on the “white jews are white” argument

do u know who stands to gain by “white jews are white” rhetoric? (this is only applicable in north america since this is literally the only place this argument happens)

actual White people with a capital W. only white people.

white people have systematically categorized jews as non-white insofar as our non-white identity serves them

white people have also systematically given white-passing jews conditional access to Whiteness when it serves them: to isolate us from unifying with other people that experience non-whiteness (see POC solidarity, and how jews are not included in these spaces and movements)

jews do NOT benefit from the “white jews are white” argument, since at best those of us who pass for white are given conditional privileges at the cost of our right to autonomously self-identify (since u experience some of the privileges of whiteness u are white even though white people and many non-white people alike don’t consider u white — u are what i say u are not what u say u are) and so we are isolated from BOTH whiteness AND non-whiteness. we are left truly alone.

non-white people do NOT benefit from the “white jews are white” argument: we are gate-kept from non-white spaces by the reputation that WHITE PEOPLE have created, we are unable to join in unity and solidarity with non-white liberation movements, when historically we have often participated in such movements.

white people DO benefit from the “white jews are white” argument, since they are the ones who created and benefit from the power structure of white supremacy, they are the ones who dictate who participates in whiteness and who benefits and who doesn’t. jewish people are removed from their humanity and become a literal rhetorical device to further White Supremacy in dividing it’s opponents. we as jews simultaneously suffer under white supremacy, while our identities are being used as a tool to propogate it.

white people are the only winners of this argument. it is in all of our best interests to destroy this argument.



Anonymous:  How do you define whiteness? I am an Ashkenazi Jew and racially I have always identified as white. I’ve always called Judaism my religion and ethnicity, not my race. After reading some of your posts, I can understand why you consider Judaism to be a race (the whole wiping us out because of our bloodline thing is a pretty good example) but that would mean you consider race to be not only as a set of specific physical features, but a specific bloodline as well. I think most of the confusion with this lies in people defining “race” as only a set of physical features, rather than blood groups. Considering how I look like I could be a goy from Europe, I have always identified as a white person and other people have always called me white too. So I guess my other question is, is it possible for me to describe my race as both white and Jewish? Or is my race not white at all and I just have white-passing privilege?


Race, and whiteness, is a social and cultural construction about how people talk about themselves and how they perceive and categorise others based on largely immutable traits. Race as only physiological appearance is a naive way to think about it, as it ignores the ways race plays out culturally — race and whiteness in Brazil is different than race and whiteness in the US, for example. These cultural contexts grew up out of colonialism, imperialism, encounters with native groups, and the religious contexts of the society in which they flourished. You cannot separate race from culture — it isn’t a native category in biology, for example. It is a taxonomy that arose in Western Europe to sort the world into greater and lesser categories of humans, based on the ideal of the Western Christian (often Protestant) male. It came out of the 17th century, and grew up in a context that needed a way to talk about social others in Western Europe that wasn’t simply a religious one — dividing the world between Christians and non-Christians was more complex after the wars of religion in the 16th century, and the call to evangelise colonial holdings made inferiority on a basis of religious status difficult. The idea of race stepped into that space and gave Western Europeans a way to subjugate and divide the world that justified slavery, discrimination, eugenics, genocide, and all other efforts to civilise or eliminate inferior races, creating the world we know today.

In my work as an academic and in my personal understanding of the world, race encompasses cultures, ethnicities, language, religion, and social roles, as well as the obvious physical traits associated with the idea of race. Because I work in history of religion, I cannot separate the idea of race from its original social and historical context. Whiteness is a conflation of privileges, of which colour is only one. Jewishness has been a reviled category for nearly 2000 years, and as the idea of race developed, Jewishness became a racial trait. This is why the Nazis didn’t care if you converted to Christianity — you still had Jew blood. They took this sense of race from the American “one drop” rule (as in, one drop of African-American blood anywhere in your lineage made you not white), which dominated American eugenics and politics. Religion was not the issue for Jewishness. It was a question of blood, lineage, and ultimately, race.

