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Sociologist explores the pitfalls of diversity in UWM lecture on antisemitism

Dictionary definition of word antisemitism, selective focus.
Vitezslav Vylicil
Stock Adobe
Dictionary definition of word antisemitism, selective focus.

The U.S. has been experiencing a racial reckoning. Many organizations have been incorporating diversity and equity training, and attempting to grapple with the legacy of racial injustice in our nation. But celebrating diversity can have its own pitfalls, according to Dr. Keith Kahn-Harris, sociologist and author of Strange Hate: Antisemitism, racism, and the Limits of Diversity. His work explores how antisemitism has evolved in a way that allows people to pick and choose the Jewish communities they identify with, and those they decry.

"Diversity isn't just about the nice things, diversity is about the difficult things, too. Humans differ from each other ethnically, religiously, racially, culturally, in whatever way - not just in our cooking or in our costumes or things like that - but also in the values that we hold," Kahn-Harris explains.

He gives examples of how this phenomenon plays out in our culture, including how many Evangelical Christians in the U.S. are vehemently pro-Israel, but employ antisemitic tropes when discussing Jewish people they don't agree with, like George Soros.

"There is this mixture of love and hate: love for a certain kind of Jew that is convenient and hate for a kind of Jew that is not convenient," says Kahn-Harris.

In his work as a senior lecturer Leo Baeck College in London, Kahn-Harris looks at both historical and modern antisemitism. He says historical examples of racism, like chattel slavery or the Holocaust, can make it difficult for people to fully appreciate modern racism.

He explains, "Those things are so big it makes a lot of other things seem small, but the fact is they are significant in terms of how everyday life is led and also, the small things can sometimes later lead to big things."

Keith Kahn-Harris will be in Milwaukee on March 2, 2023, for a lecture at UWM's Golda Meir Library, titled: Antisemitism and Jewish Diversity, When Celebration Becomes Dangerous.


Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
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