Mallory said that she now understands why her original remarks were hurtful to her colleague. “Now when I have conversations with other people and they say those things to me, I explain to them, ‘Hey this is what I’ve learned recently about this language,’” Mallory said. “It’s very similar to any person outside of the black community looking at us saying, ‘Get you some watermelon and fried chicken.’ It’s a negative stereotype that’s being reinforced, so this is the kind of unpacking we need to be doing.”
That fear of being labeled anti-Semitic, and the consequences of being a black leader associated with that term, was part of why she reacted so defensively on social media when CNN’s Jake Tapper began a tweetstorm on February 28 highlighting the anti-Semitic statements in Farrakhan’s speech, and Mallory’s attendance at the event. One tweet, in which Mallory wrote that, “If your leader does not have the same enemies as Jesus, they may not be THE leader! Study the Bible and u will find the similarities. Ostracizing, ridicule and rejection is a painful part of the process...but faith is the substance of things!” was interpreted by some of her critics as Mallory invoking the anti-Semitic canard that the Jews killed Jesus, a meaning Mallory said she did not intend.
“When you are labeled an anti-Semite, what follows can be very, very devastating for black leaders. To have someone say that about you, it almost immediately creates a feeling of defensiveness because you know the outcome,” Mallory said. “The same photos that people have pulled up on the internet that showed my relationship with the Nation of Islam have been there for years. And yet I was still able to build an intersectional movement that brought five million people together, and the work that I have done for over 20 years, and it’s very clear that I have worked across the lines with very different people.”
I asked Mallory what she would tell a Jewish activist who was disturbed by her associating with the Nation. “I would say that I hear and understand that and I hope that as I’m able to understand how they feel, I hope that they will also take the time to understand why I have partnered with the Nation of Islam and been in that space for almost 30 years,” Mallory responded.
On Tuesday, the Women’s March released a statement saying, in part, “Minister Farrakhan’s statements about Jewish, queer, and trans people are not aligned with the Women’s March Unity Principles.” In her essay for NewsOne, Mallory wrote that “as historically oppressed people, Blacks, Jews, Muslims and all people must stand together to fight racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”
Neither statement explicitly condemned Farrakhan, and Greenblatt said he was unsatisfied with the responses of either the Women’s March or Mallory. “Even if they respect certain programs his organization runs, that in no way mitigates the malicious things he saying about Jews, and the responsibility for people in leadership positions to recognize it for what it is and reject it in a clear and unambiguous manner,” Greenblatt said.