I’ve never liked Nick Cannon. I used to watch his show on MTV, “Wild ‘N Out” because some of the other cast members were pretty funny. I just never thought he was all that talented, as a comedian, an actor or as a rapper. I didn’t actively dislike him, I just thought he was completely insignificant. He has a bright smile, and he’s charming, so if he can draw an audience for a podcast, whatever.
The only times he’s ever shown up on my radar, or in my social media feeds, has been when he’s attempted to engage Eminem in some sort of beef. Which happened every few years, due to the fact that Eminem dated Cannon’s ex-wife, Mariah Carey, years ago and that relationship being mentioned in some of Em’s music. But Cannon trying to battle Eminem, would be like me playing Kevin Durant one on one, or Donald Trump trying to lead a country through a pandemic.
Then this morning, I read that Cannon had been fired ViacomCBS had fired Cannon due to some anti-Semitic comments made on his podcast. Had he been fired for literally any other reason, I doubt that I’d have any reaction other than “oh, he still had a podcast?” But since I was raised Jewish, and even though I was a horrible Jew before becoming an atheist, I still feel that I put the ‘ish’ in Jewish. Meaning, despite my religious beliefs, I identify as a Jew because of my ancestry. Just as I left New York, but never left the Mets, I left the tribe, but I never left my heritage. Both are significant pieces of the foundation for who I am today.
So the Jew in me continues to react to anti-Semitism as a Jew. And my gut tells me that ViacomCBS did the wrong thing here. Between social media, traditional media, I know there’s more than enough hate content out there. And normally, I fully support it when a bigot loses an outlet for spreading their ignorance at best and hate at worst. That doesn’t mean though, that every situation should be handled the same.
Cannon’s Facebook page is followed by 4.3 million people, his Twitter account has 4.7 million followers and his Instagram page has 4.8 million. Now, I’m sure there’s a lot of overlap between the three. But I feel comfortable saying that he has a solid 4.5 million followers on social media. Why do I care? Because when I consider someone who has an audience of that size, coupled with his recent remarks, I see opportunity. A real opportunity to possibly make an impact.
Rather than firing Cannon because he “failed to acknowledge or apologize for perpetuating anti-Semitism”, ViacomCBS is missing out on an opportunity to further the dialogue. The NFL has nearly an identical situation, with Philadelphia Eagles’ receiver DeSean Jackson. Just over a week ago, Jackson posted to Instagram a fake quote, that’s attributed to Adolf Trump, I mean, Hitler. (Sorry, I get the two confused now) The content of that post, like Cannon’s comments on his podcast, centered around the thought that Jewish people aren’t the children of Israel, and that African’s are and they both supported conspiracy theories around Jews controlling America and blah blah blah.
The Eagles, owned by Jeffrey Lurie, a Jewish man who made his fortune working in Hollywood, could have cut ties with him. The NFL could have fined and suspended him. But you know what, they didn’t, and Jackson recently accepted an invitation from a Holocaust survivor to visit Auschwitz, once COVID-19 is no longer a barrier. Also, in the wake of Jackson’s controversy, the brilliant Jemele Hill wrote a piece for The Atlantic. Where she openly discusses her own, regretful, public comments about Hitler and that “stereotypical and hurtful tropes about Jews are widely accepted in the African-American community.”
Maybe Nick Cannon will accept an invitation to visit a Concentration Camp, or the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. And maybe ViacomCBS offered him the opportunity to have Jewish guests on his podcast, and really discuss his beliefs. If they did, then I’m wrong, and I have no issue with him being fired. But if they didn’t, then firing Nick Cannon means that, potentially, a few million people missed out a deeply important and much needed conversation.
Oh, and I should have absolutely said something sooner in this post, but I’m not letting Jews off the hook here. While this is primarily about the specific Nick Cannon situation, I’ve been around more than enough Jews who have made negative, to even flat out racist, comments about black people. Most of the time, I’m proud to say, I called them on it. But not every time, and that’s unacceptable. I can promise to do better today, and even that isn’t enough. I’m also willing, and would actually love, to have these sort of conversations with the black people that I know and can call my friends, or anyone else who would be interested in conversing with me.