DeSean Jackson’s Instagram post (mis-)quoting Adolf Hitler was unacceptable, deeply troubling, and reinforces dangerous Jewish stereotypes. I do not believe that anyone should quote (or even misquote) Adolf Hitler with impunity. I would hope our society as a whole can agree that Adolf Hitler and his ideology should be “cancelled.”
In his Washington Post article, “Where are the consequences for DeSean Jackson’s rant against Jews?”, National Jewish Advocacy Center director Mark Goldfeder asks, “where is the outrage now?” In recent days, Mitch Albom has also criticized the lack of “mass outrage” and “punishment” against Jackson. Both authors stress that people lose their jobs over offensive tweets every day and they demand retribution in the form of punishment for Jackson.
But why are new headlines continuing to demand further punishment for DeSean Jackson?
DeSean Jackson first offered a public apology on Instagram and in multiple interviews. He was then disciplined and fined by the Philadelphia Eagles. He has apologized to Jeff Lurie and Howie Roseman, the team’s owner and general manager. He has met with Rabbi Doniel Grodnitzky of Chabad in Philadelphia to learn more about the Jewish people. He has discussed antisemitism with Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman and they are planning to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington together. Jackson is reportedly planning to donate significant money to Jewish community efforts. He spoke on a public video call with Edward Mosberg, a 94-year-old Holocaust survivor, to hear his story and apologize. Mosberg invited Jackson to visit Auschwitz as a continuation of his process of teshuvah, the Jewish concept of repentance and making amends for a mistake. Jackson accepted.
DeSean Jackson is committing to extensive and ongoing steps of teshuvah.
So why the calls for continued outrage and more consequences? Why are we demanding more accountability, with more fervor, for DeSean Jackson than we demand for other acts of prejudice?
Where is our outrage on behalf of Breonna Taylor? Breonna Taylor, 26 years old, was murdered in her sleep by police who entered her apartment without knocking or identifying themselves. She was asleep in her own home, after midnight, when officers broke into her apartment with a battering ram, opened fire with over 20 rounds, and shot Taylor eight times. Her killers have not been arrested or charged. We have failed to hold her killers accountable.
Compare your reaction to DeSean Jackson’s Instagram post with your reaction and ongoing response to the senseless murder of Breonna Taylor, or Sandra Bland, or Tamir Rice, or Michael Brown, or any other Black American whose killers still have not been charged with a crime. Where is our outrage? If we are calling for non-Jewish allies to be outraged about the lack of consequences for antisemitic comments, then by the same logic, we should be outraged and demanding consequences for anti-Black murder at the hands of police officers who have not been held accountable. If we are tempted to criticize the silence or absence of our allies in our time of need, consider whether someone might ask, “where were our Jewish friends when we were in need?”
Where is our outrage for Althea Bernstein, an 18 year old who was attacked and set on fire by four white men in a hate crime several weeks ago? Bernstein is a member of the Jewish community and a member of the Black community — do we demand justice for the violent assault against her with the same fervor that we demand accountability for DeSean Jackson’s words? Have we been sharing her story in our Jewish communities?
And if casual antisemitic behavior is unacceptable, are we demanding equal accountability no matter who is tweeting? Where is our outrage against Representative Paul Gosar, who accused Jewish philanthropist and Holocaust survivor George Soros of funding a neo-Nazi rally and “turn[ing] in his own people to the Nazis”? Where are the consequences for Representative Matt Gaetz, who invited Holocaust denier Chuck Johnson to the State of the Union as his guest in 2018, despite his statement “about Auschwitz and the gas chambers not being real”?
Both Gosar and Gaetz defended their actions and refused to apologize.
If you think white supremacists are emboldened by an Instagram post by a professional athlete, then all the more so, they are emboldened by our elected officials validating or equivocating on white supremacy.
So I must ask, where are the consequences for President Donald Trump? Speaking to the Israeli American Council, Trump reinforced Jewish stereotypes when he said, “a lot of you are in the real-estate business, because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all…You’re not gonna vote for the wealth tax.” In response to the 2017 neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia, after a white nationalist crashed his car into a group of people, Trump’s response was not outraged but ambiguous, affirming that there were “very fine people on both sides” and defending his comments to this day.
DeSean Jackson has done much more teshuvah than we demand of others, yet people are still calling for him to lose his job. How many Holocaust survivors has the Jewish community called for President Trump to invite to the oval office? How many visits to Nazi concentration camps do we demand from Gaetz? Where are our persistent demands for Gosar’s dismissal? They have not done any semblance of teshuvah, and have in each case reaffirmed their problematic statements. What did they do to earn our trust back, or at the very least, our silence?
Why do we unconsciously tolerate words of bigotry and acts of anti-Black violence from white agents of the American government, but demand words and demonstrations of respect from people of color?
Why are we more likely to lump the Instagram post by DeSean Jackson together with anti-Jewish ideology voiced by Louis Farrakhan, and less likely to associate the anti-Black and anti-Jewish statements of Donald Trump with white supremacists like Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke? Why are we openly and collectively demanding for associates of Farrakhan to lose their jobs while we hesitate to demand the same from those politically aligned with neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, and the KKK?
Why do we accept disproportionate police brutality against the Black community as an unfortunate fact of life, but wonder why “the media” isn’t speaking more about antisemitism?
“I grew up in Los Angeles, and never really spent time with anyone from the Jewish community and didn’t know much about their history, this has been such a powerful experience for me to learn and educate myself,” DeSean Jackson told Edward Mosberg. He continued, “I want to take the proper steps to let people know that I never intentionally had any hatred in my heart, I never wanted to put the Jewish community down, I want to educate myself more and help bridge the gaps between all different cultures.”
For those of us demanding solidarity from members of the Black community, can we honestly claim we are doing the same due diligence to educate ourselves about their culture and their history of systemic persecution and suffering in America?
If we are seeking allies outside of the Jewish community to stand with us against antisemitism, we need to prove that we stand against racism and prejudice both within and outside the Jewish community. DeSean Jackson’s words were offensive, but he has done the work of teshuvah. Instead of demanding more outrage and more consequences for DeSean Jackson, demand the same teshuvah Jackson has embarked on from our elected officials, including the President. When it comes to taking a stand against prejudice and making amends, demand the same from yourself. Anything less is a perpetration of racism.