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Kerner Commission Finds Jews ‘over-represented’ in Ghetto Businesses

July 29, 1968
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Jews are “proportionally overrepresented in ghetto business” and a large proportion of such retail merchants “exploit” and “mistreat” Negroes, according to the findings of new supplementary studies released this weekend by the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders.

The report also disclosed that a minimal number of white social workers aiding ghetto Negroes were Jews. “With regard to religion, only six percent of the social workers were Jewish, while 60 percent were Protestant, and twenty-eight percent were Catholic,” according to the new study. The figures were based on a survey of 15 large cities.

Former Gov. Otto Kerner, of Illinois, chairman of the Commission, and New York Mayor John V, Lindsay, vice-chairman, submitted the new report to President Johnson. It was prepared by the survey research center of the Institute for Social Research of the University of Michigan.

A portion of the survey dealt with the charges by the black community against merchants trading in the ghetto areas, “With regard to religion, our sample seems to back up the popular notion that Jews are proportionately overrepresented in ghetto business. Thirty-nine percent of our sample of ghetto merchants were Jewish, with Protestants (35 percent) and Catholics (24 percent) making up the rest of the total.”

“Thus,” said the report, “our typical merchant was a man about 50 years old with a high school education, who moved to his present city in his early twenties. He was most likely Jewish, voted Democratic, and owned his own home…He had not been active in civil rights organizations (only 11 percent are members of civil rights groups).”

The report asserted: “The merchants in our sample were among the most unsympathetic to the plight of the ghetto Negro of any occupational group in the study…Along with this lack of sympathy, they showed a series of beliefs from which one can infer that, in our sample at least, some merchants engaged in unethical practices. Further, the merchants endorsed attitudes about Negroes that would lead us to believe that they are apt to treat Negro customers considerably less well than white customers.”

Not all of the retail merchants in the ghetto were condemned “but a sizeable percentage, from 25 to 50 percent, seem to do business in a way that leaves many improvements to be desired.” The report warned: “As long as these improvements are not made, the retail merchant in our urban ghettoes will continue to be one of the primary targets of Negro antagonism.”

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