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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Full Keikel

posted by on December 11 at 15:22 PM

An email from a reader:


It was cool to see a Jewish event in the Stranger Suggests block of the paper, but why use the word kike?

Just curious what made it “okay” in your reasoning. I was taken aback by it and felt offended.

Seattle Jew

Redacted refers to the Stranger Suggests I wrote to preview The 8, a Hanukkah concert that went down at the Croc last Saturday. (Which featured a klezmer-punk quintet from Brooklyn called Golem that sang in Yiddish and instigated the only hora-style circle dancing the Croc is ever going to see. Fuck yes.)

As a response, I offer two things. The first is “Kike on the Mic” by the Hip hop Hoodios, a Jewish-Latino hiphop outfit from L.A. that’s better than their name implies.

(Click for the vid—old-school AOL video won’t embed).

The second is an excerpt from a story about new Jew hipsterism I wrote a couple years ago. The quote is by the Hoodios’ Josh Norek, who’s also a publicist that reps a bunch of Latino electronica bands:

“We have a new song called ‘Kike on the Mic,’” Norek says. “We played that song at a show in L.A., and afterwards the booker came up to me and said, ‘You’re never coming back here! I grew up in New York public school, and if you said kike or nigger, you’d get your ass kicked.’ I explained the origin of the word — it comes from the Yiddish word keikel, which means circle. And then over time, the word took on a derogatory connotation because immigrant Jews would get off the boat at Ellis Island and, not knowing what to put on their immigration paperwork because they didn’t read or write English, they’d just draw a circle. So when I sing ‘I’m a kike on the mic,’ the point is, I’m not offended. You’re calling me a circle. It takes the sting out of the word. And if you listen to the music itself, it’s a really powerful, punchy song. It’s hard rock meets hip-hop meets Klezmer, probably the loudest song you’ll ever hear with a Klezmer horn. And that’s deliberate. It’s in-your-face. It’s militant, but it’s proud. No more of that nebbishy Two Live Jews crap.”

Happy last night, fellow Jews/kikes/heebs/chosen people.

RSS icon Comments


I love the word kike. I think of all the racial slurs, it just sounds the best. Rolls off the tongue.

I mean, if there is an entire magazine called Heeb, I don't think it's a huge deal to use kike.

I love it.

Posted by Ari Spool | December 11, 2007 3:27 PM

1/16th of me is incredibly offended

Posted by Brandon Ivers | December 12, 2007 9:43 AM

Mr. Zwickel,

I appreciate your perspective; undermining traditional Jewish slurs by pointing out the absurdity of the origin. I caution your pro-active effort , as the negative connotations of use may be greater than you imagine.

For example, in South Africa the word 'Kaffir' is considered a an extreme insult for a black person and associated with oppresion and injustice. By your estimation, that the word is simply derived from 'un-believer' in Islam would be sufficient justification for use.

- Seattle Jew, ex-South African

Posted by Michael | December 12, 2007 5:24 PM

I hope to follow your example, Jonathan, and to own that word.

When I read the Stranger Suggests section in the paper looking for something fun to do, I expect to read just that: suggestions by a stranger as to what to do in Seattle. Usually this stranger does not let me down, even though I have never read past columns by her, or know of her identity.

When a slur pops up among this anonymity, I am taken aback: Seattle just called me a kike. The fact that the writer is personally claiming ownership of the word escapes me.

There are plenty of opportunities to reclaim such words, but usually they need to follow some biographical context.

Posted by Seattle Kike | December 13, 2007 5:25 PM

I am not okay with the usage of "kike" at this point in time. There's been public discussion and debate about whether using the "n-word" is appropriate or not. kike has not been publicly debated and discussed so you can't try to create ownership all of the sudden. ownership has to be developed over time. as a jew, i still find the word offensive. i don't care if some random band wrote a song "kike on the mic" this does not mean that the word is all of the sudden cool to throw out in your article. I would guess that none of your readers know the context in which your attempting to use the word. It's like your trying to make the word into a hip buzz word or something, and i think that's lame. actually beyond lame: dangerous.

It's good that you're writing about the context of your using "kike" now though.

Posted by Liz Speigel | December 16, 2007 12:32 PM

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