“Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!”
The estimated 1500 neo-Nazi white supremacists blared out this disgusting chant as they marched with their tiki torches through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia in protest of the scheduled removal of a statue commemorating Civil War General Robert E. Lee. This march was reminiscent of similar events held throughout Germany, and in particular, in Nuremberg during the Nazi era.
So why do self-described “white supremacists” target Jews, many who appear “white”? The answer, stemming from a long and complex history, is quite simple: Though Jewish people are members of every so-called “race,” even Jews of European heritage (Ashkenazim) have been and still continue to be “racially” othered by some dominant Christian European-heritage communities in some quarters.
For this reason, members of white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups engage in religious, ethnic, and racial bigotry against all groups they consider non-white, including Jews. In other words, anti-Jewish prejudice and discrimination (a.k.a. anti-Semitism) is a form of racism.
The Racialization of Jews
Looking back on the historical emergence of the concept of “race,” critical race theorists remind us that this concept arose concurrently with the advent of European exploration as a justification for conquest and domination of the globe beginning in the 15th century of the Common Era (CE) and reaching its apex in the early 20th century CE.
Biologists and geneticists tell us that there is often more variability within a given so-called “race” than between “races,” and that there are no essential genetic markers linked specifically to “race.” They assert, therefore, that “race” is an historical, “scientific,” biological myth, an idea, and that any socially-conceived physical “racial” markers are fictional and are not concordant with what is beyond or below the surface of the body.
Though biologists and social scientists have proven unequivocally that the concept of “race” is socially constructed (produced, manufactured), however, this does not negate the very real consequences people face living in societies that maintain racist policies and practices on the individual, interpersonal, institutional, and larger societal levels.
For millennia, some Christian theologians distinguished Jews as different from and inferior to Christians on religious grounds. A number of passages within the Christian testaments were used to give justification for persecuting Jews. For example, Matthew 27:24-25, and in 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16:
[T]he Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and drove us out, the Jews who are heedless of God’s will and enemies of their fellow man….All this time they have been making up the full measure of their guilt, and now retribution has overtaken the good of all.”
They also often equated Jews to the Devil:
- “And Jesus said: ‘If God were your father, you would love me…[but] your father is the devil and you choose to carry out your father’s desires’” (John 8:44).
- “The Jews…are Satan’s synagogue” (Revelation 2:9).
- “I will make those of Satan’s synagogue, who claim to be Jews but are lying frauds, come and fall down at your feet” (Revelation 3:9).
Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), born Carl Linné, (also know as the “Father of Scientific Racism”), a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, developed a system of scientific hierarchical classification. Within this taxonomy under the label Homo sapiens, (“Man”), he enumerated five categories based initially on place of origin and later on skin color: Europaeus, Asiaticus, Americanus, Monstrosus, and Africanus.
Linnaeus asserted that each category was ruled by a different bodily fluid (Humors: “moistures”), represented by Blood (optimistic), Phlegm (sluggish), Choler (yellow bile: prone to anger), Melancholy (black bile: prone to sadness).
Linnaeus connected each human category to a respective humor, thereby constructing the Linnaeus Taxonomy in descending order:
- Europaeus: sanguine (blood), pale, muscular, swift, clever, inventive, governed by laws
- Asiaticus: melancholic, yellow, inflexible, severe, avaricious, dark-eyed, governed by opinions
- Americanus (indigenous peoples in the Americas): choleric, copper-colored, straightforward, eager, combative, governed by customs
- Monstrosus (dwarfs of the Alps, the Patagonian giant, the monorchid Hottentot): agile, fainthearted
- Africanus: phlegmatic, black, slow, relaxed, negligent, governed by impulse
Social Darwinism & Eugenics
Later, although Charles Darwin himself did not assert this, some of Darwin’s successors, referred to as “Social Darwinists,” hypothesized that Jews no longer were simply a separate religious, ethnic, or political group, but rather, like black Africans and other groups (including homosexuals), Jews were throwbacks to earlier stages of religious and human development. Social Darwinists forwarded a so-called “racial” hierarchy placing “Aryans” on the top, black Africans at the lower end, and other “races” (including Jews) at various points in between.
In Europe, by the late 19th century CE, Judaism had come to be viewed by the scientific community as a distinct “racial” type, with essential immutable biological characteristics – a trend that increased markedly into the early 20th century CE.