I’m Amitai Etzioni, but please don’t tell anyone that I’m Jewish/Israeli!”
Posted by Oyster on October 16, 2006
On the way to work the other morning I was listening to Forum, and they had on this sociologist named Amitai Etzioni. As soon as I heard his name, I was, like, “Jew! Israeli! What what!!” Cool, I thought.
He came on the air to talk about the nature of identity politics, and especially concerning how most of the American political apparatus is doing a great disservice to many by lumping everyone from south of the border in the USA as ‘Hispanic’. Now, aside from that label being problematic in and of itself, he argues that the political machines of the Republican and Democratic parties are not getting the results that they want from reaching out to ‘Hispanics’, because that term refers to a non-existant ‘race’, and they’d be better served in treating everyone as individuals from their country of origin. The political tendencies of Cuban-Americans and Mexican-Americans are completely different, as he states.
So, I’m listening to the program attentively, waiting for him to talk about anything relating to Jewish identity, which is a fav topic of mine (don’t get me started!). So, he uses his family as an example at one point, and states that, “from my wife my children will inherit a Latina ethnic identity, and from me, they will… inherit my ethnicity”. Or something to that effect. What?! Dude, with a name like that, you gotta be proud. It’s ridiculous; like Flannery O’Conner trying to avoid the fact that
he’s she’s as Irish as the Blarney Stone.
And later on in the program, a Russian dude name ‘Vlad’ from Oakland called, and asked to talk about Russian Jewish identity, since it is very different than just the ‘religion’ that most of the West tries to brain-wash Jews into thinking. For Russian Jews, being Jewish was always a distinct ethnic grouping. In fact, in the USSR (and perhaps till today?) their national identity card would list them as “Jewish” for their nationality within the USSR. I’ll spare y’all the details, but my view is that the Jewish people are a nation, so Jewishness is a nationality. It incorporates religious, historical, linguistic, cultural, and intellectual aspects of identity. A nation in (partial) exile, but a nation all the same.
Okay, so Amitai? Don’t be so evasive about your roots and represent!
Oh, and I disagreed with Amitai on his views of ‘Hispanics’ not viewing themselves as a ‘race’. Google ‘la raza’ and look what turns up. Clubs, newspapers, radio programs, websites, etc. Perhaps they aren’t a ‘race’, but it sure looks like they’re trying to construct such an identity in the US. Another example? What do they call ‘Colombus Day’ in certain parts of Latin America? ‘Dia de la Raza‘. Enough said; (K)QED, mofo!