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Nov 25, 2014


Max Hailperin

I'm loath to try to understand such a comment, but I think it goes beyond just a claim that White Americans are the oppressed (like German Jews of the 1930s) and African Americans are the oppressors (like the Nazi-dominated Germans of the 1930s). Rather, I think he is claiming that the African Americans are justifying their actions through a mythology of victimization by Whites in the same way that the Nazis used a mythology in which the Germans were alleged to have been victimized by Jews, so that any violence was merely an upwelling of righteous indignation.

In particular, I suspect Mr. Petersen may have been thinking of the events of November 9-10, 1938, which the Nazis called "Reichskristallnacht" or more briefly "Kristallnacht," though more neutral parties prefer "Novemberpogrome." That was a deliberately organized pogrom against Jews, but it was justified as having been spontaneously released anger by the German people at alleged Jewish wrongdoing. In particular, it was allegedly touched off by the shooting of vom Rath by Grynszspan, but was also not coincidentally on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the armistice.

Ever since 1918, the German right (first the DNVP, then the Nazis) had claimed that the war was not lost by the Army, but rather by a "stab in the back" by some odd mixture of international socialists and war profiteers, who despite their class differences had in common their Jewishness. In the intervening 20 years, the Germans had endured terrible economic privation and sporadic outbursts of violence, and all that too was the Jews' fault, according to the right.

So, when Herschel Grynszpan (Darren Wilson) fired his bullet at the innocent Ernst vom Rath (Michael Brown), the outrage could plausibly be claimed to have touched off a firestorm of long-built-up resentment in the German people (African Americans) that allegedly caused them to spontaneously pillage the shops of the Jews (White Americans), although really the rioting was deliberately organized -- by the Nazis in one case, by some mysterious unnamed party (Sharpton?) in the other.

At least, I think that is the claim Petersen is making.

Editor's response: that's an interesting analysis which might be what Petersen was driving at. However, it's some mythic Sharpton, rather than the real one, whose speech today was included in a National Public Radio report about the verdict. The real Sharpton was urging engagement while condemning violent responses to the grand jury's findings. Not exactly Kristallnacht in any sense.

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