Podcast / On The Nose
On the Nose is our biweekly podcast. The editorial staff discusses the politics, culture, and questions that animate today’s Jewish left.
You People
Duration
0:00 / 33:51
Published
February 9, 2023

A new Netflix-produced romcom by Jonah Hill and Kenya Barris tells the story of Ezra, a white Jew, and Amira, a Black Muslim, whose love affair is challenged by the patronizing, casual racism of Ezra’s progressive mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and the antisemitism and militant separatism of Amira’s Farrakhan-loving father (Eddie Murphy). Jewish commentators across the political spectrum have responded overwhelmingly negatively, accusing the film of everything from perpetuating harmful stereotypes of Jewish women, to trafficking in conspiracy theories, to inciting violence against Jews. Jewish Currents editor-in-chief Arielle Angel, JC contributing writer Rebecca Pierce, critic and essayist Jasmine Sanders, and writer and Know Your Enemy co-host Sam Adler-Bell discuss these over-the-top critiques and explore why similarly cringe and stereotypical depictions of the Black family did not raise alarms among Black or Jewish critics.

Thanks to Jesse Brenneman for producing and to Nathan Salsburg for the use of his song “VIII (All That Were Calculated Have Passed).”

ARTICLES, BOOKS, AND FILMS MENTIONED:

You People on Netflix

In Jonah Hill’s offensive new movie, a Black-Jewish love story comes with a side of conspiracy theories,” Mira Fox, The Forward

Netflix Hit ‘You People’ Branded ‘Horribly Damaging’ to Jewish People,” Ryan Smith, Newsweek

“‘You People’ Normalizes Farrakhan’s Views On Jews,” Allison Josephs, Jew in the City

“‘You People’ and the Tediousness of the Interracial Romcom,” Zeba Blay, Jezebel

We Charge Genocide

Precious Angel,” Bob Dylan

Slave Play by Jeremy O. Harris


Transcript

Arielle Angel: Hello and welcome back to On the Nose. This is Arielle Angel, Editor in Chief of Jewish Currents, and I’m joined today by contributing writer, Rebecca Pierce, and friends of the magazine, Jasmine Sanders and Sam Adler-Bell, who have been on the podcast before, and we’re really excited to have them back.

Sam Adler-Bell: I’m so happy to be here. So happy to be back for another “is that funny?” sub-podcast of On the Nose.

AA: Exactly. And I don’t know yet how bad to feel about asking the three of you to watch this movie. Of course, we are talking about You People, the Netflix interracial rom-com. I’ll just briefly give a little summary and then we can jump in. Ezra, played by Jonah Hill, who’s one of the writers of the film with Kenya Barris, falls in love with Amira played by Lauren London, whose parents are followers of Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam. And quote unquote, hilarity ensues. I don’t know, I guess we could just jump right into it. Where do you guys want to start?

Rebecca Pierce: Deep sighs, all around. I mean, I think the important thing to contextualize is the response to the film first, because I guess that’s why we’re talking about it. I don’t think we would be talking about it, otherwise.

AA: Yeah, let’s start there.

RP: So there’s been myriad think pieces written about this film, ranging from, “It is endorsing Farrakhan and will cause Black men to attack Jews,” to, “This made me feel awkward about Jews being portrayed as white people.” And it seems to be getting heat not only from the right, which I think tends to fixate on Black Jewish conversations as a wedge issue, but also from folks in the center, and I even saw left-wing and even anti-Zionist commentators weighing in about how harmful the film was. It seems like a lot of people are very upset about this particular film, and I’ve had way more conversations about it already than I ever would have hoped to.

