Those who recognize the name Aaron Wildavsky will rightly wonder how the great political scientist could possibly comment on the Whoopi’s whoopsie, since he died in 1993. But I want to suggest he was highly prescient about what is going on today on racial politics in America.
In a classic 1990 essay on “The Search for the Oppressed” (not available online unfortunately), Wildavsky noted how the left was trying to redefine Jews in American consciousness:
There can be too much of a good thing. There must be some limit to the proportion of oppressed minorities—for if there were no limits, inflation would run rampant and the value of the commodity would be entirely debased. So, knowing where to look, it is not surprising to discover that there are informal procedures for “de-minoritizing” or “de-oppressing” groups whose inclusion had heretofore been taken for granted. The classic case in out time concerns another group to which I belong: namely, Jews. The current tension between Jews and blacks refers largely to an important event that, because it did not take place at a specific time and was not announced, has escaped attention.
I refer to the indubitable fact—first—that sometime in the mid-1960s blacks replaced Jews as the nation’s number one oppressed minority and—second—that, toward the end of that decade, white radicals succeeded in having Jews removed from the parlance of left critics of society as “minority,” despite the fact that they constituted no more than 3 percent of the population and were still undoubtedly subject to minor forms of discrimination in banking, business, social life, politics, and elsewhere. It took Christians 1,000 years to go from oppressed minority to inquisitorial majority; those clever Jews seem to have done it practically overnight. Let us investigate this strange case further.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Jews—not entirely without reason—were recognized as one of the nation’s oppressed minorities. Quotas aimed to keep them out of college, discrimination out of work, and voter prejudice out of public life. The 1950s, by contrast, was the golden era of American Jewry, which still enjoyed its leading minority status even though it had become, by and large, affluent instead of deprived. .
Yet there was still this consolation [of being displaced as the number one oppressed minority]: Jews were still a minority, weren’t they, even if they could not be number one? But no, it was not to be. This time around it was not blacks, who were too busy for ancient history, but radical whites—including Jews—who administered the coup-de-grace without so much as a by-your-leave. Without the fanfare of a public announcement of the solemn cadence of a decent burial, Jews no longer were spoken of as a minority, deprived, despised, downtrodden, or whatever. Just like that.
Really, it was a case of mistaken identity: Jews were all of a sudden taken for imperialists. Actually, it was more like guilt by association. Jews, you see, were identified with Israel, which was defeating Arabs, who resorted to guerrilla warfare, however inefficacious, which somehow gave them membership in the Third World, so that Israel, ipso facto, became an imperialist oppressor, and domestic Jews ceased being a minority. Acta est fabula.
Wildavsky not only anticipated the BDS movement 20 years before it coalesced, but prefigures today’s intersectional world where a Whoopi Goldberg can highlight the left’s definition of racism by removing race from the holocaust. And if the holocaust didn’t involve racism, then it gets downgraded on the hierarchy of the sins of modern civilization.
Of course, this does complicate the whole “Trump is Hitler/a Nazi” narrative to some extent, but hey, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.