Debate rages on social media platform discussing if Anne Frank had “White privilege”
By Rolene Marks
I cannot believe that I have to write this article in 2022 when we assume that with the body of knowledge and evidence that exists about the Holocaust. But here we are. Along with many outraged activists on JTwitter (Jewish Twitter), I added my voice to a chorus that had to take to the internet platform to say “No, Anne Frank is NOT an example of white privilege”.
Yup. You read that right.
What started off this tsunami of ire was the tweet below:
Nothing says “white privilege” like a whole group of people, i.e. Jews, singled out for extermination because not only were we seen as an inferior race by the Nazis; but we were not even seen as human.
This is not the first time that the teen who put a name and a face to the one and a half million Jewish children who were murdered during the Holocaust has seen her image, memory and experience appropriated by those seeking to politicise a point.
The millions of people all around the world, in many different languages, who have read her story have shared in her daily frustrations, the precocious personality of a typical teenager experiencing the changes and her heartbreaks as well as the very real fear and hurt of being targeted for death for the crime of being a Jew. Anne Frank put a name and a face to the
1, 500, 000 children murdered in the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people. For many people, Anne Frank put a human face to a catastrophe many viewed in the abstract.
Anne and her sister Margot were sent to Bergen Belsen after the secret annex where her family and several other Jews were carefully hidden from the Nazi death machine, was discovered. They died of typhus and their bodies thrown into a mass grave. Their father Otto Frank, survived them.
Over the last few days, Anne Frank became a victim again. She was “othered” by someone who like many, see everything through a prism of race. The person who tweeted the offensive tweet was not the only one accusing her of amongst many things, “white Privilege”, “Jewish privilege” and “colonization”. In “woke’ 2022, it is not unusual to see offence frackers accuse those who they don’t agree with or in this case, whose history they know nothing about; use terminology like “colonisation” or “privilege” – something very easy to do when you are living in suburbia with unfettered access to the internet….
Esteemed author and intellectual, David Baddiel who wrote the best-selling book, “Jews don’t Count” opined that there is a type of Schrodinger’s law on whites, particularly in reference to Jews. Schrodinger’s law originally referred to the physicist Erwin Schrodinger who explained how a cat in a box could be in an ambiguous predicament in the world’s most successful thought experiment. Until the box was opened and the cat’s condition weighed, the strange laws of quantum theory indicated that it could be both dead and alive.
Baddiel’s theory when applied to antisemitism is a kind of “Schrodinger’s whites”. Simply put, Jews are both white and not white, and too many are not seen as underprivileged or marginalised. Jews are often thought of as rich capitalists and don’t fit the fashionable parameters that get social justice warriors all heated up. Jews are also “too white” for campaigners and of no interest of social justice activists who see racism as a class construct, one in which you need to be economically or socially disadvantaged. “For progressives, he writes, “no victory is claimed by championing their experience, and this leads to a subtle — and unconscious — exclusion.” The mission of fighting racism has been repurposed to suit the other political causes of campaigners rather than the needs of its victims.” Anyone else have a headache?
To this point, Baddiel brings up the concept of “Schrodinger’s Whites”. Jews are both white and not white. To those trotting out the accusations of privilege, most Jews pass for Caucasian and are “rich”, so therefore they enjoy “white privilege”. Shades of Whoopi Goldberg arguing that the “Holocaust was not about race, just some white people fighting each other” springs to mind. In that sentence, Goldberg erased the unique and painful Jewish experience which is why her comments were so obscenely offensive.
Baddiel was asked for his comments about Goldberg and he said:
“One of the principal things going on here is the resistance that antisemitism is racism. What a lot of people think it is religious intolerance.”
He pointed out that, despite him being an atheist, he would have been persecuted due to his Jewish heritage:
“My great-uncle who died in the Warsaw Ghetto was not an observant Jew. The whiteness of Jews is a very complex thing.”
Baddiel explains that“Far-right groups… have seen Jews as not part of the white race. But meanwhile, the far-left, the association of Jews… with power and privilege makes them super white.”
Jews are not a homogenous people – we are different races and ethnicities that come from all corners of the globe, are both affluent and not – but the one thing we all have in common irrespective of race, ethnicity and success is that the only “privilege” we all seem to have is enduring millennia of discrimination, persecution, hatred, exclusion and genocide.
This brings me back to Anne Frank.
Anne Frank once said, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart”. If only the hope expressed through this remarkable young woman – whose story resonates through the generations in the hope that it would educate people and remind them that we were not just numbers but had names, lives and experiences – would be realized. We have to do better by Anne.
Perhaps we can start by ensuring that she continues to be a voice and a human face for the millions of Jews throughout our history who have suffered the unfathomable. We have a duty to protect Anne and everything she represents.
While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves. LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).