David Schwimmer “never felt white” growing up Jewish in America because he believes “white means safe”.
During an appearance in the TV documentary, David Baddiel: Jews Don’t Count, the Friends star acknowledged that he has been afforded the privileges of a straight, white man even though he never felt like one.
“I’ve never felt white. Never. I’m highly aware that I pass as white and I enjoy a lot of the privileges of being a straight white man, able-bodied, I get it, I understand and I’m very aware of my privilege,” he told British comedian Baddiel.
He then noted how civil rights activists Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who were Jewish, and James Chaney, who was African-American, were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi in 1964, two years before he was born. Schwimmer often thought about the case because he had a similar surname to Schwerner.
“The fact that in my own country, just a couple of states away, just being Jewish, even though I wasn’t religious, my life was at risk. For me, I never felt white because, for me, white means safe,” he stated.
Schwimmer also shared his thoughts on the notion that antisemitism isn’t a form of racism.
“The idea that antisemitism, or treatment or acts or behaviours against Jews is not racist by definition is bizarre to me. Because then the logical conclusion that people would make is that Jews aren’t a race,” the 56-year-old continued.
Baddiel replied, “Whether Jews are a race biologically is irrelevant to me because, over years of history, they’ve been racialised. The point is, we have had racism imposed on us and that has to be called racism.”
Schwimmer once again addressed the lack of diversity in Friends and called the criticism “appropriate”, however, he noted that he was a minority figure as a Jew, playing the Jewish character Ross Geller.
“The show was supposed to be taking place in New York in a city that’s very diverse, but had no real representation of other minorities, of people of colour,” he acknowledged. “But in terms of the Jewishness, that was something I think was only mentioned a couple of times… There was a minority (raises his hand).”
“You know what would happen if you said that? It would mean nothing. In fact, more than that, people would get aggressive about it,” Baddiel said, to which Schwimmer added, “You’re right, people would just be like, ‘Not a real minority!'”
David Baddiel: Jews Don’t Count aired in the U.K. on Monday night.
– Cover Media