Anti-Semitism in the sports and entertainment worlds became the topic of much discussion in recent days, with figures in both fields expressing ugly and false tropes about Jews.
One rapper insinuated that Jews are responsible for the oppression of Blacks. And a football player tweeted a fake quote from Hitler, a statement of support for Louis Farrakhan and the assertion that Jews had a plan to “extort America” and achieve “world domination.”
Interesting, though, and laudable, were the reactions of some other boldface names in the Black community.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar is someone who gained fame as a professional sports player. A Muslim formerly known as Lew Alcindor, he is retired from sports since 1989 and has shown talent in the realm of writing too, and is the author of several books and many opinion columns in national media.
Weighing in on the recent expressions of Jew-hatred, Mr. Abdul-Jabbar bemoaned the “shocking lack of massive indignation” over the propagation of the anti-Jewish canards.
Chiding the Black community to which he belongs, he wrote that “[I]f it’s OK to discriminate against one group of people by hauling out cultural stereotypes without much pushback, it must be OK to do the same to others.”
And, addressing the fumbling football player’s lies about Jews, he wrote, “That is the kind of dehumanizing characterization of a people that causes the police abuses that killed… George Floyd.”
The basketball legend also invoked Martin Luther King Jr., who said that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”
“So,” concluded Mr. Abdul-Jabbar, “let’s act like it. If we’re going to be outraged by injustice, let’s be outraged by injustice against anyone.”
At about the same time, the respected medium The Atlantic published a column by one of its regulars, an African-American writer named Jemele Hill. She addressed the larger issue of anti-Semitism in her ethnic community head-on, writing that “the unfortunate truth is that some Black Americans have shown a certain cultural blindspot about Jews. Stereotypical and hurtful tropes about Jews are widely accepted in the African-American community.”
She herself, she went on to explain, “learned that just because I’m aware of the destruction caused by racism, that doesn’t mean I’m automatically sensitive to other forms of racism, or in this case, anti-Semitism. Black people, too, are capable of being culturally arrogant.”
American Blacks, The Atlantic writer declared, “must use their own racial experiences to foster empathy for others.”
She went on to call upon the truly offensive football player to take up one of his colleagues’ offer to accompany him on a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.
And then there was the reaction of a current professional Black sports player, Zach Banner, who also expressed his disdain for the anti-Semitic sentiments expressed by his colleague.
In a video he posted on social media, Mr. Banner said, “We need to understand that Jewish people deal with the same amount of hate and similar hardships and hard times… When we talk about Black Lives Matter and talk about elevating ourselves, we can’t do that while stepping on the back of other people to elevate ourselves…”
The recent demonstrations of ignorant animus by some Black celebrities are not, of course, the first. Back in 2017, a Black vocalist asserted that “Jewish people own all the property in America.” And the next year, another rapped that “We been getting that Jewish money. Everything is kosher.” And when a sports star shared that loopy lyric on social media and was called out for it, his response was simply, and tellingly, that he “actually thought it was a compliment.”
Anti-Semitism, of course, arises in many forms and in many places. In our galus, it is like kudzu, the non-native plant that, when it appears, can quickly spread to stifle other crops.
Hatred of Jews exists not only in parts of American Black communities but in many white ones no less. Indeed, white supremacists malign both Jews and Blacks alike.
But it is heartening to see respected personages in the Black community stand up and unabashedly both acknowledge the inanity of Jew-hatred among some of their fellow African-Americans and declare an imperative for Black Americans to see Jews as worthy of respect, not denigration or baseless slanders.
May their sentiments be taken seriously, and their example emulated.