White like meWhite like me

White Jewish comedian can’t get arrested

Jessie Kahnweiler explores racial privilege in her latest viral video

Renee Ghert-Zand is the health reporter and a feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Comedic filmmaker Jessie Kahnweiler tries to sell prescription drugs to some Los Angeles police officers in her 'Jessie Gets Arrested' video. (YouTube screen capture)
Comedic filmmaker Jessie Kahnweiler tries to sell prescription drugs to some Los Angeles police officers in her 'Jessie Gets Arrested' video. (YouTube screen capture)

Even before yesterday’s shooting attack on a historical black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and the last week’s media frenzy over Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who has assumed a black identity and worked as a leader in the African-American community, Jessie Kahnweiler knew she wanted to explore the concept of white privilege.

As might be expected, the Jewish comedian and filmmaker has tackled the subject in the same way that she has previously dealt with similarly serious topics like rape, bulimia and Jewish identity: She’s made a humorous video about it.

“Unfortunately, there’s new shit about this every day. I can’t believe this is America,” Kahnweiler told The Times of Israel regarding a recent rash of news reports on racial discrimination.

As a “white Jew-y liberal chick,” Kahnweiler, 30, did not believe that she is actively contributing to the problem. However, she did feel she needed to understand her being able to enjoy white privilege — regardless of the fact that her natural skin tone appears darker than Rachel Dolezal’s controversial spray tan.

Armed with nothing more than some basic video equipment and her characteristic chutzpah, Kahnweiler hit the streets of Los Angeles in her “Totes Kosh” (short for Totally Kosher) T-shirt to not only interview black citizens and white cops about white privilege, but also to see how much she, as a white woman, could get away with without getting arrested. She acted intoxicated in public, swam in a fountain where trespassing is prohibited, indecently exposed herself, tried to illegally sell prescription drugs to a couple of cops, assaulted the chief of police, and even rushed LA’s Jewish mayor Eric Garcetti at what looks to have been a Gay Pride parade.

Warning: Video contains profanity and graphic sexual language.

No matter how hard the irrepressible Kahnweiler tried, she couldn’t manage to get herself arrested for flaunting the law and doing things for which African-Americans have told her they have been stopped (or worse) by police.

“Basically, I understand that I’ll never ever understand what it is like to be a black person in America,” Kahnweiler commented.

She is, however, currently dating a black man, from whom she said she is learning a lot about the African-American experience.

“My boyfriend has a scar on his head from having been bashed up by some cops when he was 12. He would have been arrested several times over for jumping the police chief like I did,” she said.

Kahnweiler reported that being with a black man has helped her develop an understanding of, and an empathy for, his life experiences. At the same time, she feels as though she is prouder than ever to claim what she calls “my space as a Jew” in the relationship.

She has disagreed with her boyfriend when he has told her that she, as a Jews, is not really white.

“As Jews, we walk a fine line because we are ‘other,’ but we do enjoy white privilege. Because of our history, we need to be especially attuned to discrimination,” she stated.

Kahnweiler decided to make this “Jessie Gets Arrested” video because she felt she needed to explore the concept of white privilege. “I felt the conversation was not productive enough, and I wanted to do something from my perspective,” she explained.

Kahnweiler was inspired by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, whom she referred to as her “man crush.”

“He marched, he spoke up,” she said of Heschel’s leadership during the Civil Rights era. “So, I asked, ‘WWHD’ — What would Heschel do?”

Heschel, of course, would not have made a funny viral video. But the uninhibited Kahnweiler, in her skimpy gold running shorts, would have — and did.

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