~ crosby, stills, nash & young
Go ahead, search Google for "Jew" -- no capitalization or quotes necessary -- then note the very first hit that comes up (at the time of this writing anyway): Offensive Search Results. This is a highly unusual "public service announcement" posted by Google itself. It begins...
An explanation of our search results.While I haven't thoroughly researched this, I doubt very much that similar pages are returned for queries like Christian, Buddhist, Taoist, Mohammedan, Zoroastrian, Methodist -- or even for Nigger, Wog, Howlie, and Kike (which, if you say it fast, sounds like a low-rent law firm). I did run those last four, and as you can imagine, they bring up all sorts of "disturbing" results -- but no apology from Google. So what is it, exactly, about "Jew"?
Merriam-Webster (11th Collegiate Edition) is straightforward:
The American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition, usefully adds this:
Usage Note: It is widely recognized that the attributive use of the noun Jew, in phrases such as Jew lawyer or Jew ethics, is both vulgar and highly offensive. In such contexts Jewish is the only acceptable possibility. Some people, however, have become so wary of this construction that they have extended the stigma to any use of Jew as a noun, a practice that carries risks of its own. In a sentence such as "There are now several Jews on the council," which is unobjectionable, the substitution of a circumlocution like "Jewish people" or "persons of Jewish background" may in itself cause offense for seeming to imply that Jew has a negative connotation when used as a noun.This tells me that, while it would be inappropriate to drop a shoutout to any of my many Jew blogger pals, neither would it do to refer to the endearingly taxonomy-obsessed David Weinberger as a "person of Jewish background." Personally, I couldn't care less about political correctness. But culturally...? Well, as you've come to expect if you've been following along at home, the plot thickens.
This particular sensitivity, like any, has a history. But while antisemitism is as old as Christianity (at least), certain events of the last hundred years have honed it to a razor-sharp edge.
The following is from The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard J. Evans, the first in a planned three-volume treatment of Nazi Germany. For the passage to make sense, all you need to know is that Ludwig Schemann was the guy who, in 1898, translated Arthur "Frenchy" de Gobineau's The Inequality of Human Races into German.
pp. 33-34: ...Schemann's championing of the French racial theorist still did a great deal to bring Gobineau's term "Aryan" into vogue amongst German racists. Originally used to denote the common ancestors of the speakers of Germanic languages such as English and German, the term soon acquired a contemporary usage, as Gobineau put forward his argument that racial survival could only be guaranteed by racial purity, such as was supposedly preserved in the German or "Aryan" peasantry, and that racial intermingling spelled cultural and political decline.Note that what I'll call, henceforward, "the Google effect" with respect to the Jew, isn't really about race. The Third Reich, after all -- and let's not forget California -- practiced equal-opportunity eugenics. It wasn't just aimed at Jews. Blacks and Gypsies were also targeted, as were homosexuals, psychiatric patients (the first to go in Nazi Germany), even sick children. In California, being a "nymphomaniac" -- indicated, in some cases on record, by having an "overlarge" clitoris -- was sufficient reason for many women, of whatever color, to be involuntary sterilized. Throw in, for good measure, other "degenerates" such as alcoholics, paupers, "lunatics," "morons," the "feebleminded" -- read: the poor -- and one begins to see that "race" just doesn't cover it.
Today, if you greet your sensitive friends with a breathy "Namaste," you're cool. Doesn't matter what color you are, come on! Ditto if you watch Oprah and waltz around in the Now, or drive your SUV around town like it's your manifest destiny to own the fucking place -- long as the bumper sticker says Free Tibet. But if you smoke and drink and cuss and eat cheeseburgers and scratch your ass in public -- or worse, sound like you maybe came from New Jersey? Start making plans to get out while you can.
And party like it's 1939.
(full text here)