I can’t tell you how you’re supposed to identify. I can’t tell you if your Jewishness is a racial experience for you. That is ultimately your call, and has everything to do with how you move in the world, how you interact with the people around you, and your experience of being other. New York Ashkenazi Jews have a totally different experience of Jewishness and whiteness that I, as a Sephardic Jewish woman in the South, cannot imagine or access. I tend to view myself personally as white-passing, given my encounters with violent antisemitism throughout my life that was predicated not on my religiosity, but on my appearing Jewish. How you want to describe your experience is up to you. But for me, my Jewishness is a racial category. With a family experience of the Inquisition targeting us both as Jews and as cristãos-novos/marranos, I can’t get away from it.

notes for myself: aspects of jewish racial/ethnic identity

so im trying to write up a sort of “jewish ethnic/racial explanation paper” and here are the main points i want to explore:

  • post-shoah jewish racial anxiety (and why many of us do NOT wish to be considered a separate race) — also how at different times in different places jewish “raceness” has been used as a justification for antisemitic behaviour/attitudes/actions – while different goyim have decided different things about jewish “raceness” (for lack of a better word) – it has always been with the purpose of “othering” us as strongly as possible
  • post-shoah racialization of jews from “jewish” or “semitic” to “white” (why did this happen, who did this, where did it happen, who benefits?)
  • “race” and “ethnicity” as socially constructed categories with changeable criterion, the difference between modern common usage of terms + accepted “scientific” usage of terms + differing usage of terms in different places and different times
  • —->specifically the difference between the dominant european racial understanding/narrative and the dominant n. american and how these affect us simultaneously in n. america (as 3g mentioned before, meaning that here in n. america we are at the mercy of any particular racial narrative by anyone at any time, which is why i have been told at different times by the exact same people that i am white and also that i am NOT white and i experience racial prejudice as a jew and i also experience many benefits of white privilege)
  • from ari: the intra-community push for ashkie=white bc of ashkie privilege, but note that ‘whiteness’ & ashkenazi privilege are two separate concepts within the community
  • jewish “ethnicities” – “the big 3” being ashkenazi, sephardi, and mizrahi – a brief explanation of what these categories actually are (not actually ethnicities)
  • ashkenormativity in n. america + racialization of ashkenazim to white + n. american conception of race = “jews are white except poc jews who are poc and jewish”
  • >85% of ashkenazim are genetically closer to those of direct arab/semitic (m. eastern) descent than to europeans
  • many jews ACROSS the “ethnic” board (this means ashke jews, sephardic jews, mizrahi jews, and more) possess some genetic markers EXCLUSIVE to jews
  • how much physical geographical locataion (or more accurately, the history of said location + the knowledge and awareness of the people in said location) and level of visible religious observance influences the visible “raceness” of jewish people – meaning these things dictate how an individual jewish person is seen racially, in addition to (and sometimes in spite of) that person’s particular physical traits/appearance
  • the difference between one’s actual genetic makeup (“scientific” use of “race”) and how one is perceived/racialized (social understanding of race)

*** please let me know if there is anything else u think needs to be discussed and ill edit this list to reflect ur suggestions

on whiteness+jewishness

the reason I don’t call any Jew “white,” no matter their level of passingness or the way they self-identify, is bc goyim are listening.

logically, rly, most people won’t bother to understand something complicated unless they actually care.

goyim don’t actually care about Jews, so why would they go to the trouble of learning the complex nuances of Jewish racial identity in north america? we Jews ourselves constantly fight about it and express our own confusion, so why would they take pains to learn?

so I don’t call any Jew “white,” bc goyim are listening, and they aren’t capable of accepting that Jewishness and whiteness collides only sometimes, for some people, and can also be taken away on the very basis of Jewishness. I can make that distinction: I am capable of recognising when a Jew is benefitting from white privilege and when one isn’t/can’t, bc that’s my life. I navigate whiteness every day. sometimes I achieve whiteness, sometimes I don’t, sometimes its easy and safe, sometimes it isn’t. that’s a privilege I have, to be able to navigate whiteness, and I know it. I also know that there are times when that privilege is ripped away from me, when I go from “white” or “white and Jewish” to just “Jew,” there are people to whom I am NEVER “white” and only “Jew.”

I know the intricacy and nuance of my racial identity. I know this is a dance many, if not most of us, do.

so I will not assume that any given white-skinned Jew is one of the few who don’t have to do the dance. bc whether or not they are, goyim are listening, and goyim will ALWAYS take whatever “information” they find and use it against us. they will hear me call a Jew “white,” and then use that instance to deny any oppression we face as Jews because they think our “whiteness” works that way. they don’t care to learn how Jewishness ACTUALLY works, so I have to be extra careful about how I speak.



Anonymous: I want to give an anthropology lesson to the goy who thought whiteness was an aesthetic. Like really? Race is a social concept and is defined by society, meaning not just us! We’ve had like zero control over how people view us which is exactly why our identity is so muddled.


I was thinking about this very topic earlier today. Like: I literally don’t know from day to day, place to place, and person to person, what racial status is going to be assigned to me. One day I might be deemed white. The next day, I might be deemed Middle Eastern. One person might tell me I look “swarthy and exotic,” another person might not even really acknowledge that Jewish people exist. I could get on a plane as somebody who (often) benefits from systematic white privilege in America, and then get off that same plane as somebody who is not and never will be considered white by the local populace.

