Embattled Evergreen State Professor Accused of Hiding Racism Behind His Judaism
A biology professor at Evergreen State College who has been under fire in recent months for alleged racist actions has been accused by Jewish students at the school of using his Jewish faith “as a prop” to deflect pressure over his “anti-black language and behavior.”
Bret Weinstein was charged with “positioning himself as a Jew to invalidate the claims of racism being raised against him” in an open letter published last week and signed by a group identifying themselves as “[s]ome Jewish students at Evergreen bent on the destruction of white supremacy.”
This letter was published amid an ongoing controversy over Weinstein’s refusal to participate in an April equity initiative in which all the white members of the Evergreen community were “invited to leave campus,” for a so-called “Day of Presence” celebrating the college’s minority demographic.
Weinsten gained national attention for his decision to hold his lecture as usual despite the program, a move that led to student protesters mobbing his classroom, shouting him down and forcing him to relocate his class to an off-campus park.
There have since been calls from many at Evergreen for his resignation or termination.
Over recent weeks, Weinstein has documented his experience in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, as well as taking to other media outlets to articulate his view of the diversity initiative and describe the treatment he has received.
The Jewish students who published last week’s letter claimed that in his public appearances, “Bret has attempted to position himself as a victim.”
Something that Bret may be trying to get to when he talks about himself as a Jew is that Ashkenazi Jews have not always been considered white. This is true, and is very important to think about. What was that process of assimilation that brought some Jews into the folds of whiteness? What was the cost? Whiteness is not a singular tangible thing, it is a construction that evolves as power changes hands and as global structures change with them. The assimilation of most Ashkenazi Jews and some Sephardic Jews into whiteness is not a single event, one cannot point to a time or day when their bubbe abandoned Yiddish or traditional clothing, and say this is the event of assimilation…Whiteness is flexible enough to expand its definition of who is welcomed into its fold, when it’s convenient in maintaining the social order it imposes — some Jews, Irish people, Italians, etc., are welcome to be white as long as black people remain the targets of racialized violence. For us to be white, have access to whiteness (power), some groups of people must continually be othered, denied access to power. This is how white supremacy functions, by creating structures of power of exclusion and othering and in doing so relying on anti-blackness.
The students also claimed “white Jews” in the US generally are “acting in complicity with and upholding white supremacy, passively and actively.”
This is not the first time Jews on campus have been subject to such comments.
In March, fliers appeared at the University of Illinois stating, “Ending White Privilege Starts With Ending Jewish Privilege,” together with a pyramid depicting Jews — labeled with Stars of David — at the top. Students said the fliers were reminiscent of Nazi-era propaganda.
The next month, a Jewish student leader at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was told by the then-chair of student government “F*** white supremacy,” after she spoke out against an anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions effort.