Some Recent Reads

Some Recent Reads

Hoping we take heed…

New York Times on Race and Skin Color Discoveries

New York Times on Race and Skin Color Discoveries

I am happy to see this New York Times article highlighting ways in which our long held beliefs about race are falling apart. Yet another opportunity for us to find similarities between people!

For centuries, skin color has held powerful social meaning — a defining characteristic of race, and a starting point for racism.

“If you ask somebody on the street, ‘What are the main differences between races?,’ they’re going to say skin color,” said Sarah A. Tishkoff, a geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania.

On Thursday, Dr. Tishkoff and her colleagues showed this to be a profound error. In the journal Science, the researchers published the first large-scale study of the genetics of skin color in Africans.

The researchers pinpointed eight genetic variants in four narrow regions of the human genome that strongly influence pigmentation — some making skin darker, and others making it lighter.

These genes are shared across the globe, it turns out; one of them, for example, lightens skin in both Europeans and hunter-gatherers in Botswana. The gene variants were present in humanity’s distant ancestors, even before our species evolved in Africa 300,000 years ago.…
— Carl Zimmer, New York Times

Reflections from Dr. Jason Stanley

Reflections from Dr. Jason Stanley

Dr. Jason Stanley

Dr. Jason Stanley

I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Stanley speak at the JCC on the Palisades, Tenafly, NJ on September 14. He is a professor at Yale, and the son of survivors. Below is are some notes from his presentation:

Propaganda is a very old problem, Dr. Stanley said, and is inextricably tied to democracy, in which it can flourish and to which it is poison. He begins his book with a discussion of “Plato’s Republic,” which told the ancient world that democracy will never work, and with a quote from Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, “This will always remain one of the best jokes of democracy – that it gave it’s definitely enemies the means by which it was destroyed,” Goebbels is reported to have said. 

In other words, “democracy requires that you allow people to say what they want to say.”  But they have the right to free speech. “But that means that a demagogue,” who like everyone else is free to say what he wants to say, “can get people to set people against each other,” Dr. Stanley said. “Plato spells it all out.” A demagogue will define an enemy, and set the majority against that enemy. “He will create fear and represent himself as a protector, and then seize power.” And then of course democracy ends. 

It is built in, an inescapable paradox of democracy. 

“To have a democracy, you need a well-formed state,” Dr. Stanley said. “You can’t have a groups that resent other groups. You can’t build a state on racism or sexism. If you do then democracy doesn’t work.”

Reflecting on “Second Generation Voices”

Reflecting on “Second Generation Voices”

A few standout quotes from the latest addition to the Mischlinge Exposé Bibliography: “Second Generation Voices: Reflections by Children of Holocaust Survivors & Perpetrators”, edited by Alan Berger & Naomi Berger:

“The Holocaust cannot be purged, erased, figured out, dealt with. It is with me every day, one way or the other. I rarely pass a homeless person on the street without stopping to give something, and when I don't I feel enormously guilty. I cannot bear to be identified as the oppressor in anyway at all...” —Julie Salamon

“While being children of survivors does not give us any privileges, it does impose a fa- reaching responsibility. We were given life and placed on earth with a solemn obligation... Our task is to remind the world of the Holocaust to prevent it's recurrence. And to understand our parents and their experiences, we must first at least attempt to penetrate the darkness.” —Menachem Rosensaft

“We have learned from our parents' experiences that indifference to the suffering of others is in itself a crime. Because of who we are, we constitute a moral force whose voice can have an impact on humankind. We must, both individually and collectively, raise this voice on behalf of all, Jews and non-Jews alike, who are subjected to discrimination and oppression, or who are threatened by annihilation, anywhere in the world. And we may never be passive, or allow others to be passive, in the face of oppression, for we know only too well that the ultimate consequence of apathy and silence was embodied forever in the flames of Auschwitz and the mass graves of Bergen-Belsen.”  —Menachem Rosensaft

“Where do I find my identities? In my professional or private sphere, or in one in which profession or private life form a unity? In a national German character? In a German Europeanism? In cosmopolitanism? In Christianity? In which religion or ethics – or can one be only a humanist atheist after the Holocaust? In which society, monocultural or multicultural? After the Holocaust I refuse to answer the question in which race I could find my identity, because in German history this question led to the Holocaust and is still part of an anachronistic discussion about a future mono or multicultural society that has long become multicultural.” —Gottfried H. Wagner, Great-grandson of Richard Wagner

Heinrich Heine: Der Atlas

Heinrich Heine: Der Atlas

Continuing our exploration of Heinrich Heine's poetry with his “Der Atlas” as set by Franz Schubert (and performed below by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau):

Unhappy Atlas that I am,
I must bear a world,
    The whole world of sorrows.

Ich unglückseliger Atlas! Eine Welt,
Die ganze Welt der Schmerzen muss
    ich tragen.