If one squawks, talks, and walks like a duck, then one is a duck - or at least close to it. So with racists and anti-Semites. The only difference is that people, unlike ducks, have a tendency to deny the obvious and come up with all kinds of rationales for doing so, such as that some of their best friends are Negroes or Jews, or that they had a minority for dinner, or had one as a college roommate, or had one or two (if married) at their wedding.
Since the race revolution and the rise of ethnic pride, a new defensive denial has come into being, wherein it is claimed it has become impossible to say anything negative about blacks wihout being called a racist or about a Jew without being called an anti-Semite. Such deniers of prejudice will solemnly point out that minorities are not immune to criticism, which should be possible without having one's integrity impugned. In effect, the critics assume a posture of infallibility, which resents any view different from theirs.
But the matter goes deeper. Not only is criticism not tantamount to immunity, but it is also not synonymous with truth. Yes, there are some irrational minority members who use the term ''racist'' or ''anti-Semite'' as a weapon to stifle discussion, but they are few in number. Most minority members resent charges against them which are based on ignorance, insensitivity, or sheer malice.
The most recent examples involve Israel and American Jews in relation to the massacre of Palestinian refugees in Beirut. In both cases, Israelis and American Jews were besieged with questions and statements, as if they were directly responsible. The more they hesitated or protested, the more guilty they were made to appear. Protesting too much quickly became hiding too much. Their dilemma was how to prove the truth when the accuser was distorting it. Not surprisingly, some Jews charged ''anti-Semitism.''
The accusers were shocked. How could it be that they, having ''some'' Jewish friends, being liberal, or anti-racist, could be anti-Semitic? Yet within their mindset lies the nub of their prejudice. Having Jewish friends, being liberal, or opposing racism has never inhibited people from mouthing bigotry - as any minority knows.
In the case of the Palestinian refugee massacre, no sooner had it been reported than charges were made against Israel and, by extension, against American Jews. Critics acted as judge and jury, and couldn't or wouldn't wait until the facts were ''out'' or ''in.'' It didn't matter that there were non-smoking guns in Israeli hands, or that Israeli officials first released the news, or that Jews in Israel and around the world were horrified by the massacre. They were all guilty.
To be sure, most of the critics were not consciously anti-Semites, but they sure acted like ones. How to tell? Simple.
When someone makes a statement or raises a question about an entire group, based on ignorance, prejudgment and malice, and when that someone won't verify the accuracy of his statements, then that someone is, or acts like, an anti-Semite. His bigotry is all the deeper when he accuses Jews of acts which are ignored when committed by other groups. It is the bigotry of double standards.
In his now famous Birmingham Jail letter, Martin Luther King Jr. well captured the hypocrisy of well-intentioned people when he wrote, ''Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.''
Yes, I do expect the worst from the outright bigot but not from my ''best'' or ''good'' friends, too many of whom became ducks.