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Black America’s Anti-Semitism Problem

From Kanye West endorsing Hitler to Kyrie Irving inviting followers to watch a documentary about how blacks are the true Jews, anti-Semitism from prominent black figures has been in the news. A recent study explores the phenomenon of black anti-Semitism more broadly, ruling out popular explanations—and excuses—for its frequency.

Black anti-Semitism is nothing new. It has appeared in the works of black intellectuals since at least the early-20th-century black nationalist Marcus Garvey, as Elliot Kaufman observed in Commentary, and defined politics in New York City—the American metropolis where blacks and Jews most often rub shoulders—for generations.

But where does it come from? A new paper by sociologists Eitan Hersh of Tufts University and Laura Royden of Harvard explores this question. The pair reveal—using a survey of thousands of Americans—some shocking statistics, including that black and Hispanic young adults report anti-Semitic views at rates similar to white young adults who self-identify as “alt-right.”


To measure anti-Semitism, Hersh and Royden asked their survey respondents three questions: Are Jews more loyal to Israel than America, is it appropriate to boycott Jewish-owned businesses to oppose Israel’s policies, and do Jews in the United States have too much power?

The majority of respondents said no to these questions, but black respondents were much more likely than whites to say yes to at least one—13 percentage points more, after accounting for differences in age, sex, and education. Hispanic respondents were also slightly more likely to agree, though the difference was not statistically distinguishable from zero.

The effect was most pronounced among young blacks and Hispanics. Both groups were 16 percentage points more likely to agree than whites in their age group. Anti-Semitism was particularly common among young blacks and Hispanics who called themselves “conservative.” But that was a small group, and anti-Semitism was more common even among liberal blacks compared with liberal whites. Black and Hispanic young adults, in fact, were about as likely to agree with at least one of the statements as were white “alt-right” identifiers in the same age group.

Hispanics are often lumped with whites in hate crime data, so it is difficult to trace precisely the implications of this prejudice among Hispanics, which is an under-discussed and undercovered aspect of the story.


{snip} Hersh and Royden are left only to speculate on the causes of black anti-Semitism. They point to the rising salience of victimhood in American culture, arguing that it may either make people more prone to embracing conspiracy theories or provoke competition over “victim” status. It is also possible, of course, that anti-Semitic views are just a product of prejudice—no need for further explanation.