I am always on guard, because who I am and how I’ll be perceived is never up to me; it’s up to the people with whom I interact.

My life is a whirl of different identities, and I have no control over when and where the merry-go-round stops. But wherever it lands, I’m always a Jew.


Anonymous: hi! sorry to trouble you, but im having a really hard time knowing how to identify. im ashkenazi jewish but my family and i dont look anything like most ashkenazi people i know/see on tv? literally every single person in my family/extended family/ancestry has dark skin and looks very not white. like for example my grandpa had medium brown skin, a “scary middle eastern beard”, curly black hair, big hooked nose, very full lips, etc. however, my dad has light tan skin and mom is a white goy. my brother and sister have dark skin but im pale like mom and have some euro features. i dont feel like i fit in anywhere. i definitely experience some white privilege but im never accepted as white. and since im white passing, identifying as a POC would be like saying “im not white im jewish!” i have no idea what race i am, or what race my family is. i dont know why we look different than other european jews. everyone says ashkenazi = white but my familys not white! its so confusing.



Many, MANY Ashkenazim are not pale even a little bit. Ashkenazi PoC are not unicorns. Brown Ashkenazim are normal. Many Ashkenazim are white-skinned, yes, but many Ashkenazim are also NOT. This diversity is normal! The TV lies.

You are a Jew, you are Ashkenazi, and however you choose to identify – white, PoC, white-passing, whatever – YOU ARE STILL JEWISH, and you are still one of us, 100%.

You are normal, your family is normal, and you are all beautiful.

ask (from my personal blog)

butchrobot.tumblr.com: hey follower! i’ve been thinking a lot about jewish identity lately and i guess i am trying to make sense of whiteness and jewishness. i’m 1/4 paternally jewish and i consider myself to be ethnically jewish despite being brought up in catholic environments…but most of the jewish people i interact with irl are ashkenazi and white, and treat me like an outsider for it, so as a brown jew it’s sort of hard for me to conceptualize ashkenazi jews as white-passing instead of white. thoughts?

(jsyk, i’m writing this as a response to u, but as i’m writing it i’m thinking of research + essay topics to tackle and i’m answering this publicly cause i want this info and discussion to be public etc, getting these kinds of questions helps me a lot to help me understand my own identity and my place within jewish and goyische communities and i hope it does the same for others too

also, i’m using a bunch of made up words to explain some shit)

there’s a HUGE problem in n. american ashke communities w/ racism + not acknowledging/devaluing the jewishness of non-white/passing jews.

i can totally see why it’s hard for u to think of ashke = non-white, bc of that.

i think that n. american ashkes have a lot of anxiety about not being/passing for white. i mean, i don’t think that, i know that, at least in my exp. for ex, in my community in my city, the city-wide jewish community is EXTREMELY into emulating WASPyness. like, i’ve spoken to a few other people that have this same experience in their jewish communities, it’s fucking ridiculous. 3g has talked about this re: ezra koenig a bit, if anyone’s interested in that.

i’ve talked a bit about ashkenormativity and the “ashkenizing” of jewish identity in n. america, meaning that both within our community and without in the goyische community, jewish identity ISN’T “jewish” identity, it’s “ashkenaz” identity, but it’s so normalized+invisibilized..

for ex, i didn’t even know about sephardim until i was in highschool and told my mom about a new friend i’d made and she knew his fam, and told me about them and explained to me what sephardi means, etc. it was even later that i found out about mizrahim, when i was trying to do research on jewish ethnicity. granted, i never had much jewish education (religious or otherwise) anyway, so i have to figure i have just always known less than other jews who were, like, taught about themselves etc. but this is a totally common theme among ashke jews.

so there’s that, plus the racialization of jews (who are already “ashkenized”) from “jewish” to “white” that’s happened in the last ~30-50 years, depending on where u are. i’ve written a bit about that in other places in my jewish racial and ethnic identity tag, and other authors and scholars have written about it extensively as well, but i think this is the core of the racial anxiety of ashke jews. i mean, i really think the “core” of racial anxiety is from hashoah (we were massacred w the intention of being completely wiped out due to our racial status, so a way to combat that is to deny the racial aspect of our identity), or just prior to that when there was a movement of german (i think german) jews trying to de-racialize jewish identity and insist on it’s status as a religion-only religion, as opposed to an ethnoreligion, but i don’t know so much about that so i can’t write too much detail about it. ALSO, on the part of goyische america+canada, there was a huge push POST-hashoah to see jews as white or “other” white in order to garner sympathy for jewish refugees immigrating into the country/ies. (cause white people can only give a fuck about other white people)