AA: I mean, maybe I can read just a few things from some of the pieces that came out. So this is from The Forward, that says, “It feels as though You People is trying to draw a clear connection between Ezra’s parents’ religion and their boorish behavior. They’re not just white, they’re even worse: they’re Jewish.” Basically, they say that the film asks whether Jews are actually the worst kind of white people, in The Forward. Then, of course, there’s also David Baddiel, who used to be known for doing blackface but now is like the crusader against antisemitism. He’s the antiracism guy in the UK. His whole thing is “Jews don’t count,” which is that Jews don’t get enough medals in the Oppression Olympics or whatever. And he said, “The film’s Jewish family is positioned as white privileged and racist. The Black family just has a stern dad. At the end, there’s much Jewish apologizing for racism, none for antisemitism. That word never appears.” And then we have like, the most inane of all, which is this Jew in the City.

SAB: That’s the name of the website?

AA: The name of the website is Jew in the City. Yeah.

SAB: Just wanted to make sure for the listeners. It wasn’t just you were like, “There’s this Jew in the city, he’s got some bad opinions.”

AA: I think her name is Allison Josephs, who’s like mad about Holocaust jokes but also really mad about Jews and whiteness. Jews are also exotic, she says. I mean, I’ll just read a quote. “Kenya Barris is clearly a Farrakhan fan. This movie is Barris’s chance to get back at the Jews and finally make them silly, degraded, and degenerate in a movie. A man walking around in a yarmulke does have to worry about potentially getting assaulted by a Kenya Barris fan. Jews are currently the most attacked religious minority and most attacked (per capita) racial minority. And the majority of Jewish attackers are Black men.” And she said, in Newsweek, that this is a movie that’s going to incite violence against a minority group, and that if this was happening to another minority group, more would be done for them.

RP: She cites her own article–

AA: Right, she cites her own article.

RP: –which summarizes another article that was a very specific study on New York City, where they say the majority of the attackers, like 60% of the attackers of Orthodox Jews are Black. I have no idea what that source is. I didn’t have time to look into it. But I have seen a lot of analysis on New York and the broader issue of antisemitic attacks by people like Laura E. Adkins, and that is not borne out in other research, that I’ve seen, at least.

AA: I just think that this is describing a really specific situation, in primarily Crown Heights, where those are the two communities that exist and are in tension.

Jasmine Sanders: Yeah.

AA: But putting all that aside, what do we think of these things? I mean, let’s start maybe with the idea of “the Jews are actually the worst kind of white people.”

JS: No one believes that. No one believes that. Like in a world with like, white South Africans or Australia, you know what I mean? Like nobody actually believes that.

AA: I mean, these people are cringe, but they’re not white supremacists.

JS: Right!

AA: They’re not like, burning crosses on a lawn.

AA: Or ever.

SAB: Well, can I just say, I just find the fact that we’re starting this conversation with these quotes from these people, who took this movie deadly serious as a potential threat to the Jewish community everywhere, and that it’s going to incite Black violence against Jews–like, this movie cannot bear the weight of this conversation. It’s a silly movie. It’s a dumb rom-com with some funny jokes, and it’s two different worlds together, and we have to make our families get along. It’s like the most formulaic, most predictable story with this like, splash of religious/racial commentary. But because I was asked to watch this for this podcast, I was bracing myself for some either super out-there, wrongheaded thing, or this really controversial, like made me feel really uncomfortable, but maybe in a good way kind of thing. But it’s just the lowest common denominator version of this story. And it was comforting the way that romcoms are, it was just kind of cute. You don’t really buy their relationship at first–

SAB: But I just wanted to say it’s a silly movie, and the fact that there’s a discourse about it that it’s trying to bear the weight of a conversation about like, Black and Jewish relations is absurd.

RP: I mean, I think it’s kind of evidence that you cannot make a mediocre movie about Black/Jewish stuff because everyone will lose their mind. I think people are kind of, in some cases, chasing that high from the Kanye/Kyrie discourse. And I can see the elements of this film that people would find objectionable, for sure, but just the level of like, “Oh, this is setting back Black/Jewish relations 30 years” or whatever discourse, it’s just very hyperbolic to me. A lot of the response, I think, was discomfort around the cringe humor that is throughout, and people don’t want to be identified with that. And I saw a lot of people really angry at Julia Louis Dreyfus’s character, but I’m sorry, I’ve experienced the real-life version of this person too many times to have a lot of sympathy for that. Like sure, it’s a caricature, sure, it’s over the top, but some of y’all really do treat us that way. Whether it’s the hair comments, treating people like a toy. Someone said to my dad when I was growing up, like he showed a picture of me at his high school reunion, and someone was like, “Oh, where can I get one of those?” You know? There is this weird fetishization of mixed kids that happens.

