Monday, March 12, 2007

Winston Churchill: Anti-?

In 1937, Winston Churchill wrote this article, which has only recently been uncovered:

...they are inviting persecution -- that they have been partly responsible for the antagonism from which they suffer.


[THE TYPICAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE MYSTERY RACE] looks different. He thinks differently. He has a different tradition and background. He refuses to be absorbed.

So, a brief quizz. What race is Churchill criticizing for failing to assimilate? And did his charge, in its historical context, have merit, or were his comments racist? Does his charge have merit today? Actually, probably it does not. But then why do we ask some tribes to change their dress habits, for example, and not others?

(Note: I might be a bit heavy handed on the comments this time out, assuming there are comments. The evil bald one might be out there, waiting to pounce.)

And as a PS, if anyone has found a link to the entire article, I would love to read it. At the time, Churchill's secretary advised him it would be "inadvisable" to publish this and it never saw the light of day.


Mike said...

We should immediately contact the PB moderators to ensure that anyone that quotes Churchill be given an indefinite suspension from the roll...

Jason Cherniak said...

Churchhill was a "racist" in the sense that he believed different races had different qualities. That's how people thought in his time. You have to view it in context.

Mike said...

"You have to view it in context."

Right back at ya....

bigcitylib said...


Its still how many people think.

But specifically, d'you think his charge--that's Jews refuse to assimilate--racist, either when uttered in 1937 or now?

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Gee, I wonder what parallel BCL is trying to establish?

Anyway, show me a post-WWII comment where Churchill expresses indifference to a renewed rounding up of the Jews and I'll agree. Parallel established.

As for the quotes here, the worst of it is this idea that Jews are "partly responsible for the antagonism from which they suffer". His observationa that Jews are different from Christians isn't that politely stated, but it's hardly even remarkable, let alone anti-semitic. If someone (oh, I don't know who) had said recently that the actions of Jewish lobby groups or even just "the Jews" were "partly responsible" for the rise in anti-semitism, we wouldn't even be discussing this.

Expressing a pre-holocaust observation that the Jews might bear some responsibility for the antagonism they then faced is patently different from expressing a post-holocaust indifference to the renewed rounding up of the Jews. Suggesting a group is partly responsible for their own persecution is bad, I grant you. Stating an indifference to the persecution itself is worse.

And Mike, your comment is inane. That's all, just wanted to say your comment was inane.

bigcitylib said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bigcitylib said...

I am not drawing parallels, LK.

So pre 1939 Churchill's saying that Jews might be partly responsible for anti-semitism because they refuse to assimilate is okay. Okay and true, or okay but false?

Post 1945,it is not okay? But not okay because it is not true? Or not okay regardless of its truth?

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

No, it's not "OK" in 1937, nor in 1945, however I do think one's understanding of the potential evils that can arise out of anti-semitism must be greater in 1945 than 1937, so there is less excuse, such as there is any excuse, for making such statements post-holocaust.

If there's no parallel here though, then I wonder what the point of this post is? Winston Churchill was a bit of a racist? Well, yeah. And people generally were a lot more racist in 1937 then they are today. So what?

I just can't shake the idea though that this post is suggesting "if it's good enough for Winston Churchill...". Or, at the very least, "You can't attack anyone for saying something inexcusible if you won't attack Churchill for saying this".

Ti-Guy said...

And people generally were a lot more racist in 1937 then they are today. So what?

How do you actually know this? Diverse people have been living together for millenia. Right now, expressions of racism are not fashionable. But don't tell the anti-Muslims that, of course.

I think we now have a much better understanding of rule of law and human rights, or, at least, we've codified these concepts more exhaustively. But are people any less or more racist than before?

I, quite frankly, don't really know. I'm surprised some people seem to actually *know* this, one way or the other.

Ti-Guy said...

Churchhill was a "racist" in the sense that he believed different races had different qualities. That's how people thought in his time. You have to view it in context.

You know, when you address issues like this, you really sound like a dillettante. It's time for you to grow up, Jason. You may be a fresh-faced, elfin enfant terrible lawyer, but on issues like this, you are simply out of your league.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't appear to reflect any hatred against them. Nothing to see here.