“White Privilege” and the Risk of Anti-Semitism

Joel B. Levine MD

An elite school in New York City has a Diversity program that teaches children, as young as six, about inherent racism based on inordinate “privilege”. They are told that it derives from their European heritage and is a corruption of their moral worth. The course will redefine , for them, the distortions taught by parents, of “Whiteness”, “good, “normal” and “ American”.

Privilege is an interesting word. The forerunner of the German Workers Party focused on it, specifically, to delegitimize the success and influence of Jews in post World War 1 Bavaria. The use of the word conveyed, then and now, that social or material success was being dealt from a stacked deck. Being Jewish( past ) or White ( present ) is a thumb on the scale that falsely elevates one , and, this is the key point, lowers the other

In the 20th Century, our laws codified equality of opportunity. In order to encourage a more diverse civil and cultural society, Affirmative Action was itself preferential in the most careful way. It bestowed, as it should, special privilege on minority groups, i.e., to be selected or represented by using a person’s race , not as a neutral factor, but as a positive weight to the balance.

This delicate decision allows an inherent and immune advantage bestowed on one group over another. Affirmative actions were meant to be specific and a focused guarantee of opportunity. The newly added concept of “ equity” , , referring to the actual outcome, forcefully codifies “inequity”. By so doing , it affirms that what others may have achieved was done so unfairly and , in a zero sum world, must be redressed and returned.

Whiteness and Jewishness are brothers under the skin. The characteristics used to characterize the one have long been used for the other. “ It is all about the Benjamins” , as per Representative Omar, is a good starting point. Looking back, this was one of those moments when ideas are absorbed as a drop of poison on the tongue.

It was, therefore, not surprising that children at the Banks School have come home, distraught, having been told, by teachers, they were “ bad people”, being White and privileged. This is a two way mirror as Black children, reflecting the other side, will soon believe, as well, that Whites are “born bad” with advantages that will underlie any disappointing life situation they, as Black children, encounter.

This belief , this little bit of poison , works remarkably well. Long before the concentration camps, the take home lesson of “bad people” justified the firing of Jewish academics, Jewish apartments confiscated, Jewish shops boycotted and replaced by non -Jewish owners. It was “ equity/inequity”, in real time, and being offered as “ historical fact” was readily accepted. The Jew, by very nature, sought and perpetuated disproportionate advantages in the society. Jewish history was replete with it, as known to the Elders of Zion, and Jewish privilege was based on purloined wealth and displacement of opportunity for the non — Jew.

For the moment, this is but cautionary. Most people seek the good, are socially aware and just. They cannot imagine that a bad outcome can accompany a noble purpose. Few evils have ever been done without the cloak of good. We are being tempted by one of the most tried and true.” We mean no harm but, to the contrary, are cleansing the society.”



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Joel B. Levine MD

Professor of Medicine , essayist, practitioner, basic research and education ; reflections on medicine and modern society