Friday, February 25, 2011


Message on sign:


February 24, 2011

Reactions and discussions:

- most said the sign was not anti-semitic

- one Jewish guy who appeared to be very high on something said the sign could be considered anti-semitic because the white background of the letters was whiter than the complexion of semites; he said the sign should be more "ethnic-colored" not to be considered anti-semitic.

- one Jewish guy who did not find the sign anti-semitic asked what the purpose of the sign was. I suggested that, because Jews are sometimes said to see anti-semitic attacks in the most innocuous of statements, the sign presented them with a golden opportunity to prove the accusations of paranoia wrong by ignoring it.

- one bisexual Jewish woman said the sign itself was not anti-semitic but that it was disturbing, in a way she said she couldn't explain, that a non-Jew had made the sign. She said, in relation to my "I AM NOT GAY" sign, that it would be disturbing in the same hard-to-explain way if a non-gay person were to make a sign saying "I AM GAY" because only the people directly affected by such issues should speak out in such a way.

- one guy who meditates and is interested in yoga and Buddhism said he did not consider the sign anti-semitic. He said someone who did would probably be placing too much weight on the self.

- one guy asked whether an equally valid sign might be: "IS THIS SIGN RACIST?" or "IS THIS SIGN ANTI-BLACK?", perhaps written with white letters on a black background

- one guy burst out laughing when he saw the sign

- one guy asked if the sign was a statement. I told him no, it was a question.

- two guys walking by stopped when they saw the sign. They conferred with each other and then one took out a camera and surreptitiously took a picture of the sign while pretending to be photographing other things on the Quad. I didn't let on that I noticed.

- one guy suggested coming back the next day with a sign saying: "THIS SIGN IS NOT ANTI-SEMITIC" with the letters "S" stylized to look like Nazi SS letters. The idea would be to help people to see that the signifier is not the signified, that a symbol need not in and of itself carry any intrinsic meaning.

For a discussion of this sign on, see here.


On March 24th I submitted the question: "IS THIS QUESTION ANTI-SEMITIC?" for inclusion in an exhibition called "Are We There Yet?" which celebrates "5000 years of answering questions with questions" to be held at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, March 31-July 31, 2011. You can propose your own question here.

For a complete transcript of discussions with people about this sign (or at least as complete as memory would allow), see here, February 24.

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