Quentin Tarantino’s "Django" is sparking controversy — and not just for its flagrant use of the n word. According to African-American film critic Tim Cogshell (quoted by Erin Aubry Kaplan in the Times), “The surreal liftoff that happens at some point in ‘Basterds’ [Tarantino’s take on the Holocaust] doesn’t happen here, because of the weight of what’s still real. For example, there’s a certain racial backlash to Obama that’s still going on. Quentin wants this to be a dark comedy, but with [black] history the way it is, you can’t get from here to there in a movie.”
There are two problems with Cogshell’s comment. First the after-effects of slavery experienced by African Americans are part of a global phenomenon of anti-black racism. Hardly anybody noticed, but just this past November the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory for Greece because of of “a rise in unprovoked harassment and violent attacks against persons who, because of their complexion, are perceived to be foreign migrants.” Africans, especially “illegal immigrants,” are the main target of Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn Party, but there are also “confirmed reports of US African-American citizens detained by police conducting sweeps for illegal immigrants in Athens.”
Second, Hitler may be dead, but his noxious influence persists in the twenty-first century. A case in point: the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s new list of 2012’s top anti-Semites. Greek Golden Dawn’s founder Nikolaos Michaloliakos appeared to give a Nazi salute in the Athens City Council. He claims that it was merely “the salute of the national youth organization of Ioannis Metaxas.” In May, 2012, he told an interviewer that six million did not die in the Nazi Holocaust. He called the figure an exaggeration. “There were no ovens. This is a lie . . . there were no gas chambers, either.”
Artemis Matthaiopoulos, elected MP for the town of Serres, was the front man of the Nazi punk band Pogrom. One of the band’s songs, “Auschwitz” included anti-Semitic lyrics such as “f*** Wiesenthal”, “f*** Anne Frank”, “f*** the whole tribe of Abraham”, “Juden raus” and “The Star of David makes me vomit.” Matthaiopoulos is the second neo-Nazi rocker to represent Golden Dawn in the Greek Parliament.
Greece incubated democracy—but, of course, it’s not the only modern democracy with an anti-Semitism problem. Here at home, the phenomenon of Jew hatred crosses racial and religious lines. Case in point: perennial anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan who in 2012 said: “Jews control the media. They said it themselves. . . . In Washington right next to the Holocaust museum is the Federal Reserve where they print the money. Is that an accident? . . . Did you know the Quran says that Jews are the most violent of people? I didn’t write it, but I’m living to see it.”
Public opinion polls vary, but roughly 15 percent of Americans harbor hard-core anti-Semitic beliefs—about the same percentage who say they would never vote for an African American presidential candidate. Fortunately, these levels of prejudice are only a fraction of the large majorities throughout the Arab and Muslim world who profess hostility toward Judaism and Jews.
Still, we’ve still got a real problem with prejudice right here in America—and African Americans and Jews should collectively make a New Year’s Resolution to combat it!
Dr. Brackman is a Senior Consultant for the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance.