(Photo above by Anton Mislawsky via Unsplash)
In early July, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson posted a series of anti-Semitic sentiments to his Instagram Stories. In one of his posts, he included a quote widely misattributed to Hitler, stating that Black people “are the real Children of Israel,” “the Jews will blackmail America,” and “[they] will extort America.”
This quote is often used to prove Hitler was not racist. However, there are no historical documents citing Hitler saying this. It is mostly chalked up to an internet hoax. In reality, Black Germans were still targeted by Nazis, though they were not systematically killed like the Jewish people were.
Since posting, Jackson has issued several apologies. In one, he makes a “promise to do better,” saying he will “fully educate [himself] and work with local and national organizations to be more informed and make a difference in our community.” He also spoke to a Holocaust survivor and fellow football players and seems to be continually educating himself.
In the wake of the public discourse about Jackson’s posts, anti-Semitic comments made by Nick Cannon on his podcast in June resufaced. In the episode, he shared a similar belief to Jackson, saying, “the Semitic people are Black people.” He also mentioned several conspiracy theories about Jewish people, including the Rothschilds and “the 13 families, the bloodlines that control everything even outside of America.” Additionally, he praised Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has been cited saying “Satanic Jews … have infected the whole world with poison and deceit,” among many other discriminatory things.
Cannon, too, has issued an apology, taking accountability for his “hurtful and divisive words,” and acknowledging that what he said “reinforced the worst stereotypes.” He also tweeted that he has been learning from Rabbis and other Jewish leaders, and he promises to help with “strengthening the bond between [Black and Jewish] cultures today and every day going forward.”
This article is not meant to shame or “cancel” these two men. Both have faced repercussions from the Eagles and Viacom, respectively. And both have shown maturity, responsibility, and remorse in their apologies. Of course, even though I am Jewish, I can not accept their apologies on behalf of the entire Jewish community. But to me, they have demonstrated their commitment to learning and doing better.
This, I think, is exemplary of how we should handle celebrity and public figure missteps. Not with widespread cancellation, but with education and a chance for improvement. The Jewish and Black populations, two communities fraught with pained histories, mistreatment, and discrimination, have much to learn from each other. And we can do more good together than separately.