SAB: Right.

AA: The best line, actually, to that effect, that really rang true, is when she’s like, “We’re a family of color. We’re the future,” or something. That really hit the nail right on the head. And like–I mean, sorry, Mom–I could see my mom saying that, you know? I found it recognizable, and I found it recognizably Jewish. Not that Jews are the worst kind of white people, but like–

SAB: They’re a particular kind of white people.

AA: They’re a particular kind of very progressive white people, who haven’t figured out everything about what that means. But this is the stage they’re at with it. So I actually found it, in a certain sense, culturally specific.

JS: Arielle when you sent the screenshots of that woman who was like, “These are horrible stereotypes about Jewish women, and this is setting us back,” I was like, “Oh, my God, maybe that’s true. Like, maybe I need to take this movie seriously and start doing research.” So I started researching the history of those archetypes, like the stock character of a Jewish mom. And then I read Portnoy’s Complaint. I went down this massive rabbit hole over this ridiculous movie, just to come out the other side of it. Like this was so not even worth that.

AA: It’s funny. Jasmine was like, “Oh, I thought maybe when she said that it was harmful that this was like a Nazi trope or whatever. And then I realized that it was just a trope that was invented by like, Jewish male comedians.”

SAB: Well, it’s funny because I didn’t really think about that that much when I was watching it. But now I’m thinking about it, and the Jewish mom archetype is also that she’s sort of smothering and doesn’t want to let her little boy go. Like the mom/son relationship is always the key one in the stereotype. She obviously has that in their relationship in the movie, Ezra and his mother. Obviously, she’s smothering and doting and stuff, but their relationship is pretty good. I mean, it becomes bad because she gets between him and the person he loves–the woman that he’s dating, Amira. But in terms of like, he’s constantly making fun of her in front of her, and she’s funny, and they clearly share a sense of humor–it’s actually a good version of the Jewish mother/Jewish son dyad, compared to ones that I have observed, at least.

JS: At least in my viewing, the women are all kind of secondary. Like it is just like this carnival of masculinity. Like there’s like a Black man who was militant and marked as hypermasculine.

SAB: Eddie Murphy’s character.

JS: Yeah. To me, it was just a movie about the various racial masculine insecurities, like racialized masculinity.

SAB: That’s interesting

JS: In how they’re interacting with each other. I mean, I’m from Chicago, which is like, again, the NOI headquarters–I could have been in the Nation of Islam, I feel, if like one thing had gone differently in my life. And even I don’t take Farrakhan that seriously. If the main threat against your community is Louis Farrakhan–like it’s not 1983 anymore.

SAB: It’s wild that all these Jewish commentators, pundits, are saying, “Oh, God, there are so many terrible Jewish stereotypes. This movie, it’s so offensive to us and so dangerous.” It’s like, isn’t the Eddie Murphy character also a stereotype?

AA: Totally.

SAB: And the idea that he would, even if he was NOI, that he would like be just completely, uncomplicatedly pro-Farrakhan—he wears the kufi that Farrakhan gave him to dinner, it’s all over-the-top stereotypes. But it’s just like, for whatever reason, Jews in the media right now are just so hair trigger, ready to take offense. And I think it’s specifically about when Black people are involved. When, somehow, the voice of criticism is Black people, they lose their fucking shit. That’s what our last podcast was about.

RP: If you watch the scene that everyone’s upset about, where they’re talking about Farrakhan, it’s really clear that Eddie Murphy and Nia Long’s characters are not supposed to be right in the scene.

