Why it's crucial to grapple with our cultural blind spots

NFL player DeSean Jackson sparked conversations about anti-Semitism after he posted a quote falsely attributed to Adolf Hitler on his Instagram account.

(CNN)For this week, we interrogate recent anti-Semitic remarks from celebrities, revisit the infamous Mississippi Burning case and think about the legacy of civil rights figures.

Culture conversation: The dangers of everyday anti-Semitism
Leah: Ugh. Did you hear about the DeSean Jackson and Nick Cannon controversy? Because -- yikes.
      Brandon: Oof, yes. Give me your take.
        L: So, Jackson, the Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver, posted a fake Adolf Hitler quote on Instagram and Cannon spewed anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on his podcast. They were being ignorant and anti-Semitic, and perpetuating tensions between Jewish and Black people, when there shouldn't be any. There's a rich history of cooperation between these two groups, and there are people who live at the intersection of these identities; Black Jewish people do exist. Comments like those from Jackson and Cannon invalidate them and their experiences.
          Nick Cannon
          Anyway, both men eventually apologized, but it wasn't pretty.
          B: What strikes me about these two incidents is that they highlight something that's unsurprising but still worth pointing out: that prejudices also exist within Black communities. Dwayne Wade and Diddy also were the targets of criticism for defending Cannon. (Though Wade later clarified).
          In other words, our own experiences with racism don't prevent us from propping up other kinds of bigotry, whether we see it or not.
          L: Yeah, for sure. I think that this whole thing reveals how even marginalized groups can support other types of oppression.
          I also think that you could connect this conversation to colorism -- the skin tone-based hierarchy within many communities that favors lighter skin. Just last year, Lupita Nyong'o -- who wrote a children's book, "Sulwe," about a girl who wants her dark skin to be lighter -- called colorism "the daughter of racism."
          B: Without conflating the particulars of different prejudices, I've stopped a few times this past week to think about how broadly entrenched bigotry is in American society.
          Part of its power is that it doesn't always need to register as egregious to be harmful. For many, antisemitic remarks may not have the same sting as other, state-sanctioned manifestations of prejudice, like the police killing of George Floyd in May.
          L: YES, you're totally right. If an anti-Semitic comment isn't along the lines of Holocaust denial, people often look past it, I think, or excuse it as "not that bad."

          The historical context

          The Mississippi Burning case
          Between DeSean Jackson's post of a fake Adolf Hitler quote on Instagram and Nick Cannon's antisemitic remarks on his podcast, the past week has been filled with examples of how prejudices can replicate and congeal even among marginalized groups.
          The resulting conversations have been fruitful: They've made crystal clear the importance of detecting and grappling with cultural blind spots, specifically within Black communities.
          But less talked about is the fact that addressing anti-Semitism is crucial not just because it's the right thing to do, but also because it's vital for understanding the wider workings of oppression. anti-Semitism -- anti-Jewish hostility -- is an ideological pillar of White supremacy, the very same bigotry that's long threatened Black Americans.
          The past reminds us that there's a long history of Black and Jewish partnerships on civil rights issues, and that Black and Jewish lives have both been kindling for White supremacy.
          Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman
          In June 1964, three young men -- James Chaney from Meridian, Mississippi, and Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner from New York City -- were killed in Mississippi while trying to register Black Americans to vote as part of the Freedom Summer campaign. A group of policemen and Klansmen shot the three civil rights workers to death before burying their bodies in an earthen dam. (This triple murder is the subject of the 1988 film "Mississippi Burning").
          Chaney was Black. Goodman and Schwerner were Jewish, though it was the latter who had already established via his racial justice efforts a reputation among the local Ku Klux Klan, whose members disparaged him with anti-Semitic slurs like "Goatee" and "Jew Boy."
          "They killed one n----r, one Jew, and a white man. I gave them all what I thought they deserved," Judge William Cox, a segregationist, said in 1967 of the sentencing. Initially, no one involved in the killings spent more than six years in jail. It wasn't until more than four decades later, in 2005, that Klan organizer Edgar Ray Killen was found guilty of three counts of manslaughter and sentenced to 60 years in prison, where he died in 2018.
          This sobering history offers a lesson for the America of 2020, as it interrogates deep-seated racial inequality: that we can't hope to fully reckon with the legacy of White supremacy if we also, intentionally or not, endorse its central tenet of anti-Semitism.

          Recommended for your eyes and ears

          Netflix's latest reality dating show is "Indian Matchmaking." It's a breezy watch, however it is not without its controversy.
          In following a high-profile matchmaker's clients, the show highlights -- but doesn't really challenge -- the roles that colorism (the quest for a "fair" partner) and sexism play in dating and arranged marriages.
          As Ishani Nath writes in The Juggernaut: "In nearly every episode of 'Indian Matchmaking,' (the matchmaker) makes some mention of a candidate that is a good option partly because they are fair-skinned. It perpetuates South Asian discriminations based on skin tone, yet we never meet candidates who speak about how shadeism has impacted them or their romantic prospects. In the same way, the caste system's role in arranged marriages is never explored."
          Since its debut, the show has ranked among the 10 most-watched items on Netflix. It'll surely suck you in, too, and give you lots to think about.
          The release of Netflix's "The Baby-Sitter's Club," a remake of the classic children's book series, was followed by a short, 17-minute documentary called "The Claudia Kishi Club."
          The documentary delves into the character Claudia Kishi, a stereotype-busting Japanese-American girl. Kishi has long been an inspiration to viewers and the documentary investigates why she -- as well as representation generally -- is so important.
          "It was genuinely chilling, and this time, the anti-Semitism was coming from people who looked like me," writes Soraya Nadia McDonald, who's Black and Jewish.
          In a personal essay for ESPN's The Undefeated, titled "I'm a Jew of color. I won't be quiet about anti-Semitism," McDonald reflects on the past week's rampant anti-Semitism, while also touching on the alienation she's experienced in Jewish and Black circles. A personal take on a topic many are discussing, her words guide us through both this moment and past ones.

          Something else to think about

          Jennifer Lopez in the movie "Selena"
          Colorism is an issue that confronts a variety of groups. For instance, within Latino communities, there's the frequent exclusion of Afro-Latinos, especially in the media.
          There's also the balancing act of being Mexican-American, and having to code-switch constantly. The 1997 biographical film "Selena" explains this point well.

          Around the office

          John Lewis, at right, then 25, is one of the marchers in confrontation with Selma, Ala., police on "Bloody Sunday," March 7, 1965.
            Following the death of Rep. John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement, CNN's John Blake argued that the age of civil rights heroes ended a while ago -- and how that may actually be a good thing.
            He writes: "It's true that Lewis belongs to the era of Freedom Rides and epic marches, but he also showed you don't need to be a traditional civil rights hero to get things done. We do him a disservice if we freeze him in the black and white footage of the 1960s. He doesn't just belong on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. He's in the streets of places like Portland, where protestors keep marching through tear gas and rubber bullets."