On Monday, NFL Player DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles shared a vile antisemitic quote on his Instagram account, which was falsely attributed to Adolf Hitler. The quote began, “because the white Jews [know] that the Negroes are the real children of Israel and to keep [America’s] secret the Jews will blackmail America. [They] will extort America, their plan for domination won’t work if the Negroes know who they were.”
As Jews and allies who stand unequivocally in support of Black lives and work every day to combat systemic racism and white supremacy in America, we cannot overstate our horror.
It is profoundly disturbing that someone with such a large platform could approvingly share a quote they believe to have come from Adolf Hitler, who will forever be known as one of history’s most evil mass murderers, and who aimed to cleanse the world of Black people (as well as LGBTQ people, Romani, and others) after he exterminated the Jews.
Equally disturbing is the casual nature in which both Jackson, and former NBA player Stephen Jackson, who came to his defense, validated such outrageous language rooted in the same ideology touted in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion over a century ago. This is the same language that has been used to justify and propel some of the greatest horrors in world history.
A couple of days prior to this post, Jackson had posted words of admiration for one of America’s most notorious purveyors of anti-Jewish hate, the Reverend Louis Farrakhan, who has been perpetuating white supremacy and working to divide the Black and Jewish communities since the 1960s. Urging his 1.4 million Instagram followers to join him, Jackson celebrated Farrakhan’s virulently antisemitic speech on the Fourth of July. Farrakhan’s words, last weekend and for many decades preceding it, are distinctly un-American, and do the work of white nationalists who aim to splinter our bonds and our coalitions for justice for all people.
In a seemingly forced apology which related only to the “unintentional” hurt felt by the Jewish community, but not the content of the statement itself, Jackson said that he “didn’t realize what this passage was saying.” All people––not just Jews, but anyone committed to the fight for equality, justice, freedom, and human dignity ––have a clear duty to repudiate these words and to demand and expect better from our cultural leaders.
We have written about this before, but it is worth reiterating now: In this moment of national reckoning, people from coast to coast are paying attention, learning, and doing the work to combat systemic racism and confront the implicit biases we hold, as Americans, within ourselves. But we also must reject the employment of any kind of bigotry, when it is institutionalized in national justice movements; when it is platformed by popular culture icons; and when it is mainstreamed, even if unintentionally, by those who do not understand its insidious nature. We cannot fight anti-Black racism by replacing it with anti-Jewish racism. This is not the way. The work is too urgent, the moment too powerful, and the commitment to equity and equality too virtuous to let these forces of division and distraction come between us.
Zioness will not stop showing up for and alongside our Black siblings, including Black Jews, who feel unimaginable pain in moments like this. We hope and pray that DeSean Jackson will use this opportunity to learn from the many civil rights groups offering anti-bias resources and training, and join us in finding a path forward, for the full diversity of our progressive movement, that recognizes the humanity in us all.