By Lenn Robbins
Thank goodness former NBA player Stephen Jackson weighed in on the terribly insensitive comments made by Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Had Stephen not proven himself equally ignorant but more malicious than DeSean by saying the Eagles wideout spoke the truth, one might not have heard about the Philadelphia player’s posts supporting the thinking of Hitler and Farrakhan.
No, since Jackson, who posted, “Hitler said, ‘because the white Jews knows [sic] that the Negros are the real Children of Israel and to keep Americas secret the Jews will black mail America,” we haven’t heard from many of the great leaders in sports.
Where is LeBron James and Malcolm Jenkins? Both spoke out passionately and forcefully when Saints quarterback Drew Brees said, “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.”
Where is Sheryl Swoopes and Sue Bird? They are lobbying to have Atlanta Dream co-owner Sen. Kelly Loeffler stripped of her piece of the team for saying strongly disagrees with the WNBA’s decision to place “Black Lives Matter” on the IMG courts where the league will play.
Where is Kyle Korver and Carson Wentz, who stepped up before and after the murder of George Floyd by acknowledging white privilege?
Heck, where is Colin Kaepernick? He has arguably done more to get the BLM movement traction and just days ago signed a deal with Disney to produce stories that explore race, social injustice and the quest for equity.
Comparing the discrimination that Jews and Blacks have endured is a futile and foolish endeavor. Both have suffered unspeakable injustices from the day the first African was chained in a ship galley and brought to this country, to the day the first Israelite became a slave in Egypt. Or from the Holocaust to the church bombings and lynching of the Sixties.
The rationalization for the hatred of any minority is steeped in ignorance and/or fear. Those forces are with us today.
A white supremacist burst into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston and took nine lives, wounding three in 2015. A white national opened fire in the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh and claimed 11 lives, wounding six in 2018.
The killings will continue as long as every person of every color, religion, ethnicity and political affiliation fails to stand up for every other person regardless of color, religion, ethnicity and political affiliation. This is not an issue of who has it worse than an issue of an understanding how badly another minority has suffered.
Only a person of color, whose ancestors were enslaved and subjected to barbaric inhumanities, can truly know the sting of the misguided words spoken by Brees. Only a Jew, whose ancestors were incarcerated and gassed, can truly feel the pain of the misguided words spoken by DeSean Jackson, who has apologized profusely. Stephen Jackson has not.
So how do we get more people, not just athletes, to reach across the aisle and listen to why the words of DeSean or Brees were hurtful? One of the NFL’s more polarizing players might have shown us a way.
Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, admired by many for his fearlessness and mastery of the slot position, yet despised by many outside of New England for being the body too small, heart too big crushingly clutch receiver and, well, being a Patriot, extended a marvelously thoughtful invitation to DeSean.
One of the few Jewish players in the NFL, Edelman invited DeSean to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Perhaps Stephen can come along. If you’ve never been to this museum, you owe it yourself to go. Warning: You’ll be haunted for days, just as you would be if you visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.
“I know he said some ugly things, but I do see an opportunity to have a conversation,” said Edelman.
An opportunity to have a conversation. Not a debate. Not an argument. Not a comparison of which minority has had it worse. A conversation, from which might come an exchange of information, a better understanding, a first step in a truer journey.
In the days since Floyd was murdered, one common theme that has been expressed – the importance of listening. A good friend told me, “When you listen to someone, you tell them they’re worthwhile.” People of color have expressed anger and frustration of not being heard, no less understood. White people have recognized they need to listen in order to understand what actions will lead to real change.
Let Edelman and Jackson, who was penalized Friday by the team (ESPN reported it was a fine) engage in a conversation, away from reporters and cameras. The hope and belief is both men will benefit. The hope is word will spread of the Edelman/Jackson conversation and it will spark another conversation and another conversation.
Until one of these days every person of every color, religion, ethnicity and political affiliation stands up for every other person regardless of color, religion, ethnicity and political affiliation.