During an interview on C-SPAN Lani Guinier, an eminent legal scholar, was asked to describe her life, her six books, and her career as a distinguished educator. In the course of this discussion Guiner explained that she is the product of an interracial marriage; her mother, Eugenia Paprin, is a White Jewish immigrant from Poland who married her Black father, Ewart Guinier, in 1945. As a young child growing up in New York City, her mother attempted to introduce her biracial child to Jewish culture by bring her to Jewish events. Guinier vividly recalls how these experiences were her first encounters with racism:
My mother is Jewish. She took me to a Hanukkah event, and the people there were very unpleasant. I was four or five years old and I can remember that they couldn’t understand why my mother would be bring this Black kid to a Jewish event, so that was, I mean, I remember that to this day, and being four or five and remembering something, in my view, suggests that it had, you know, a long-term effect. On the other hand, you know, I got along fine with my cousins on my mom’s side.
When a caller to the program asked about Black anti-Semitism, Guiner—who was educated at Harvard and Yale, served in the Civil Rights Division during the Carter administration, and then worked for the NAACP before becoming the first woman of color to earn tenure at Harvard Law School—responded by saying, “I, frankly, have not experienced that.” Later in the interview Guiner said that the texture of her hair and the complexion of her skin made her think that she was “too Black” and therefore “unwelcomed at Jewish gatherings.”
* The full video and transcript are available at http://www.c-span.org/video/?324509-1/depth-lani-guinier Our readers are encouraged to share their experiences in the blog below.