SAB: No, obviously not!

RP: They get the last word in a certain way. Like, I can see wanting more of a response from the Jewish characters in that moment. It felt a little incomplete. But they’re supposed to be wrong and ignorant. That’s the whole point of that scene. So if you’re watching that, and you’re like “Kenya Barris is a Farrakhan fan,” I’m sorry, but you don’t understand how to read a piece of media, or you’re intentionally misconstruing that scene. It’s not what it’s supposed to be about. And in terms of his hostility to the Jonah Hill character, my grandfather was really against my mom being with a white guy, like really. And it wasn’t for no reason. It was because he’s from Tennessee. His father was likely murdered by white people, we’ll never know. And there’s trauma and history behind that, and in this film, it’s just totally decontextualized from like, “Why do people even like Farrakhan? Why do people even have these ideas?” It’s just kind of played for laughs. And they’re wrong, that’s the whole point. So the idea that this is reinforcing that is just not true. If anything, I think Black folks have reasons to push back against that representation as well.

JS: I feel like it’s understood that Farrakhan is a punch line. And like the way that he’s using the NOI characters in this movie is meant to be a kind of funny faux-militant.

SAB: Well, his brother makes fun of him. Eddie Murphy’s brother character, who was played by Mike Epps, EJ, calls him Woody, even though he changed his name to Akbar. But he’s like, “Woody, come on. You’re Woody.” And he’s like, “You just became militant one day, and that became your identity.” The idea that it’s a put-on is text in the movie.

AA: I mean, it’s funny, I’m going back to Baddiel’s quote, that the Black family just has a stern dad. The complete inability to read any texture into what’s being done with that character as well.

JS: When it’s just like, this is America. Interracial marriage is like still kind of rare, like most people do marry within their race. And so, if you are going to be in an interracial relationship, it is likely to cause some sort of static in some way, or at least be notable in some way. I feel like if I brought anyone home wasn’t Black, something would happen.

RP: Speaking of interracial dating, one of my objections to this film is that there’s a kind of schlubby, Jewish guy who would definitely pull a Lauren London. I’m not sure that Jonah Hill’s character is it.

SAB: Yeah, ironically, he doesn’t have the juice.

RP: He doesn’t have the juice.

AA: Are we also supposed to believe that he can ball?

JS: I mean, maybe. Maybe he went to JCC camp and was point guard, you know? You never know.

SAB: That’s a funny moment, though. Because Blacks and Jews, we share basketball. That’s a trope.

AA: It’s like the Uncut Gems thing.

SAB: Yeah.

RP: Also, just having dated white, Jewish guys, I felt like he didn’t do enough gatekeeping of her culture to her for this to be realistic. Like, where was the scene where he asked her if she likes jazz and then immediately starts talking about Sun Ra like she wouldn’t know who that is.

JS: Oh my god. That’s why I won’t listen to jazz, because so many white people explain jazz to me. I will not listen to jazz. I kind of don’t watch basketball because so many white people have explained it to me. Like, that’s completely true.

AA: I want to read one quote from “You People and the Tediousness of the Interracial Romcom” by Zeba Blay in Jezebel. “In his 1967 essay on Sidney Poitier, James Baldwin had this to say about Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. ‘I can’t pretend that the movie meant anything to me. It seemed a glib, good-natured comedy in which a lot of able people were being wasted. But I told myself this movie wasn’t made for you, and I really don’t know the people for whom it was made.’ ” I mean, obviously Blay used this quote because it really seems to apply. Do we know who this movie is for?

JS: Oh, my God, it’s for people who date interracially.

SAB: Yeah.

AA: Really?

JS: I feel like the other part is like Kenya Barris just sucks, kind of? Like he had this profile recently where he said, “I’m obsessed with race.” Which is fine, except he’s obsessed with the same thing repeatedly. Like he’s obsessed with like the white/Black mingling and like, “I’m in a different position than my children.” I guess I would imagine that the movie, more specifically, is made for people who have had some type of upward mobility, and have now married interracially, and have anxieties about like, their own Blackness.

