It's Not Just Kanye: Antisemitism and the Black Community
Not much unifies Jews these days, sadly, but the tweet from Kanye West on Saturday, October 8 did just that. A world-famous celebrity with 31.5 million followers on Twitter threatened the Jewish people in a response to a fellow black celebrity, Sean Combs, and accused him of being controlled by Jews.
While the spotlight of calling out antisemitism is currently focused on Mr. West, and rightfully so, antisemitism has been prevalent in the Black community for decades. Kanye and those like him, especially in the entertainment space, who have the loudspeaker, repeat ingrained tropes, stemming from numerous Black churches; from certain Black hate groups; and of course from the most famous of Jew-haters, who retains massive power today: minister Louis Farrakhan.
Was it always this way? Luckily, the answer is no.
During Reconstruction after the U.S. Civil War, there was a strong relationship between Jews and Black people. Several prominent Jews helped build schools in the South for Black children, and that led to firm ties between the two communities.
In 1960, the SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) was founded. It was targeted toward younger Black people to stand up for equal rights. In its earlier years, its members had great relationships with Jews, and it spearheaded a greater coordination to incorporate Jews into the Civil Rights struggle. Yet when the 1967 Six-Day War against Israel broke out and Israel won, the leaders of the SNCC were already more radicalized thanks to Ethel Minor, the communications director of the group, who had formed ties with the Nation of Islam and turned on Israel.
Ethel Minor set the tone of the SNCC, and that included an antisemitic voice against Israel, which meant Jews. This is when the lies began about "Palestinians" being a distinct ethnicity. Playing into the Soviet propaganda, the lies about Jews being "occupiers" started to seep into the Black community.
In stepped the Nation of Islam, a Black Muslim separatist group, which also prides itself on being anti-White and anti-Jewish, along with other radical entities. The lies against Israel became stronger and went unchecked. Louis Farrakhan, the leader of Nation of Islam, who has called Jews ''termites" and praised Hitler, said Jews "control the media" and railed against the "Satanic Jew & the Synagogues of Satan" — among other hateful tropes — has not been relegated to the far corners of the American Black community. Rather, he and his messaging have been elevated by Black Hollywood and Black media.
Farrakhan's infamous July 4, 2020 speech, in which he continued with his usual Jew-hatred, was streamed by Sean Combs (P. Diddy)'s channel, Revolt TV. In attendance at the event were major Black celebrities such as Nick Cannon, Rapper TI and his wife, and former NBA basketball player Allen Iverson. Football player DeSean Jackson tweeted numerous anti-Jewish falsehoods from Farrakhan's speeches to his 100,000 Twitter followers, and rapper and actor Ice Cube has readily shared Farrakhan's hate-filled diatribes. Even now, popular broadcasters such as Charlamagne tha God, who heads up the Breakfast Club radio show, has on popular Black celebrities who quote and praise Farrakhan with nary any pushback. Comedian Trevor Noah in the past televised severely skewed anti-Israel messaging and made Holocaust jokes, which is ironic now that he is calling out Kanye.
In conjunction with the revolting Nation of Islam, another powerful hate group has taken hold of many in the Black community: the Black Hebrew Israelites, a domestic terror group responsible for the recent 2020 Jersey City murders of Jews. One just has to visit any social media platform to see their handiwork. They influence Black people to think ethnic Jews are not real Jews, that Jews are "from Europe" and are "White," and that Black people are the real Jews. This group also hijacks the term "Israelites" to mean ancient Jews, who, according to the Black Hebrew Israelites' rhetoric, are not at all linked to Jews today. Though all the usual antisemitic tropes are utilized by members and followers of the Black Hebrew Israelites, the group's real damage is in attempting to disassociate Jews from their Jewish heritage in the minds of the Black community. Kanye West in his most recent tweets mirrored that messaging when he said he cannot be antisemitic because "Blacks are Semites."
And then there is Black Lives Matter, a Marxist domestic terrorist group, responsible for the 2020 pogrom against Orthodox Jews in Los Angeles and numerous marches where anti-Israel messages are prominently seen. Similar to the Black Hebrew Israelites, BLM paints Israel as "White" colonizers, lies that Israel trains U.S. police forces to brutalize Black people in the U.S., and claims that Jews stole land from "Palestinians."
And what article on Black antisemitism would be complete without mentioning the infamous race-bating Jew-hating reverends — Wright, who was closely associated with Obama before his presidency; Sharpton, who incited the infamous Crown Heights riots; and Jesse Jackson?
As with attempting to get rid of Arab terror groups — where one may diminish, another pops up — antisemitism in the Black community is similar; it is not just one major influencer or one organization.
When I was a freshman at Temple University, back in 2000, a Black hallmate asked me if it was true that Jews used to have horns. I asked her where she had heard such nonsense. Her reply should be chilling for all: at her Black church in Philadelphia.
Although, thankfully, not all Black people are antisemitic, Kanye is certainly not an outlier, nor should his mental status be a consideration. There are plenty of mentally ill people who do not espouse antisemitic notions. Let's not kid ourselves: if Kanye went after specifically Zionists or Hasidic Jews, most people in the media and on Twitter would not even shrug. If one claims to stand against Jew-hatred, stand against it in all forms.
Perhaps one day, strong Black-Jewish relations will re-emerge to echo the times of Dr. King. One organization, IBSI (Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel) is making its best effort, but there is a lot of brainwashing, inflicted by the major groups who now hold a prominence in the Black community, to overcome.
Laureen Lipsky is the CEO and founder of Taking Back the Narrative, a Zionism education initiative (www.tbtnisrael.com).
Image via Libreshot.