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Jews, a Real Crafty Bunch

 A post over at Haaretz questions whether there is a proper place for stereotypes. A couple of weeks ago, Michael Ray Richardson, a basketball player who went to Hapoel Ramat Gan more than a decade ago after being banned by … Read More

By / April 18, 2007

 A post over at Haaretz questions whether there is a proper place for stereotypes. A couple of weeks ago, Michael Ray Richardson, a basketball player who went to Hapoel Ramat Gan more than a decade ago after being banned by the NBA for drug use, and who is now a coach, was suspended from a training session for the Albany Patroons team. Why? Well, one of the reasons is "anti-Semitic remarks." 

"I've got big-time lawyers. Big-time Jew lawyers," he said in response to a question about the renewal of his contract. When he was told that there are some people who would be offended by his comments, he responded: "Are you kidding me? They've got the best security system in the world. Have you ever been to an airport in Tel Aviv? They're real crafty. Listen, they are hated all over the world, so they've got to be crafty. They've got a lot of power in this world, you know what I mean? Which I think is great. I don't think there's nothing wrong with it. If you look in most professional sports, they're run by Jewish people. If you look at a lot of most successful corporations and stuff, more businesses, they're run by Jewish [people]."

Okay, so my jaw dropped, literally, when I read this — but I have to say that it was not accompanied by that sickening feeling I get when I hear something "anti-Semitic" spoken through a filter of hate and contempt for Jewish people. Okay, so the guy sounds like a moron and someone needs to take him aside and explain why what he said is so wrong, but you also get the sense that he thinks Jews are rad — he's just ignorant and clearly uneducated regarding many things (note his annoying use of the double negative: "I don't think there's nothing wrong with it").

On the other hand, part of the reason for Richardson's suspension also included an anti-gay slur he hurled at a fan, so clearly there's some hate churning around under all that ignorance. And, god forbid we find out he's got a copy of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion stashed away.

The post also gets into the difference between stereotypes and generalizations, and the complicated nature of both:

The use of generalizations is perhaps not something we should be proud of, because generalizations are necessarily simplistic. But they are also a basic human need that allow us to compartmentalize the world's complexities. . . .

And in the almost futile quest, because after all, generalizations will not disappear, we must carefully choose the events worthy of our attention. "Jews are smart" is nice to hear. Hearing that they are "crafty" depends on the context. There are also some businesses that are not "successful" but it's hard to argue. And in any case, here's another stereotype that would be a pity to lose on the long and winding road to eliminating anti-Semitism: They, the Jews, have an excellent sense of humor.

But I'm still unclear . . . is it, or is it not, okay to say "Jews are smart and successful, and they have an amazing sense of humor"? A while back, I was talking to a friend about my adventures on JDate. "What's he like?" she asked of a particular man with whom I had shared a few conversations. I shrugged my shoulders and responded, "Smart, funny, successful, a little neurotic — typical Jewish guy."

Am I bad?

I'd like to think not, but my friend, who is not Jewish, raised her eyebrows and said she would be "hesitant" to label any group of people as "neurotic." But it's not a bad thing, I suggested to her, citing a list of some of the most neurotic and endearing Jewish writers and artists, Woody Allen included. It wasn't an argument I was going to win, though it irritated me immensely. She still thinks I'm a bad person, I think.

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