RP: I’m sure they also thought that white Jews were gonna like this film. I’m sure that they’re surprised by the backlash to it.

AA: Rebecca, I think you’re totally right that like a lot of things that are made by Jews in Hollywood, that it’s also for Jews. But I actually disagree with you. I think Jews probably like it.

RP: Well, normal people who don’t have Twitter brain.

SAB: Yeah, I think so. It’s a huge hit.

JS: Yeah, my mom liked it. Who also had a dalliance with the NOI has an Allah tattoo on her neck.

SAB: Oh, I thought you were gonna say with a Jew.

AA: I did too. I also thought that’s where this was going.

JS: She had an NOI stage, and even she thought it was funny. Because people who occupy these identities have a sense of humor, I thought.

SAB: Well, that’s like the only reason I come on this podcast, is to insist upon Jews having a sense of humor. And it honestly drives me crazy that there’s all these Jewish pundits saying that this is an offensive movie. If we can’t make this level of joke? Jesus. I mean, get over yourselves.

JS: It definitely felt like the butt of the movie was the Black family.

RP: Yeah, they literally pull off a Black woman’s wig as a sight gag.

SAB: Exactly. How is that not the most offensive thing in the movie? Like it’s ridiculous

JS: They burned his kufi.

SAB: They burned his kufi with a ceremonial candle. I feel like a lot of the things that I saw that were criticizing it were talking about the Holocaust jokes. I think the Holocaust jokes are maybe the best jokes in the movie.

AA: Me too. I agree.

RP: I laughed.

AA: I laughed for sure.

SAB: So for the listeners, when he gets his ring to propose to Amira, Jonah Hill’s character gets a small ring because he doesn’t have a lot of money, or he’s cheap, you know? And his friend, his best friend, who’s this queer Black woman who he does a podcast with, says like, “Oh my God, that’s way too small. You’re gonna have to make up a story about that.” And he’s like, “Yeah, I’ll just say it’s like my grandmother’s Holocaust ring or something. Like she got it in the Holocaust.” Like there’s no actual story he makes up, he’s just like–

AA: It’s so good.

SAB: But it’s the idea is like, “Well, if you just say ‘Holocaust,’ they can’t get ya.”

AA: My friend has a schema for this, which is basically you’re either an always, a sometimes, or a never. And that just refers to Holocaust jokes generally. Like, I am an always, and I have learned, because I am the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, and I make a lot of Holocaust jokes, that a lot of people are nevers.

SAB: Yeah.

AA: Like big time nevers. But I also, I think, I suspect, I could be wrong, that a lot of those people don’t have family in the Holocaust. Maybe that’s not fair. And maybe like this Jew in the City has like Holocaust family, I don’t know. But I’m usually shocked at the extent to which American Jews, who don’t have Holocaust history, are nevers about Holocaust jokes. Maybe it’s guilt, I don’t know.

SAB: It is. It’s sacralizing our chosen trauma.

RP: And you have a reason to laugh, which is like the legit trauma and the tension that comes from that and the need to relieve it.

JS: I understand–it’s not one-to-one–but a huge part of my comedy set is like, jokes about slavery. Because I think it’s kind of like if you’re so fixated on something–part of it is, like you said, Rebecca, you have to relieve the tension–but I think part of it is like, if you constantly think about something, at some point, a certain percentage of your thoughts have to be comedic. Almost involuntary.

AA: Totally.

JS: If you think about this thing constantly, at some point, you’re gonna come upon a joke. An inappropriate thought.

SAB: And so one of the scenes in the movie that probably gets people upset is where they have the dinner with the two sets of parents. And the Eddie Murphy character accuses the Julia Louis Dreyfus character of equating the Holocaust and slavery and saying that it’s just as bad, we’ve both been through it. And I think the David Duchovny character is the one who’s like “Well, we were actually the original slaves in Egypt.”

