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I was both surprised and filled with anxiety upon receiving an invitation to participate in a forum on African American/Jewish relations in the United States. Since so many of my trusted friends, supporters in the community of colleagues, former college classmates, and physicians are Jewish, I felt anxiety because my preference is to avoid public debates that have the potential for confrontational responses. On the other hand, the invitation to contribute to a special scholarly discussion affords an intriguing opportunity to assess and comment on a perceived and magnified issue and to appraise the inter-ethnic stresses and strains with which the media have bombarded the country.
The need does exist for "social scientists to speak with sobriety" on the compelling theme and the current drama of black-Jewish relations. In addition, many perspectives and interpretive paradigms have not been introduced or have gone unnoticed. Although much of the contemporary intergroup conflict and hostility transcend my understanding or experiences, I have decided to lend my voice to the dialogue. In considering this challenging topic, I asked several of my friends who are Jewish how the subject might be approached. I reflected on the contemporary politically charged atmosphere and what contributions one might make to the exchange of ideas. Perhaps, a starting point is with the character and range of emotions that pervade the content of discourse in the national arena between blacks and "others."
With respect to this, it seems to me that at least three central questions should be addressed: 1) Is there a genuine or authentic black anti-Semitism? If so, what are its origins and purposes? 2) Since a significant proportion of African Americans are economically and educationally disadvantaged and situated on the lower levels of the race-class stratification hierarchy what could African Americans expect to gain from espousing anti-Semitic stereotypes? In other words, what are the benefits from verbally assaulting an ethnic population by a historically disempowered group in a racially constructed hierarchy? 3) What accounts for the present barrage of emotional outbursts? Is there evidence of a resurgence of mass hatred or are we experiencing the cyclical unveiling of an ingrained hostile ethos?
We live in a continuously changing society, a society of redefinitions and explosive rhetoric on one hand and of paradoxial political correctness on the other, …