THE RECENT DENUNCIATION of Jews, by some officials of the
Nation of Islam and black scholars, as the special nemesis of
African-Americans contains an obvious irony. Both peoples - blacks
and Jews - are united by the experience of persecution and
suffering, the social, economic and psychological effects of which
are both historical and contemporary.
Yet these groups share more than a commonality of pain. I have
in mind the similarity of responses to their special circumstances
by many non-Jews and non-blacks.
As to the persecution and suffering, there is no serious
question. One can quickly dismiss the pseudo-scholarship purporting
to show that the Holocaust was fiction. Similarly, attempts by
earlier historians such as Ullrich B. Phillips to portray slavery
as a civilizing experience for the Africans who came in chains have
long been discredited.
The Holocaust, the murder of more than 6 million Jews by the
Nazis in World War II, was the climax of the anti-Semitic violence
made official policy in Germany by Hitler in the 1930s and which
found sympathizers elsewhere in Europe and in North America. By the
twentieth century, however, fear, hatred and mistreatment of Jews
had long been a phenomenon in much of the world.
The persistent false stories of "Blood Libel," or the sacrifice
of Christian children at Passover, were circulating by the twelfth
century, when Jews were compelled to wear yellow identifying
emblems. The earliest enforced isolations of Jews in areas that
came to be known as ghettos were soon to be imposed.
Massacres of Jews took place, with particularly heinous ones
occurring in the time of crusades. Large scale killings of Jews
continued, the Russian pogroms being relatively recent examples.
Persecutions and expulsions of Jews were commonplace in Europe.
Government employment of Jews was often forbidden, as was marriage
between Jews and gentiles.
Of these things, there is no room for doubt.
And there is no room for doubt, either, about the brutality of
slavery or its pernicious effect upon subsequent American history.
What rational person can imagine that the present miseries of our
inner cities, for example, bear no relation whatsoever to the
massive, crushing effect of slavery?
For here was an institution, sanctioned by law, which over
centuries and for millions of people destroyed family structure,
denied education and exacted a back breaking economic exploitation.
These things were not chance byproducts of slavery. They were
essential for its success. The legal remnants of slavery endured
until well after World War II, in the form of segregation and
voting restrictions, and its psychological and emotional residues
still infect our society.
The general facts of the Holocaust are known today even to
school children. Many Americans, however, are ignorant of the
Middle Passage, which is becoming known as the Black Holocaust.
Standard reference books - the Britannica being an exception -
often do not mention it. …