AA: Again, again totally believable. Like 1,000% believable. Not satire, like direct.

JS: I went to Passover dinner this year, and someone introduced me to the idea–who was Jewish woman–that Jewish people were never enslaved in Egypt.

AA: Are you sure I didn’t tell you that?

JS: Was it you?

AA: I think it was me because it’s my favorite thing to tell people, that there’s literally no archaeological evidence that Jews were slaves in Egypt. I’m not saying what did or didn’t happen, I’m just saying that there’s no archaeological evidence for it. That’s all

SAB: What a bummer.

AA: Sorry, sorry.

JS: It doesn’t change anything.

AA: I think it was me, though, that told you that. Anyway.

JS: Okay, maybe.

SAB: Whenever I think the David Duchovny character saying that, when Bob Dylan was writing his Christian-era music–which is when he was courting this Black woman who is a singer in his band–he, in one of the songs–I forget which song it is–“Precious Angel,” which is directed to her, he says, “Both of our ancestors were slaves.”

JS: Yeah.

SAB: It’s like, the idea of a Jewish man hitting on a Black woman by being like, “We both descend from slaves.”

RP: What was funny, to me, about that conversation is I feel like a lot of times, the opposite happens, where Black people are accused of conflating slavery with the Holocaust, in terms of levels of severity. Like we charge genocide, and this history of adopting the language of genocide to describe that experience, and even using terms like Black Holocaust. We’re talking about things that happened over completely different time periods. There’s a lot of differences here. But I thought that was interesting because I feel like a lot of times, as Black folks, were told, “What happened to you isn’t as bad as the Holocaust.” And I’m not here to make that comparison at all. It was just very interesting that that scene had kind of the opposite framing, and people are upset at that.

AA: Yeah, totally.

RP: Can I say another thing that bothered me? This is very minor. But when they’re in the Crip barbershop, and it’s a big deal that it’s a Crip barbershop–why was it painted red in the background of the shot?

JS: Oh my god, yeah.

RP: That was so dumb. You can’t wear red sweatshirt, but your wall is red? Are you a Crip or not? Like what’s going on here?

SAB: But that was another moment where I was like, if Black media commentators were as thin-skinned about tropes as the Jews who got upset about this movie, the whole Crip barbershop scene is like, what about that? Like, you got mad because this character, who is already being depicted as a little over the top and conservative, that he says that you probably have generational wealth–that’s so offensive compared to the whole Crip barbershop scene? Like Jesus Christ.

RP: You know, it’s such a one-sided relationship that a lot of these people seem to be expecting, which is that everyone understands Jewish tropes but makes no effort to understand how Black folks are portrayed in media and the issues with that. It just really kind of belies the idea that this is about wanting a real relationship because it’s just about wanting the mic and wanting to feel like your experience is treated exactly the same as Black folks when we have different experiences. That’s the whole point. And if anything, that’s like, one of the things the movie was trying to say, is that there are different sets of experiences. And it seems to me that a lot of the objection is to even that idea, that we have different experiences, that we’re living in different versions of America, and that’s coloring our relationships.

JS: It kind of is just taken as a given to me, at my big age, that anti-Blackness is universal. It’s just kind of the ground we walk on. And so, I have to have a thick skin. I recognize the Jonah Hill character so deeply, and what I know is lots of non-Black men especially have that very strange, wide-eyed relationship to Black masculinity. Like, it’s not that different from Howie Bling, you know what I mean? The sort of exalting of what they view as, I don’t know, almost like an idealized but still really aggressive Black masculinity that’s almost the inversion of how they’re stereotyped, in some ways. Like, if I can hold all of these things in my head and also just be like, “It’s fine,” like, I kind of can’t have a thin skin because I’d be hurt constantly, but at the same time, have to like not laugh at a generational wealth joke. Which okay, it just wasn’t funny.

SAB: Yeah, some of the things that didn’t land just weren’t funny, unfortunately.

