Stephen Jackson has been a strong voice in the push to end police brutality and systemic racism in the wake of his friend George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody.
But Jackson's defense of Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, who posted anti-Semitic quotes attributed to Adolph Hitler and Louis Farrakhan to Instagram on Tuesday, tarnished the message of love and equality for everyone that he has been preaching. The fake quotes that DeSean Jackson posted played on anti-Semitic tropes and falsehoods that Jewish people control the banks and are involved in a conspiracy for world domination. Stephen Jackson defended DeSean Jackson on Tuesday, saying he was speaking "truth."
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith ripped Jackson on "First Take" for defending the anti-Semitic post.
"He's veering away from what the ultimate goal is."@stephenasmith strongly disagrees with Stephen Jackson's comments defending DeSean Jackson, saying it's a distraction from issues in the Black community. (via @FirstTake) pic.twitter.com/IwZ4iUhDl5— ESPN (@espn) July 8, 2020
"I got news for you, even though you might have lighter hue, a lighter pigmentation, the Jewish community, not the White community, the Jewish community is the one that had to endure the Holocaust," Smith said. "We're talking about six million Jews that were murdered by that devil Adolph Hitler. Those weren't White people who were murdered, those were Jewish folks ... I can tell you this: A lot of people in the Black community respect the Jewish community because the perception of ya'll being together and coming together and galvanizing to address certain issues is what we believe we as a community should do a better job of. But who is that against? It's against White folks in positions of power who have exercised racial oppression, racial inequality and things of that nature.
"If you're Stephen Jackson, if you are others particularly in this moment in time, that's what our eyes were supposed to be focused on," Smith said. "But here we are talking about some post on Instagram and Stephen Jackson validating it through his eyes and through his lens and we're talking about that instead of what Stephen Jackson himself has said he wants us to focus on. So now, as a result, we're going to be talking about Adolph Hitler, we're going to be talking about being educated about the Holocaust and the Jewish community and those things instead of issues that directly involve us as Black people."
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Smith's criticism is one about taking the attention away from the progress the Black Lives Matter movement is trying to make at a crucial moment in our country. But his critique should have extended to Stephen Jackson's actual defense of a quote, fake or not, that was attributed to Hitler. As a Jewish person who has faced anti-Semitism in his life, I believe that you can't fight against anti-Semitism without also fighting against racism, and that street goes both ways. Anti-Semitism is as gross a stain on humanity as racism. Both strands of hate need to be stamped out. Full stop.
Jackson's views should be condemned and he should work to educate himself on the centuries worth of anti-Semitism that the Jewish people have fought against, just as he understands the oppression the Black community has faced.
Now, Smith's belief that focusing on the Holocaust and the plight of the Jewish community throughout history is something that will take away from the focus on the Black Lives Matter movement entirely misses the importance of the living lesson that sits in the heart of Germany for all humanity to understand and feel. The Holocaust is not just history that must be remembered, but also the foremost example of what hate, bigotry, racism and anti-Semitism are capable of. It's important to study and educate yourself on the atrocities Hitler committed because as often as we might say we'll "never forget," human beings find themselves far too often showing their failure to remember.
Studying and understanding the Holocaust and the hardships the Jewish community has been through is not something reserved only for Jewish people, or German people, or White people. But for all humanity to understand, remember and vow to extinguish that sort of evil and to do so together.
Before the outbreak of World War Two, Europe had 9.5 million Jews. Six million of them were killed by Hitler and the Nazi regime during the war. Hitler's anti-Semitism and bigotry was allowed to grow unchecked for years, with no one speaking up to stop the hatred from spreading like wildfire. That kind of hatred can't be allowed see the light of day, ever again.
The camps of Auschwitz and Dachau are haunting reminders of the evil man can create. The type of place tragedy never left. It can be felt in the heaviness of the air. They still stand to remind humanity why bigotry, the kind that's embedded in the DNA of a culture, must be ripped out at the root and not allowed to grow untamed.
That's why it's important for everyone, of all races and religions, to learn about the Holocaust, the evils Hitler committed and understand how long the Jewish people have battled anti-Semitism. Just as the Black community has fought against systemic racism for centuries.
What Smith was trying to convey -- and what Jackson doesn't understand -- is that his spreading of bigoted and anti-Semitic lies only helps take the attention off the cause he's been fighting for. It is a gift to those who are full of hate and wish to tear down the notion of equality. Equality for everyone.
Stephen Jackson has been a strong voice in this moment for the Black Lives Matter movement, but there's no doubt his defense of DeSean Jackson was abhorrent. Stephen Jackson doubled down on that defense Wednesday, showing his true feelings toward the Jewish community.
Stephen Jackson's anti-Semitism doesn't discount what he's done for the Black Lives Matter movement, and it can't diminish the progress they've made. But his inability to uplift the Black community without putting down the Jewish community with false information and anti-Semitic tropes lessens the authenticity of his claim that he fights for and loves all races.
As my colleague Grant Liffmann wrote, Jackson's anti-Semitic views show we as a society still have a long way to go. On all fronts really.
But strength is often found in collective unity. In shared experiences and hardships.
This is not a competition as to which group has suffered more. The Jewish community and the Black community have experienced untold amounts of pain in their history. They should be allies against racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism, from this day until equality is achieved.
It's a shame Stephen Jackson doesn't see it that way.