Scott Thill questions for Adam Mansbach read like the thoughts of a man just freed from a Cultural Studies Department subbasement. (“Are you as done with white people as I am?” “Do you feel this fear of a literal end to the Jews raise its head in macro or micro form in your novel?”) But Mansbach—who’s written a pretty good new novel, The End of the Jews, and can put together a pretty great mixtape—gets a lot of room to expound, which makes some of the silly starting points forgivable. Much of the interview, like the novel, turns on the intersection of black and Jewish culture in modern America:
One of the most fascinating stories of the 20th century, and one that I try to tell in The End of the Jews, is how both Jewish assimilation and Jewish self-identity have relied on the immutability of black Otherness. As the Jews have become whiter and richer, we’ve also gained the ability to engage in the same kind of complacency and hypocrisy that has long characterized the rest of white liberal America. Jews can now lament racial injustice without either fighting or acknowledging the ways in which it benefits us. The post-World War II Jewish credo has been to ‘never forget,’ and maintain eternal vigilance against the smallest rustling of anti-Semitism. I understand that. But I also lament that fact that whenever something does happen, regardless of whether the offensive speech or action stems from true malice or ignorance, whether it is repented for or not, the gates come crashing down, and dialogue is considered anathema. I think it’s time to really rethink this, especially given the tremendous attacks that civil rights and civil liberties have taken under this president.
One thought on “Mansbach’s Race Question”
That’s an interesting point of view, but I wonder which subset of Jews he’s talking about, and more to the point, when! My understanding is that many Jews were hugely active in the 60s era civil rights movement and saw clear connections between the recent atrocities in Europe and the ghettoization of blacks in the U.S.–hardly complacent. But the past decades have certainly shifted the politics.