AA: That’s always the case. I mean, usually, people are being offended by what is actually just a bad joke. But I think actually, part of what’s being said right now is that we, on this recording, seem to feel like the film was actually pretty even-handed. It wasn’t pulling punches against anyone, in a certain regard.

SAB: Yeah. I mean, I think what I’m finding annoying is that I’m having to build up the racial sophistication of this film because the responses to it are even worse.

RP: Yeah. Don’t be so goofy that we have to defend Kenya Barris and Jonah Hill. Like, don’t be that goofy.

AA: Seriously.

SAB: Exactly. But they are. People are being goofier than this film is. This film is better than the responses to it.

AA: I have one more question that I want to ask you guys, which I actually feel like is an important question. Okay, so, Jonah Hill has a podcast with his friend, Mo, and it’s about quote-unquote, the culture. And at the end, Jonah Hill says something to the effect of like, “Yeah, I think you’re right, like Black people and white people can’t be cool. There’s no way to bridge that, essentially.” And Eddie Murphy’s character is listening to this in his car and being like, “Huh, this guy’s actually not so bad,” or something. And then they get married at the end, in a surprise wedding planned by their crazy parents or whatever. It’s both a kind of racial pessimism and then also this very quote-unquote optimistic ending, maybe not believable. It reminded me a little bit of Slave Play, Jeremy O. Harris’s play. I mean, Slave Play is a very, very well-made, structurally amazing play with a really pessimistic outlook, in terms of whether interracial relationships are possible at all. And I think the play comes down really hard on the side of like, “No, not possible” on a certain level. And I feel like this movie ends in a different place. And yet, the whole movie, except for the last two minutes, are essentially on that note of pessimism about that. So I just wanted to ask you all like what you make of that.

JS: It’s impossible to say what the state of Black/Jewish relations in this entire country are. Even Black people alone is too varied of a community. But yeah, I do feel like that. I feel like yeah, on like a one-to-one or subjective basis, if you want to have an interracial marriage or a diverse friend group, that’s possible for you. And then also, on a broader scale, I feel like the best-case scenario to me, sometimes, is just like leave each other alone. Or like with me, what I am arguing for is to be left alone.

AA: Wait, but you’re saying in your personal life, it feels possible, but in the broader sense, you want to be left alone? Like, what do you mean by that?

JS: Like I don’t want movies like this. Or I don’t want Jewish people to be like– I have a friend who’s trans, and he’s like, “I really miss when cis people didn’t know what we were.” I do kind of miss when most websites I look at on a daily weren’t like “Black/Jewish relations.”

RP: To go back to Arielle’s question about “what is possible?” I think it just depends on how real are you willing to be about who you are, who the other person is, and what the relationship is. Like, when my parents were first dating, my mom’s dad had already passed when they married, but he would never acknowledge my father, like even talk to him. And that’s because he had a real problem–he didn’t want his kids marrying white people. And the best way to make sure your kids marry white people, by the way, is to tell them they can’t because I have a bunch of mixed-race cousins out of that situation. My dad’s dad was like, “I give you my blessing, no problem with this, but no one’s going to accept your kids.” And that was his concern, was that Jews wouldn’t accept me, Black people wouldn’t accept me. It’s frankly much less of a problem for me to be a mixed race and Jewish in the Black community than it is for me to be a loudmouth, Black Jew talking about racism and Israel in the Jewish community. But I think for me, the biggest threat to Black and Jewish people being able to have any kind of coalition or share space is just the unwillingness to acknowledge basic truths. Like the basic truth that a lot of Jewish folks in the United States continue to benefit from white privilege, have historically, that this has colored the relationships with Black folks. And coming from the Black community side, I don’t want to treat these as the same thing, but also really not questioning some of the stereotypes or things that are shared, and that are really rooted in white supremacy, and I are really rooted in Christian hegemony. Those are the sorts of things that I think make these relationships hard. And you also have the elephant in the room, which is systemic segregation and racism in this country are going to color our interactions. So if you can be real about that, then maybe you do have a shot at having a relationship with other people. But if you’re gonna watch a stupid romcom on Netflix and be like, “This is the biggest threat to Black Jewish relations,” I’m sorry, but you’re not gonna have relationships with Black folks, you know?

