The Toronto Jewish Film Festival's theme this year is "Discover your inner Jew." The festival has a number of publicity posters that, for the most part, depict people who don't particularly look Jewish wearing some Jewish paraphenalia, like the South Asian man wearing a kippah and tallit, or a mullet-coiffed guy with a "Beast" t-shirt smiling and wearing a kippah. Cute.
What's not so cute is the depiction of what the organizers must refer to as "afrojew" (based on the filename of the jpeg, to which I will not link). It shows a man of African or Caribbean descent, with a googly-eyed, bojangles-ish grin, wearing a caricature wig with pais (the long side-locks that typify caricatures of Orthodox jews) a shtetl hat, and black horn-rim glasses. What a "great" mashup of two racist stereotypes!
Racism and racist depictions in this day and age - and especially in this city - are shameful. It is not merely inappropriate, it should be considered as socially stigmatizing as spitting on the street, blowing cigarette smoke into someone's face, being a loud and obnoxious drunk in someone's home, or [you can fill in your own vision of distasteful, offensive, and objectionable behaviour].
To those who would advise me to get a sense a humour, I would remind them that the process of dehumanizing, and then demonizing, begins with ridicule. It is precisely the wrongly assumed acceptability of this debasing form of humour that landed former Mayor Mel Lastman in hot water, so to speak. To those who would cry "freedom of speech" I would respond that, of course the Toronto Jewish Film Festival is free to participate in this kind of speech, as dubious as it may be. They are also free to demonstrate their insensitivity, and their ignorance of an issue that directly affects the Jewish community (and has done for decades in this city, and hundreds of years throughout the world), both of which they have done stunningly - and shamefully - well.
I am very much in touch with both my inner and outer Jew. And both are mightily offended.
[Technorati tags: toronto jewish film festival | tjff | racism | offensive | hate speech]