July 14, 2020


The Anti-Semitism We Didn't See: DeSean Jackson's Hitler moment--and mine--showed that Black Americans' experience of racism doesn't automatically sensitize us toward other forms of prejudice. (Jemele Hill, 7/13/20,  The Atlantic)

Regardless of what happens with Jackson, the unfortunate truth is that some Black Americans have shown a certain cultural blindspot about Jews. Stereotypical and hurtful tropes about Jews are widely accepted in the African American community. As a kid, I heard elders in my family say in passing that Jewish people were consumed with making money, and that they "owned everything." My relatives never dwelled on the subject, and nothing about their tone indicated that they thought anything they were saying was anti-Semitic--not that a lack of awareness would be any excuse. This also doesn't mean that my family--or other African Americans--are more or less anti-Semitic than others in America, but experiencing the pain of discrimination and stereotyping didn't prevent them from spreading harmful stereotypes about another group.

Jackson is far from the only prominent Black athlete or entertainer to have amplified anti-Semitic tropes in recent years. In 2017, the Anti-Defamation League, which monitors acts of hatred, expressed concerns over a song in which the hip-hop artist Jay-Z rapped, "Jewish people own all the property in America." In 2018, the Atlanta rapper 21 Savage's song "ASMR" created a firestorm because he rapped, "We been getting that Jewish money. Everything is kosher." The basketball star LeBron James shared that lyric in an Instagram post, which added to the controversy. Later, James offered only a tepid mea culpa. "I actually thought it was a compliment," he said.

In the past few days, Jackson's offensive social-media postings haven't received the universal disapproval that they merit. His teammate Malik Jackson and the former NBA player Stephen Jackson defended him. At a time when there is an understandable focus on how Black Americans bear the brunt of systemic oppression and police brutality, some commentators believe that people are afraid to rebuke Jackson, because it may hurt the movement.

Black people's fight for their humanity is unrelated to Jackson's error, but they must use their own racial experiences to foster empathy for others. Even in his apology, Jackson showed little recognition of what he'd done. "I post a lot of things that are sent to me," the Eagles receiver said in a statement. "I do not have hatred towards anyone. I really didn't realize what this passage was saying. Hitler has caused terrible pain to Jewish people like the pain African-Americans have suffered. We should be together fighting anti-Semitism and racism. This was a mistake to post this and I truly apologize for posting it and sorry for any hurt I have caused."

The thirst for liberation and equality can never come at the expense of dehumanizing other marginalized groups--especially at a time when hate crimes against Jews have increased significantly.

Posted by at July 14, 2020 8:53 PM