These days, you can lose your job for a tweet. You can lose it for a retweet, or a spouse’s tweet. If your message is considered racist or hateful, it can bring an onslaught of condemnation, followed swiftly by an erasure of your reputation and your career.
So it might seem surprising that after NFL star DeSean Jackson posted several anti-Semitic messages on Instagram last weekend – including a quote he (wrongly) attributed to Adolf Hitler claiming Jews “will extort America” and “have a plan for world domination” – there was no mass outrage from his industry, and no immediate punishment from his team.
In fact, although they labeled the posts “offensive” and “appalling,” it took nearly a week before the Philadelphia Eagles finally announced the consequences for Jackson’s hateful messages: An undisclosed fine.
Think about that. A fine. Meanwhile, despite Jackson repeating the worst form of Jewish stereotyping and citing not only Hitler but Louis Farrakhan, who has called Jews “satanic” and likened them to “termites,” only a handful of athletes (several of them Jewish) and some notable media voices criticized him.
Jackson did, however, receive support from other sports stars, including former NBA player Stephen Jackson, who initially said DeSean was “speaking the truth” and claimed Jews “are the richest” and “control the banks,” then later said, “I don’t support Hitler, I don’t know nothing about Hitler and I could give a [expletive] about Hitler!”
Fellow Eagle Malik Jackson supported DeSean Jackson as well, and echoed praise for Farrakhan, even though Farrakhan has referred to Hitler as “a very great man.”
Malcolm Jenkins, an NFL player with the New Orleans Saints known for social justice advocacy, seemed bothered that this was “a distraction” from the Black Lives Matter movement, saying: “Jewish people aren’t our problem, and we aren’t their problem … We’ve got a lot of work to do, and this ain’t it.”
Respectfully, Malcolm, yes, it is.
Because you can’t separate one hate from all hate, any more than you can separate a breeze from the wind.
Now, none of this diminishes the alarming issues of race in America. And before you make any assumptions, I don’t think DeSean Jackson needs to be fired. True, others have lost their jobs for far less. But continuing that trend doesn’t improve things.
Jackson issued apologies, agreed to meet with some Jewish leaders, and vowed to do better. Stephen Jackson also walked back some of his words. Yes, others have been similarly contrite and still lost their jobs. But comparing punishments can distract from progress.
So let’s try to make progress. We hear a lot about “listening” these days, right?
I’d like to request that Jackson, Jenkins, Malik Jackson and Stephen Jackson listen – really listen – to the following:
The reason Jewish people aren’t surprised by hateful comments is because anti-Semitism is the oldest form of bigotry in the world. It dates back to biblical times and has never had a pause.
Ancient Jews were hated for sticking to their faith and not bowing to whatever idols were being worshipped. They were hated for eating differently. For praying differently. According to the Old Testament, they were enslaved in Egypt for generations because of their beliefs.
Seventy years after the birth of Christ, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish temple. Jews were scattered. In the centuries that followed, they were ostracized, marginalized and denied basic rights.
Dehumanization? Jews know all about it. They were forbidden to intermarry, forbidden from holding government jobs, accused of having hidden horns and tails. They were raped and massacred throughout the Crusades. Falsely accused of spreading bubonic plague and burned alive because of it. Continually persecuted and murdered as “Christ killers.” It wasn’t until the 1960s that the Catholic Church finally repudiated that.
Superstitions about Jews, spoken and written, claimed they wanted to drink Christian blood. They have been stereotyped as dirty, money-grubbing, hook-nosed. Their deaths have been called for more times than you can count.
And lest this be dismissed as anc…