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Discrimination, ratio prejudice, and male chauvinism have been evident in our societies since time immemorial though some people in all generations have tried fighting it and hence it has been reducing with time. In some communities, it was openly practiced but in some it was secretively done and both the victims and the racists pretend like nothing of that kind happens.
This essay analyses the written works of Hagar Salamon “Between Conscious and Subconscious: Depth-to-Depth Communication in the Ethnographic Space” and Karen Brodkin “How Jews Became White Folks”. It features on the similarities and differences of the two writings by comparing and contrasting all aspects evident e.g. the main themes, peoples opinion, the victims (Jews and Africans).
Brodkin’s and Salamon’s writings on Africans Jews and Americans
The two Authors, Brodkin and Salamon, clearly introduces us to the discriminated groups and their origin in that, in both stories the victims are immigrants and they are forced to accept the ill treatments in fear of being denied everything including the little that they are allowed.
Brodkin (43) starts her story by quoting how Kenneth Roberts how America was founded by the Nordic race, she clearly states that Kenneth did not consider her ancestors, Jews, as the same as him i.e. at that time Jews were not referred or treated as white people. The northwestern Europeans were the only immigrants ones who were considered and treated as people and in addition they also believed that they were biologically different.
Salamon on the other hand introduces us to the chewas (masters) and baryas (slaves) who are Jews originally from Northern Ethiopia but immigrated to Israel. She talk about how the Ethiopian Jews referred to as the Beta Israel or Falasha and they live in secluded communities of their own within and outside the boundaries of other Jews in Israel.
They also have the issue of skin color whereby the Chewa back in their home considered themselves as not black but que or t’eyem (i.e. red or brown respectively) the barya on the other hand were perceived as tequr (black) and socially inferior compared to the Chewa (Salamon 253).
The ‘Inferior communities usually face a lot of discrimination and deprivation of their fundamental rights for instance, the Baryas are not supposed to marry from any other communities except from their own even after gaining their freedom. Salamon gives a perfect example of one of her interviewees.
“Almaz, the oldest of the three children born to Habtesh through her relations with her master’s son-in-law, was the only one of Habtesh’s daughters who cooperated with me from the outset.
A 24-year-old high school teacher with perfect written and spoken Hebrew, Almaz symbolized successful integration into Israeli society. At this period in her life, she was preoccupied with the humiliating fact that despite her success, none of her Ethiopian acquaintances would risk marrying her.”(Salamon 259)
As you can see from the quote above Almaz’s father was a Chewa, a son to one her previous masters, but took no responsibility of her daughter. Salamon also says that it was common for barya women to be sexually abused or even impregnated by their masters, Mammit Almaz’s cousin consider herself lucky to have controlled her maternity by gaining freedom without a child from the chewa men.
Mammit had two kids from barya men though not on her own will but to the deliberate intention of the barya men (Salamon 258). this shows that there were instances of male chauvinism among the freed baryas.
Brodkin tells us how the Jews were after being discovered that they were the Euro-immigrant group that had sent a significant number of children to colleges in America, they faced a lot of discrimination to an extent that they were denied admission and Jewish instructors were never promoted ( Brodkin 45). Male chauvinism and racial segregation is also evident in Brodkin work than in Salamon’s.
Brodkin comments about “the GI bill of rights as the 1944 Servicemen Readjustments Act” (Brodkin 47). This was the most massive affirmative action in U.S history. This act enabled sixteen soldiers who participated in the Korean War acquire jobs by preferential hiring, small loans as capital for small enterprises, lowered interest rates on mortgage and educational benefits.
Only white men were the beneficiaries of this act, white women and men from other races were not favored by this act. It is clearly quoted that black men were never offered both employment information and opportunities in the south and those already in service were discharged dishonorably and most of them denied their benefits.
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Black men were never admitted on white colleges and black colleges were over populated despite the end of Jewish and other Euro-ethnic restrictions in other words the discrimination was shifted from the Euro-ethnic groups to the African Americans.
The two stories show that there must an external influence for the liberation of to take place. The American Jews required the economic recession and the great demand for labor after the war. This led to the enactment of new statutes, as quote above, that promoted the rise and recognition both socially and economically (Brodkin, p 51).
The baryas on the other hand required Salamon.according to Almaz’s dream for them to claim their liberties. In the dream the light skinned lady who holds Almaz’s hand after she takes the 50 shekels from her is assumed to be Salamon. She, saw Salamon, in the dream prophecies’ that when Almaz attains the age of 28 she shall lead a revolution that would help all baryas attain their freedom (Salamon 260).
Salamon’s and Brodkin’s work also contrast in the way the groups which are considered inferior are liberated from their position. After Salamon interviews a number of baryas who are willing to share their common experiences as slaves but never willing to talk about their personal experiences, she discovers that most of the freed baryas, e.g.
Mammit, struggled for their freedom without any support or aid of any kind from the authority (government of the day) or economic circumstances (Salamon 258). On the other hand the Jews in America did not actually fight for their liberation but they were actually helped by the government as brodkin quotes in her summary,
“The myth that Jews pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps ignores the fact that it took federal programs to create the conditions whereby the abilities of Jews and other European Immigrants could be recognized and rewarded rather than denigrated and denied.
The GI Bill, the FHA and the VA mortgages were forms of affirmative action that allowed Male Jews and other Euro-American men to become suburban home owners and to get the training that allowed them to… become professionals, technicians, Salesmen and managers in a growing economy”(Brodkin 51)
The Jews in America are openly discriminated and the government even enacted laws, before the war, that helped in discriminating the south eastern Euro-immigrants from accessing education, employment and financial assistance from all aspects of the economy. In Israel the situation is different and the slavery is not openly done and it’s very hard for anyone to discover it.
Salamon had been interviewing a Chewa for months and an old barya severed them tea frequently. When Salamon asked about her after noticing that she was always silent and her presence was never noticed by the hosts, Salamon managed to ask about the lady but this was ignored by the hosts who never commented about it this clearly explained to her that she was a barya.
Both the chewa and the barya believe that exposing this idea of slavery to outsiders is considered as “a grave breach of faith” (Salamon 254).
Lastly in both stories the ‘mixed breeds’ are considered as inferior, Brodkin wrote that Higham suggested that “the cross between any of the three European races and a Jew is a Jew” (Brodkin, p 43). Salamon also says that Almaz’s father was a the son of her mother’s, (Habtesh) master meaning she was a cross breed but still treated as a barya (Salamon 259)
The two authors write about very different times but both of them comment on three main issues (themes) racial segregation, discrimination and male Chauvinism. The victims as we have seen above are immigrant who are mistreated and deprived of their rights by others who consider themselves superior.
Brodkin, Karen. “How Jews Became White Folks” . p 43-51.
Salamon, Hagar. “Between Conscious and Subconscious: Depth-to-Depth Communication in the Ethnographic Space”. Ethos, Vol. 30, . Sep., No. 3, p 249-272.