Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, is today, though it’s actually not the only one each year. January 27th is for all the victims of the War, including the Rroma, the disabled, and other victims of Nazi atrocities. The one we observe this month is an internal affair, Jews mourning our own dead.
And every single year, on all of these dates, I hear people scoffing at these days, calling the Holocaust a “genocide of white people.” They mean that with racially-motivated atrocities occurring in the world today, why pay attention to one that occurred against a group they think of as white? They see it as a zero-sum game: Commemorate the Shoah, bury the Rwandan genocide.
Fake progressives use days like Yom HaShoah as proof that if you want attention for your group’s tragedy, it sure helps to be white. Seeing Jews as white in America today gives them ammunition to minimize the Holocaust.
Even if the Holocaust were a genocide against “white people,” they’re making it sound like that makes the deliberate eradication of an entire group of people less heinous. If I had to hazard a guess, they probably think this is a clever thing to say due to their inaccurate and myopic view of race relations more than half a century and an entire ocean removed from the event in question.
The people saying this invariably tend to see themselves as leftist, activist, justice-oriented, and more than willing to challenge established norms. They see themselves as righting historical and current injustices, and challenging institutions and narratives that unfairly privilege some groups over others. They are, in short, the Good Guys.
Except, of course, they aren’t. Not that being leftist, activist, or challenging norms is a bad thing; I consider it a very good thing. But as Jews are all too aware, the Left and the Right meet at Jew-Hate Junction, and anti-Semitism as the socialism of fools is all too prevalent. Understanding that white people are not subject to any sort of institutionalized discrimination because of their whiteness is an important thing to remember and to challenge— that also goes for us Jews who are white or white-passing in varying degrees. However, that doesn’t somehow mean that it’s a privilege to have experienced a genocide.
The notion that the Holocaust and its memory should intentionally be diminished because “Jews are white now” is not just insulting, it’s downright dangerous. The notion that other genocides don’t get attention because “we only pay attention to the Holocaust because they’re Jews” is a notion that ties directly back to noxious libels about insidious Jewish strangleholds on the media and society.
The notion that this was a “white genocide” deliberately ignores how the Holocaust was entirely predicated on white supremacism — no Jew, no matter how pale, had any sort of white privilege at the time, and millions of us died for it. That some Jews (not all!) have some access to the benefits of whiteness in some parts of the world today (the USA is not the entire world!) doesn’t make all Jews of all colours retroactively privileged, much less during a genocide.
Ultimately, this type of narrative serves to not only blame Jews for being subject to one of the worst of all crimes, it also serves to label us privileged for it.
Make no mistake: this is anti-Semitism. And anyone who utters such a thing, who types it out and writes a screed defending it online, is a bigot who is all too happy to harness fancy sociology terms in order to justify the same impulses that ultimately led to the deaths of over a third of our entire global population.
B. Lana Guggenheim is a writer on politics, anti-Semitism, and the utter misery of living a late capitalist existence.
Image credit: A Nazi chart explaining racial policy, via Wikimedia