What's interesting about Hornsby's ruling, though, is the way that it specifically sets aside the question of whether Jews can be defined as a biological race, and instead focuses on whether they are treated "like a racial or ethnic group." Hornsby specifically notes that, "Modern sociologists and anthropologists, especially with advancements in DNA studies, debate whether Judaism is a people, a religion, or both. There is no doubt, however, that many people have and continue to view being Jewish as a racial identity." Rick Brewer didn't give Bonadona a blood test before rejecting him for the job. "Jewish blood" isn't a scientific designation. It's an assertion of racial difference based on prejudice, not fact.
This is an important insight about racism — and not just in regard to Jewish people. Because all assertions of human racial difference are based in prejudice, not fact.
Racism is not a prejudice against humans of different races, because there are no different human races. Rather, racism is the process whereby certain characteristics — like religion — are taken as signs of essential biological difference. Sociologists Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields call this creation of difference "racecraft." Racecraft is all the cultural work done to divide people into arbitrary categories called "races." Once you've established that this human, over here, is not in fact fully human, discrimination and prejudice follows naturally.
In the United States, race has historically been decided on the basis of skin color, and to some extent, on ancestry. Hitler decided that the Jewish religion was the basis of a biological difference — he compared Jewish people to rats. Because Judaism was supposed to be inherited and inalienable, the Nazis even targeted Christians for extermination if they had Jewish ancestors.
Today, in the United States and Europe, Muslims are increasingly treated as a separate race, with people singled out for their appearance or their names as much as for any expression of religious beliefs. Nationality can be treated as a race too — as when Trump implies that Mexicans are criminals and rapists, or says that an American judge must necessarily be biased because his family came from Mexico.
In fact, much of Trump's rhetoric and propaganda singles out people like Mexicans, Muslims and Jews who aren't generally seen as racial groups. Trump draws new lines between us and them, leveraging various racist presuppositions against black people, immigrants and whatever other people he feels like demonizing at the moment.
Racists like to insist that drawing those lines is natural. Nazis claim that the hatred of Jews is a genetic instinct.
Racists like to insist that drawing those lines is natural. Nazis claim that the hatred of Jews is a genetic instinct. Even supposedly sober conservatives fulminate against immigrants by claiming that "increased diversity and the distrust it sows have clearly put stresses on our politics," as if hatred is an inevitable reaction, rather than a calculated outcome. In this view, racial differences create racism.
In reality, racism manufactures racial differences. Jewish people are not a different race. But Hornsby's ruling correctly identifies the parsing of DNA as irrelevant to racism and racist ideas. Racism occurs when marginalized people are treated as a different race and discriminated against on that basis.
This doesn't mean that you can end racism by refusing to see skin color, or religious affiliation or nationality. Racism is a group project which has long-term historical effects; you can't make it go away by closing your eyes or pretending to be “colorblind.” If the court refused to recognize Jews as a race, that would just mean Jewish people wouldn't be protected. It wouldn't stop racists from discriminating against them.
Ultimately, civil rights laws shouldn't be used as a way to decide which people do and don't actually belong to a different race. Instead, civil rights laws should protect all marginalized people who are falsely treated as if they are biologically different. The brilliance of Hornsby's ruling is that it acknowledges the fact that racists aren't concerned with science, but with hatred.