November 05, 2009

Greedy Jews and noble savages

The Racialicious blog brings another good posting to our attention. This one is about the "positive" stereotype of the miserly Jew, but it also applies to the "positive" stereotype of the noble Indian savage.

A controversy started when two South Carolina Republicans wrote a response to a previous newspaper item:Recently your newspaper published a letter from state Rep. Bakari Sellers attacking U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint and his opposition to congressional earmarks.

There is a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies and the dollars taking care of themselves. By not using earmarks to fund projects for South Carolina and instead using actual bills, DeMint is watching our nation’s pennies and trying to preserve our country’s wealth and our economy’s viability to give all an opportunity to succeed.
Blogger G.D. tells us the problem with this:

Racism as Backhanded ComplimentIn trying to flip the script, those two S.C. Republicans miss the point that their “compliment” starts from a position that the money-hungry, penny-pinching Jew stereotype is true and valid. Trying to untether that stereotype from this history, as the guy defending these two Republicans does, takes a lot of arrogance, ignorance or both.

If you scratch down just below the surface, you’ll find this kind of Othering in all “good stereotypes.” The well-worn trope about black men being strong and athletic with huge dicks is supposed to be some kind of compliment, even as it directly recalls the myth of violent, animalistic black male sexuality to which so much of America’s long history of racist terrorism has been a response. The “positive stereotype” of the smart Asian is based on the old idea of Asian folks as crafty, untrustworthy possessors of secret knowledge—an idea whose assumed validity makes it easier to round folks up en masse during wartime and shove them into detention camps.
Comment:  It's easy to see how this applies to Native people. The "noble savage" is still a savage. There's no way you can spin "savage" as a compliment.

For more on the subject, see Positive Stereotypes Are Negative.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

There seems to be this need for most of us to describe people by applying stereotypical attributes because it makes it easier to create a picture for those who may not have not had direct contact/experience with the subject(s) at hand.

Many don't realize that such generalizations maintain and enforce prejuducial concepts of peoples not only for those who are experiencing or considering someone new but for those of us that are part of the group being generalized. If we are told often enough who and what we should be we often begin to believe that we must be that and slowly become "fill in blank" based on those stereotypes.

Introducing someone based on stereotypical notions of their ethnicity, religion and beliefs prevents us from drawing our own conclusions based upon interaction and/or human behavior and often prevents us from seeing the universal in humanity.