The Color-Line in America: Part 1

Here’s an interesting episode from the life of an Orthodox Jew at SJSU.

Today, a stranger tapped on my shoulder as I boarded the elevator at the MLK library. “Hey, do you believe the original Jews were really black?” Usually, the question is “Do you know the real Jews are really black?” About 18 years ago I once spent 18 hours on the same Greyhound bus (from New York to Cleveland via Buffalo) with a fellow passenger sitting next to me who tried to prove to me that he was really Jewish, while I was a fake, according to the Bible. It was my first real encounter with age-old Christian super-sessionism that was less about “Veritas Israel” than racial supremacism (like in Hitler’s Table Talk), only it was not the ultimate, inborn supremacy of the White Man but of the Black Man, in this case. Back then, in response, I tried to prove to him that I was really a black man. This time in the elevator at the MLK library, my fellow passenger phrased the same belief rather differently and I was appreciative of it. I probed, “Do I believe [the original Jews were really black]?” He nodded. I responded, “Probably.” He gave me a fist bump (which is like a “high five”) and walked out of the elevator at the designated floor.

Were original Jews black? Sure. Where they white? Sure, why not. Why stop there? They were probably also brown, yellow, pink, or olive-green. And, what is the business with the “original” Jews? Where “original”? Is this “original” like “vintage,” like the “original” Babe Ruth rookie card when he was still the fabled south-paw of the Boston Red Sox? Of course, the Bible (even the Christian Bible) does not really shed much light on the “original” pigment, and for good reason.

Indeed, why stop at white or black? Why the fixation with only white and black? Someone else’s skin color is subjective anyway. If I may be permitted to use Michael Jackson to teach us an important lesson (“Michael Jackson” as symbolic of the Age, not of the person):

 

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