so we have

  1. .”ashkenization” of jewish identity (ashkenormativity) both within jewish communities and without
  2. de-racialization of jewish identity on the part of jews, due to racial anxiety from hashoah + whatever
  3. “whiteifying” jewish identity (that has already been “ashkenized”) on the part of goyische n. america, which is then internalized by ashke jews

so after that, the existence/appearance of dark/er/non-white-passing jews, be they ashke or otherwise, within ashke communities, is a direct threat to the achievement of whiteness of white-passing ashk’im, which i’ve written about elsewhere, is conditional for most anyway. i mean, i don’t think that’s what these racist ashk’im are thinking when they see u, a brown jew, but those are the factors/causes that i can see going into it.
but yeah, i’ve heard that sentiment a lot from non-white/passing and even white-passing jews that aren’t ashke, that they feel unaccepted and unwelcome in jewish communities (read ashke jewish communities) and it’s a MAJOR MAJOR problem.

(for ashk’im reading this, we need to decenter ashkenormativity and eradicate racism/colourism from our understanding/speech/actions around judaism/jewishness. we need to call each other out on this, and we need to be addressing this within whatever invariably ashke jewish community we participate in/belong to.)

oh, i want to add: the way that i read on the tag you talk about non-white passing ashkenazim reminded me a lot of the arguments surrounding brown-passing italians/southern europeans, which i believe do hold access to whiteness despite the collateral aggression they face due to looking like people of color. it’s a nuanced discussion to be had but i’m interested to hear your perspective. my “jewish” features are racialized along with my brownness as latina, so i don’t face antisemitism that way

so this i’m not so sure i can speak on cause i’m not italian nor do i know too much about the racial identity of italians though i have heard that southerners are typically darker…

but it’s interesting that u say that ur jewish features are racialized as latina, bc i have heard similar things from other jews (except they are 100% ashke not mixed) – which points to the recognizing of a racial “other” but not as “jewish”.

this is a really really interesting thing that happens, bc i think that in some places in n. america, jewish “raceness” is becoming almost obsolete in that it’s less and less accepted/known, (white-passing) jews are achieving whiteness on a larger and more solid scale [obvi this isn’t everywhere in n. america but it is definitely something that’s picking up steam], BUT antisemitism remains just as racialized as it always has been, but the racial aspect of it is invisibilized.

like, what i mean is, for example, i have heard 2 opposite sentiments come from the same people, 1 that jews are inherently ______ [insert “bad” trait] and 2. that judaism is solely a religion and that antisemitism isn’t racism. so we have people committing hate crimes w racial undertones, but the general public refuses to acknowledge the severity of said hate crimes bc they “aren’t racial” and therefore not important.

and MANY white/passing jews support and propagate this. it becomes this, like, v strange cognitive dissonance thing. ex: my mom is completely white-assimilated, identifies as white 100%, but at the same time when we had a conversation ABOUT jewish racial identity she was like “well we’re not really white and they [white people] know that”. it’s just v weird.

the thing that makes antisemitism different than other racial bigotries (excpet antiziganism) in n. america, is that it’s an IMPORTED hate. that’s probably the biggest reason why jewish racial identity is so fucked up here, bc our racial identity doesn’t fit n. american racial paradigms, and at different times in different places, jews will face antisemitic hatred that is literally imported from other parts of the world AS WELL AS the hatred that has been formed within n. america.

i duno if i’m explaining that v well, and i’m p sure 3g has written something about this in greater detail, but what i’m trying to get at is that when goyische (as well as some jewish) n. americans talk about antisemitism, and jewish identity in general, there is a disconnect between what they have been taught/absorbed AS N. AMERICANS and how jewish identity exists — yes, jewish identity has changed somewhat along w the paradigms of the “new” continent but so too has it remained the same and just caused a shittonne of confusion for goyim and jews alike.


anti-racist activists, anti-oppression activists, and leftists, all seem to leave out jews in their activism

tbqh, I don’t think I can ever recall ANY anti-racists saying that people who face racism, deserve that racism if they are bigots themselves. its a p basic tenet of anti-racism that racism is NEVER OK, under ANY conditions.

except when it comes to Jews: it is frequently the case that if any particular Jew doesn’t measure up to a particular, changeable set of criteria, then that Jew, often ALL Jewish people the world over, deserve antisemitism, including murder, rape, harassment, legal disenfranchisement, general discrimination, all on the grounds of Jewishness.

this is an observable pattern in every anti-racist, anti-oppression, and/or leftist community I’ve had the chance to see. this is the rule, not the exception.