For someone who has collected so much goodwill and done many good deeds, it feels surprisingly wrong-headed.
On Friday, Jenkins, wearing a black hoodie pulled over his head, posted the 36-second video in which he said, “We gotta stay focused. All of this back and forth that going on right now is a distraction. Comments were made, and they were wrong. Allow those who were impacted by it to voice their grievances, but we’ve got to stay focused because Breonna Taylor’s killers are still not arrested. We still fighting for justice; we got a lot of work to do, and this ain’t it. Stay focused.”
Under it, he wrote, “We can honor the Jewish heritage and trauma while staying focused on what matters. Jewish people aren’t our problem, and we aren’t their problem. Let’s not lose focus on what the problem truly is, and that’s that black lives still don’t matter in this country.
“Push this energy toward arresting and convicting the killers of Breonna Taylor and burning systemic racism to the ground.”
The impetus for Jenkins’ video was DeSean Jackson’s anti-Semitic Instagram posts earlier this week and the reaction to them. Hitler is a non-starter as there’s no debating that. Posting something, as the Philadelphia Eagles wideout did, that starts, “Hitler said,” was the beginning of his mistake. Add that what he posted has been shown to be false, and it makes it worse.
In a best-case scenario based on his caption, Jenkins was trying to say that Black people and Jewish people aren’t enemies and that the debate over Jackson’s words is unnecessary and takes energy away from the movement for racial equality.
But the video gives a different feel. It’s as if Jenkins is shrugging at the hatred that Jewish people deal with, dismissing their history of oppression and mistreatment. And that’s wrong.
This is not an either-or proposition. People cannot rightfully be furious with those who respond to “Black lives matter” with “all lives matter” but then let Jenkins slide for being dismissive of Jewish lives and bigotry against them. Particularly since it was Jenkins who was quick to tell Drew Brees to “shut the f--- up” last month when Brees said he would never agree with anyone who “disrespected” the United States and its flag by kneeling during the anthem.
Brees was dragged on every corner of social media, apologized multiple times and pledged to do better. Jackson was rightfully denounced and fined by the team for his actions.
Which makes Jenkins’ comments unnecessary and hypocritical, and he’s likely gotten himself into hot water because he felt the need to weigh in.
Yes, the Louisville police officers who killed Breonna Taylor are still walking free, as are officers all over the country who have been given a pass to kill innocent citizens, usually Black, under the guise of “fearing for their lives” even when video evidence shows otherwise.
But whether Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove ever face justice for killing an innocent woman while she slept in her own bed doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye to anti-Semitism. Whether the Aurora, Colorado, officers who killed Elijah McClain last year are arrested doesn’t mean we should be OK with hate toward others, whether intentional or out of ignorance.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the number of anti-Semitic crimes reported in the United States hit a record high last year. Such crimes are up in other countries as well. In 2018, an anti-Semitic terrorist killed 11 Jewish congregants gathering in their Pittsburgh synagogue, in the same way a white supremacist terrorist killed nine Black Christians gathered in their South Carolina church in 2015.
One of the most common signs at the Black Lives Matter protests reads, “None of us are free until we’re all free.” It’s a quote attributed to Jewish American writer Emma Lazarus. Years later, beloved Black writer Maya Angelou said the same.
In order for anything to change for Black Americans, they’ll need a lot of non-Black allies. It’s not a coincidence that as so many of these protests have included people of all races and backgrounds speaking up and demanding change, we’re starting to see some. Alienating a group of people who have also been oppressed isn’t the best way to get and keep allies.
Hate is hate is hate. In pursuit of our own justice, we cannot allow injuries to others go unchecked.
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