Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Much ado about a Jewish nose

Americans are so concerned about being politically correct, that they could be losing their sense of humor, their ability to laugh at themselves. For a country that prides on being a "melting pot" for various races, communities, and ethnic groups, race or community are surprisingly becoming touchy issues.

Actress Halle Berry has apologized for making a joke about the appearance of Jewish people, according to various reports, including this one from the BBC.

If you are wondering what Berry said that could be seen as an affront to the Jews, hold your breath ! She said during US chat show Tonight with Jay Leno that a distorted photo of herself with a huge nose made her look like her "Jewish cousin".

That was a poor joke, and it doesn’t make me laugh, but I don’t think any Jews in their right mind should have objected to it. A huge nose is not part of an offensive stereotype of the Jew. In fact a number of Jewish writers do refer to Jewish characters in their books as having long, and even beaky noses.

To be sure, some will argue that this is fuel to anti-Semitism. Unfortunately anti-Semites and all other types of racist people will co-opt anything into their stereotypes of the folks they are prejudiced against whether it is “slit-eyed” Chinese, or the Indian “brown skin”.

That does not change the fact that the Chinese have slit eyes and Indians have brown skins, and yes, Jews tend to have long noses. Nothing pejorative about it. It are the facts of life, and the earlier we are willing to laugh about it (if the joke is good), and take it in our stride, the better.

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