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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Letter to the Editor: ""Coastie"" insults fester with anti-Semitism

At my language table, we discussed ""what is a Coastie?"" Recently, thanks to the MySpace musical sensation ""What's a Coastie?,"" this question has once again become the heated topic of a campus-wide conversation. Participating in this debate, a soon-to-be PhD student at the table offered up his definition of a Coastie. He proceeded to describe the BlackBerry toting, Ugg boot donning, North Face fleece sporting, Starbucks drinking girl we have all come to love to make fun of. Oh, and he was sure to include that she had to be a Jewish woman from New York. As a Jewish woman from New York City, I felt that this last inclusion was a bit unfair, but I generally agreed with his description of the Coastie on campus, so I ignored this last comment. Plus, even I enjoy poking fun at the Coastie type. Uninterrupted, the student delivered his punch line—he had created a scheme in which he would create yellow stars of David with the word COASTIE inscribed inside it. He would pass them out (free of charge!) to every Coastie he saw so that they could wear it on their chest...just like in Europe during World War II. I was—I am—in total shock and remain completely appalled.

The Coastie originated as an indicator of where students were from; it implied one was an out-of-state student. Today, the word Coastie has morphed to encompass a particular style of dress and attitude, materialism and large groups of obnoxious rich girls. It has also come to include Judaism, as is evident from the lines ""You a Coastie/ My east coast Jewish honey"" that end the choirs of the ‘What's a Coastie?' song. Throughout the years, the word ""Coastie"" has appropriated Judaism by default. The two are associated because we assume that a majority of UW students from the coasts are Jewish. However, at what point did the Coastie become synonymous with anti-Semitic rhetoric? The general dislike of the Coastie—and thus the Judaism that it connotes—has created a forum for anti-Semitic rhetoric. On campus, students widely tolerate and enjoy Coastie bashing. The commonplace of Coastie bashing has created a venue in which anti-Semitism is acceptable.

However, intolerance like this is inacceptable and inexcusable. The university's efforts to foster an accepting community will continue to fall short until students like the one at my language table realize the implication of their words. Coastie has become more than a stereotype, now it's a cheap shot at Jews because inherently, hating Coasties—at some level—is hating Jews.

Perla H. Bernstein

UW-Madison, Political Science and Languages and Cultures of Central Asia 

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