I was reminded—while threading together my thoughts on Stephen Jackson’s defense of DeSean Jackson’s defense of...Adolf Hitler—of an article I read in 2016 or 2017 I think, about Donald Trump.
In it, it was revealed that Trump was somewhat surprised that so many Black people despise him, because, up until he ran for president, he’d been chummy with dozens of Black celebrities—Black male athletes and entertainers, in particular. Even if you doubt the sincerity of his “surprise,” he’s not wrong. It’s not hard to find pictures of Donald Trump with them, many of whom stayed at his hotels, flew on his planes and partied with him. Rap songs throughout the ‘90s and aughts were filled with positive references to him, as he existed both as aspirational shorthand and validation of success; like “Trump” was a synonym for caviar.
His racism and misogyny—which, even then, was as conspicuous as his gold-plated toilets—didn’t matter as much as the prestige of being connected to him did. Here’s Snoop Dogg’s sellout ass on a Comedy Central Trump roast in 2013, joking about...birtherism.
Donald Trump ain’t America’s only rich white man. But what drew these Black men to him specifically was his personality and his lifestyle. He did and said what he wanted without much consequence, and slept with a revolving door of beautiful women he discarded like empty Skittles bags—qualities many of us consider enviable. The associations with Trump did not end until it became social suicide to be associated with him; which is a kind way of saying that these same men didn’t care how awful he was until his awfulness impacted how people felt about them.
Anyway, on Monday, Philadelphia Eagles’ receiver DeSean Jackson shared, on Instagram, several quotes he thought were from Adolf Hitler, where “the Jews will blackmail America” and that “the Negroes are the real Children of Israel.”
The reaction was swift, which compelled Jackson to clarify by sharing the same quote, again, but with...edits.
Apparently surprised that the Hitler quote-sharing thing didn’t go as well as he planned, Jackson deleted the posts and apologized.
“I probably should have never posted anything that Hitler did, because Hitler was a bad person and I know that.”
Defund DeSean Jackson’s iPhone.
Adolf Hitler is considered, roundly, to be so reprehensible that the silly and popcorn morality-revealing hypothetical “Would you kill baby Hitler?” only works with his name. Trump doesn’t even inspire that much antipathy. There’s just no defending Jackson here, but that didn’t stop former NBA player-turned-activist Stephen Jackson (no relation) from trying.
“So I just read a statement that the Philadelphia Eagles posted regarding DeSean Jackson’s comments. He was trying to educate himself, educate people, and he’s speaking the truth. Right? He’s speaking the truth. You know he don’t hate nobody, but he’s speaking the truth of the facts that he knows and trying to educate others,” Stephen Jackson said in a video posted on Instagram.
“But y’all don’t want us to educate ourselves. If it’s talking about the Black race, y’all ain’t saying nothing about it. They killing us, police killing us and treating us like s—-, racism at an all-time high, but ain’t none of you NFL owners spoke up on that, ain’t none of you teams spoke up on that. But the same team had a receiver [Riley Cooper] who said the word n——- publicly! They gave him an extension! I play for the Big3. We have a Jewish owner. He understands where we stand and some of the things we say, but it’s not directed to him. It’s the way we’ve been treated.”
What’s happening here with DeSean Jackson—and subsequently, Stephen Jackson—is clear anti-semitism, even if they refuse to see it. (Or claim they didn’t mean it.) But why it’s happening is connected to the reason why so many of us (Black men) were—and still are—so enamored with Donald Trump. (For context, he is 400% more popular with us than he is with Black women. 400%.)
Conversations about the effects of patriarchy are usually, for good reason, centered on the ecosystem of physical and psychological damage it creates and lords itself over. But also it makes us—and “us” in this context are “cis-gendered straight men”—dumb. Real dumb. Defending Adolf Hitler in July 2020 dumb. Dumb as fuck.
Patriarchy constricts vision. It teaches us that only our opinions, only our feelings, and only our perspectives matter, and you seek information that confirms and reinforces this limited view. In turn, it flattens the sort of empathy you’d require to realize that just because something sounds good for you doesn’t mean it’s actually good. This—well, this and (presumably) years worth of skipped social studies classes—is how DeSean Jackson can ignore the unambiguous anti-semitism of a passage just because it appears to be vaguely pro-Black. That he thought it was written by Adolf Fucking Hitler didn’t matter. It reinforced what he wants to believe about himself, so the source, for him, was inconsequential.
If this, to you, looks and sounds eerily similar to the effects of white supremacy, that’s just proof your eyes and ears are working. The intersections are vast. They are cousins.
This self-induced constriction also makes us more susceptible to grift. Basically, it makes us fools. We—and now I’m talking specifically about cis-gendered straight Black men—collectively turn to Jello around charismatic men. If you’re a man who represents the socialized ideal of Peak Masculinity—brash, cocksure, manipulative, unapologetic, seductive—you can have your way with us. Doesn’t matter what you actually say, or what’s lurking behind it. If you look and act the part, we will follow. Donald Trump’s popularity with us exists on the same plane as Umar Johnson’s. And that patriarchy-induced lack of vision either blinds us to or connects us with their bullshit, where either we don’t see the toxicity or we wish to replicate it. As much as some of us chide women for getting played by transparently noxious men, we get gamed out of our socks by charming but corrupt niggas, too.
Anyway, remember when Jay-Z was like “Smarten up, Nas” and we were all like “Jigga’s right. Nas needs to smarten up!” and then we all unzipped our Avirexs in unison or something? Let’s smarten up, too!