Why “positive” Jewish Stereotypes Are Bad Too

Among the most consistent – not to say worthwhile – ideas in Yeh’s recent highly publicized anti-Semitic rants on social media is the idea that Jews control the media and wield disproportionate power in the financial industry. Although the artist formerly known as Kanye West is clearly (and without apology) an anti-Semite, some may defend his remarks by saying, “I have nothing against Jews at all, but what’s wrong with saying that Jews are good.” businessmen? Calling a group of people “smart money” and “smart” is complimenting them, isn’t it?”

No, actually it is not.

While it’s generally unacceptable in society to openly support negative stereotypes about large groups of people in 2022 (unless you’re a famous rapper or former president of the United States), people still often dismiss seemingly “good” stereotypes casually. simplicity. But there is no positive stereotype. Ideas E (if you can call them that) are a modern remix of ancient slanders against the Jews, and even if a person has the best intentions, believing and expressing even so-called positive stereotypes about the Jewish people – or any people – is still fanaticism. , and at the same time reinforcing negative stereotypes, even if you do not recognize them.

Two sides of the same coin

According to the stereotype content model , if you break down any positive stereotype that the in-group holds about the out-group, it will consist of some combination of traits considered either “warm” or “competent”. Competent positive stereotypes are usually reserved for people who are considered higher status in their group, while “warm” traits are assigned to people with lower status.

The problem is that there are almost always corresponding negative associations at the opposite pole. For example, the phrase “Jews know how to handle money” is high on the “competence” pole, but the other side of the coin is something along the lines of “because they are greedy.” That is, they lack “heat” in the equation.

A warm stereotype like “Irish people are funny and like to have a good time” has a corresponding negative association on the competence side – something like “because they are drunks and not serious people”.

“Jews always like to be at the head of things”

According to the latest Anti-Defamation League survey of attitudes towards Jews, 25% of Americans agree with the statement: “Jews always like to be in charge of things.” What’s wrong with Jews being born leaders? For starters, this is exactly what Hitler said: The Nazi justification for systematic genocide was based in large part on the idea that both communism and capitalism were Jewish conspiracies set up so that Jews could take over (i.e. become ” head of things”) in Germany. .

“Jews are smart”

Calling Jews more intelligent than other races is at first glance absurd, because race is a myth , and intelligence also does not exist, at least not in a biological sense.

There is no genetic marker or physical trait that defines a person’s race, because race is a cultural construct. (Obviously, this is an important classification for us, but it does not describe anything biological.) What we call intelligence is only that we identify and evaluate human behavior in certain contexts (marking the “correct” answers on an IQ test means you are “intelligent”), imagining that we are describing something essential in a person. Ultimately, trying to determine how much one fictional category affects another fictional category is as ridiculous as arguing about how many angels can dance on the point of a pin.

But in the popular imagination, many people have accepted the idea that “Jews are smart” since the Middle Ages. But such “smartness” is never an isolated “competent” trait. On the other hand, the lack of warmth: I’m sure Ye would agree that Jews have to be very smart (or “sharp,” the popular anti-Semitic equivalent of the word “smart”) to control the record industry, but the alleged “smartness” of the Jews carries in a subtext of greed and immorality – coldness. Nor is it said that smart people are physically weak and/or sickly. This is the flip side of the claim that blacks are naturally more athletic, a seemingly innocuous assessment filled with negativity (“Which means they are good at sports but not good at being lawyers”).

“Jews Stand Together”

According to the ADL study, 44% of Americans agree with the idea that “Jews stick together” – a lukewarm assessment with an ugly underbelly that suggests iron-clad competence. The implication is that Jews are less loyal to America than other people, leading to the belief that “Jewish employers go out of their way to hire other Jews” (with 1/3 of the respondents agreeing) and that “the film and television industry is largely driven by Jews,” Ye and 17 percent of Americans agree.

“Positive” stereotypes at the individual level

Historically, widespread stereotyping of racial or religious groups has led to the slave trade, the Holocaust, and countless other societal evils, but positive stereotypes casually expressed in individual circumstances are also negative, often on a personal, intuitive level. The assumption that an Asian is good at math is itself harmful and depersonalizing, no matter how much you value math ability. If the hypothetical Asian is really good at math, he is assuming that math ability is a racial trait, not an individual characteristic or the result of personal effort. If they are bad at math, they have disappointed the observer and possibly themselves, depending on how deeply they internalized the other’s stereotype.

Why are stereotypes so common?

Stereotypes are tricky because it’s easy to judge outgroups quickly. It may seem that people “fit” their stereotypes, especially if you really want to. For example, a review of international student exams shows that Asian countries are actually the best when it comes to math . This does not mean that there is some racial trait that makes Asians better at math (or Jews better at money management). The lowest performance in mathematics is also found in Asia. Accepting stereotypical generalizations about groups ignores the complex interplay between culture and history that actually explains differences and does a disservice to impolite Canadians and impoverished Jews. Also, you don’t want to sound like Ye.


Leave a Reply