Nick Cannon talks antisemitism, Black-Jewish relations

NEW YORKNick Cannon, in his first appearance on a Jewish program, AJC Advocacy Anywhere, said today he would be “the sacrificial lamb as a member of the entertainment community” to bring America’s Black and Jewish communities closer together. More than 15,000 people have viewed the program so far.

In a one-hour conversation with Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, Cannon apologized again for the blatantly antisemitic language he voiced in a conversation nearly a month ago on his podcast, “Cannon’s Class.”

Cannon, the son of a Christian minister and currently a doctoral student at Howard University’s School of Divinity, acknowledged, “I have no problem saying I was wrong. I had to step up and do what’s right.”

“I thought I was speaking facts,” said Cannon, referring to his comments about “centralized banking” and the Rothschilds. “I did not understand this was taken as the kind of propaganda that led to the Holocaust,” he said. “How does continuing these tropes help bring our communities together?”

Noting that both the Black and Jewish communities “have persecution in common,” Cannon said the narratives of slavery and historical antisemitism should not be competitive. This is “not the oppression Olympics,” he asserted.

Instead, Cannon pointed out that, with African Americans comprising 13% and Jews 2% of the American population, “together we can make real changes” for American society.

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LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 25: TV personality Nick Cannon (R) speaks onstage at MTV Wild N Out live show during the 2016 BET Experience on June 25, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Paras Griffin/BET/Getty Images for BET)

Cannon said it is important for the African American community to know the history of Black-Jewish relations. “The Jewish community was part of the civil rights movement and so many other movements. We need the Jewish community with us in this fight in 2020,” said Cannon, adding that “45% of non-Black supporters in the civil rights movement were Jews.”

Cannon, who in recent weeks has met with Rabbi Marans, as well as with Holly Huffnagle, AJC U.S. Director of Combating Antisemitism, said, “It’s time for me to be a student, to use the resources to bring our communities together.”

Cannon said he “needed to understand” why the words he used were so hurtful. Holding up a copy of AJC’s “Translate Hate” publication, a glossary of antisemitic terms and tropes, as a guide, Cannon said he was not aware that certain conversations, certain ideas of hatred towards Jews, “go back centuries.”

To break down barriers between the Black and Jewish communities requires, firstly, education, said Cannon, who also criticized social media for inflaming tensions and strengthening compartmentalization between groups.

“I try to stay away from hashtags, the catchy phrases,” he declared. Four hundred years of oppression of African Americans and the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust “can’t be summed up in a hashtag,” he said. “They cannot be clickbait headlines.”

Asked about his view of Nation of Islam head Louis Farrakhan, Cannon said that many African American leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali, had been accused of antisemitism.

Farrakhan, he said, has been seen in the Black community as a leader who helped on social issues, such as incarcerated Blacks and those suffering with drug addiction, and leading “the greatest peace gathering in the history of the world, the Million Man March.”

Regarding Farrakhan’s record of antisemitism, a matter of deep and longstanding concern for AJC, Cannon stated, “I can condemn the message, but can’t condemn the messenger. I can’t be accountable for what others have done.”

SOURCE American Jewish Committee

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