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Is there anything wrong about being a racist?

By racist I mean believing that certain groups of people are objectively worse in any qualitative way based on their race.

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    noah put a curse on cham and his descendants, likewise the moabim can't convert to judaism due to bad midot – ray Aug 22 '14 at 4:52
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    Is there anything forbidden about being an anything-ist, that is, holding any particular belief (other than heresy)? – Isaac Moses Aug 22 '14 at 4:59
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    @ray what DoubleAA means is that a Moavite can convert, even a male, he just can't marry a woman who was born of Yisrael (but neither can a mamzer, so it isn't like the person isn't Jewish) – הנער הזה Aug 22 '14 at 13:41
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    @ray What does Noach's curse have to do with contemporary belief that a particular group is "objectively worse in any qualitative way based on their race"? – Isaac Moses Aug 22 '14 at 14:17
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    Following up on my first comment, it seems to me that a more interesting question would be about the Halachic permissibility of some particular type of behavior, e.g. opting not to allow people of a particular skin color use your store. – Isaac Moses Aug 22 '14 at 14:21
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Yes, according to the Torah, it is unequivocally wrong to be racist. The Torah forbids racism.

Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky in his book on Chumash - Emes L'Yaakov (Parshas Noach 9:25) where he repeats emphatically that the Torah and Judaism is not nor promotes racism. Basing himself off the Gemara in Sanhedrin (37a) which states:

לפיכך נברא אדם יחידי ללמדך ... מפני שלום הבריות שלא יאמר אדם לחבירו אבא גדול מאביך

Thus, Man was created alone initially in order to teach respect for humanity, for man cannot say "my father is greater than your father"

The Torah does not accept the belief that one race is greater due to their lineage and DNA is more superior to another group. However, the Torah does recognize the differences between races, in that those differences have been encouraged and cultivated throughout the generations to the extent that those traits are programmed into the makeup of the person. The Torah differentiates groups based on the character and morals of the people, and that if those traits are negative, then the people are to be viewe negativly. However, these attributes are not "inherent" in the person, and through character development ie. working on oneself to be more G-dly and holy, the person can break out from the bad traits they were raised.

That is not called racism, because race in the eyes of G-d and His Torah is inconsequential, we don't hate them because of their lineage or make-up, rather it is the innate traits and mores of that particular group. We Jews believe that one can rise above their externally influenced traits. Whether through the acceptance of the Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach - The Seven Noahide Laws, or through full-fledged conversion to Judaism. The Torah believes in problems with certain cultures, which cause problems for people raised in those cultures, but have nothing to do with racial heredity.

Rav Yaakov makes it very clear in his piece:

ודאי זה אין משום שדת ישראל גזענית היא חס ושלום, אלא שאנו אומרים שמכיון שאנו ירשנו מדות מהוגנות וישרות מאבירי דעה כאלו כמו אברהם ויצחק ויעקב...ממילא אנו בני מעלה יותר משאר העמים, כי הרי אנו שיפרנו את עצמינו במדות טובות ובהתקרבות להשי"ת

This is certainly not because the religion of Israel is racist, God forbid, but we say that since we have inherited honest and honest morals like those of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob ... we are indeed more noble than the rest of the nations, for we have improved ourselves with good qualities and in approaching the holy places


Rav Moshe Feinstein also echoed such a sentiment regarding the Falasha tribe who claimed Jewish lineage:

As you mentioned, they should not be brought to the Land of Israel* unless they have underdone a conversion**, in order to not increase the concern for assimilation [i.e., intermarriage with Jews who do not have a doubt regarding their Jewish status and also a weakening of the faith of Ethiopian Jews themselves]. But if they have legally converted, and as I have heard they are doing, we shall consider them like all Jews, and one must assist them and support them for all needs of livelihood, both physically and spiritually. And I suffered great anguish because I have heard there are those in Israel who are not drawing them close in spiritual matters and are causing, G-d forbid, that they might be lost from Judaism. And it seems to me these people are behaving so only because the color of the Falashas' skin is black. It is obvious that one must draw them close, not only because they are no worse than the rest of the Jews – and because there is no distinction in practical application of the law because they are black – but also because one can say perhaps they are gerim [converts], and are therefore included in the mitzva "and you shall love the convert."