AA: Sam, you haven’t weighed in on this pessimism question.

SAB: Well, I think what’s funny is I actually don’t think Slave Play says that interracial relationships will never work.

AA: Really?

SAB: No, I don’t think so.

JS: It says you just have to accept a certain amount of antagonism.

SAB: Yeah, you have to accept the perversity.

AA: Every single one of those relationships, by the end of the play, is effectively over.

SAB: It certainly is a pessimistic vision, but I think, related to what Jasmine and Rebecca have said about like, you just have to come from where you actually come from, and encounter people, and know that there’s a lot of perverse shit going on under the hood of your desires, and live in the ambivalence of that, and just encounter each other on those terms, and be careful with each other’s hearts, and stuff like that. I mean, maybe I’m just like the rosiest person ever, to say that about Slave Play, but I don’t think that it’s saying, “No, it’ll never work.”

AA: I mean, just to say, the way I read the play is like, when you do that work, when you actually encounter or deal with that, the relationship is over. Because it’s so painful, and it’s so fucked up, and there’s no coming back from it.

RP: No, no.

AA: Really? You guys didn’t read it that way? I’m shocked, actually.

RP: I don’t think this is what he was necessarily saying, but it’s what I took from it. And again, colored from my own experiences. If you are someone who’s committed to, as some people are, committed to dating outside of your race, or like, specifically, in this instance, dating white people, there’s a central violence of the relation, and people who do it accept it and live with it. And whether it’s innately different from any encounter with the other in romance, you know what I mean? Like, it’s like, I took from Slave Play that yes, it’s bad, and this is also what we’re just gonna keep doing.

SAB: Yeah. I think what you just said about the encounter with the other, it’s like we live a lie to ourselves all the time, that our attractions and relationships are not pervaded by weird power plays and violence, and like fantasies of domination and submission and stuff like that. That’s all there, even when we are dating just the right person that our mom would be happy for us to date, you know? And yeah, I think the movie doesn’t say nearly anything that interesting.

JS: That’s true. The things that people have encountered in their interracial dating, you know what I mean? Like, this is kind of jokey and anodyne. There are real horror stories out there.

SAB: Totally, and it’s wild to me even that they decide that they’re not going to go through with the wedding because their parents don’t like each other on the night before. That doesn’t make any sense. Because it’s not that bad. It’s really just not that bad compared to, like you said, Jasmine, I’ve heard of stories of things happening with people when they’re in relationships. Something that I thought was funny, given the topics of the two podcasts we’ve all done together–the “N-words in Paris” motif, and the fact that it ends with that song. The credits run, and you get Jay doing his verse and saying, “I just let you meet Ye,” and then cuts out, and you don’t hear the Kanye verse.

AA: I didn’t even notice that.

SAB: Well, I was watching and going, “Oh my god, the Kanye verse is coming? Is he actually gonna do the Kanye verse?”

AA: Oh my gosh.

RP: One thing I will say to wrap up is that I did see some good responses to this. One of them is from Mara Stern, who’s an antiracist Jewish educator in the Bay Area, who’s basically just been like, “Can we all learn to sit with some discomfort?”

JS: But it also feels like we’re just never gonna get to like the real things. It’s like we’re gonna spend so long talking about whether Jewish people are white, and who can make a Kanye joke, and like, I’m never getting reparations. Like we’re never gonna get to reparations, we’re never gonna get to colorism, you know what I mean?

AA: That is very well said, Jasmine. We are never going to get to the real things. I think that’s the place to end, you guys. Thank you for joining us. Thank you to Rebecca, and Sam, and Jasmine, for watching this movie and talking about it with me, and for making me feel a little less crazy in this world.

SAB: Thanks. This was fun.

AA: See you next time.

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