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    This answer compiles the essence of the problem esp. in the 1st sentence's ending. Some Gentiles who have looked at the "aleinu" prayer have told me that it is a "racist" prayer b/c we thank G-d for "not placing our portion as theirs and not placing our inheritence among the families of the earth." The term "racist" has been highly misued today, and those who would consider that phrase from "Aleinu" as being racist, not only don't understand the context and reason of the phrase, but are too insecure about their own purpose in life. "Racist" is often a scapegoat for the accuser's own laziness. – DanF Aug 22 '14 at 12:36
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    "I wouldn't call that racism, because the race isn't what is koveah the dislike, rather it is the innate traits of that particular group" doesn't make sense to me. Isn't racism precisely the belief that particular racial groups have particular innate traits? In general, this answer would be much more valuable if it would cite sources, even if they're just examples of relevant sources. Looking at the sources could prevent errors of imprecision like the one @DoubleAA suggests above. – Isaac Moses Aug 22 '14 at 14:24
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    I know nothing about the relevant theology, but what you describe is racism. Redefining terms to say it isn't racism just means that it's now racism plus lying (lying about what words mean; lying in your claim to not be racist). – TRiG Aug 22 '14 at 17:16
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    @Nafkamina I don't see how it shows that. It shows that the Torah mandates hate of certain races independent of personalities (Amelekites) and certain personalities independent of race (heretics). – Double AA Aug 25 '14 at 14:59
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    Mefaresh and @TRiG, the definition of "racist" that is at issue in this Q&A is specified (reasonably, IMO) in the question, so there's no point arguing about it. – Isaac Moses Mar 19 '15 at 18:27
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Different people are subject to different halachos (Jewish laws), based on three subdivisions of human beings:

  1. Gender
  2. Age
  3. Jew / Gentile

    (Within Jews, there are of course several categories, including Kohen, Levi, Mamzer, Nazir, etc., but they aren't relevant to a discussion of racism)

There are never any legal differences based on skin color, eye color, or hair color.

Any differences based on ethnic origin (Amalek, Moav, Ammon) are unenforceable today, simply because we have no clue who is considered to belong to those nations, in modern times.

Therefore, one who wishes to base his or her worldview on Jewish law, cannot believe that any ethnic or racial group is inherently different than any other such group.

(By contrast, men and women are inherently different; even if they are equally capable of many many things, they do have predetermined physical, emotional, and spiritual differences.)

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    Unenforceable doesn't mean they don't exist. – Double AA Aug 24 '14 at 15:54
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    Why isn't Kohein/Levi relevant here? – Double AA Aug 24 '14 at 15:55
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we recognize that certain nations have negative predispositions. for example the talmud says arabs tend towards sexual immorality more than any other nation (Kidushin 49b). It is no coincidence that their view of "paradise" is 72 virgins.

yet, every person regardless of race can achieve the greatest heights of righteousness if he chooses as Midrash Tana D'Bei Eliyahu: "I testify on Myself heaven and earth, whether man or woman, whether gentile or Jew, whether slaveman or slavewoman, everyone according to his actions, the Ruach Hakodesh (Divine spirit) will dwell on him" (cited in shaarei kedusha gate 4)

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    "It is no coincidence that their view of "paradise" is 72 virgins." How can you know whether or not it (or anything) is a coincidence? – mevaqesh Jul 5 '16 at 20:00
  • Source for Tanna D'bei Eliyahu? – mevaqesh Jul 5 '16 at 20:00
  • @mevaqesh shaarei kedusha part 4 added in. the point is their crooked view of paradise is to sell what they are most interested in – ray Jul 5 '16 at 20:10
  • nation and races are synonyms? – kouty Jul 5 '16 at 20:48

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