Why No One Wins the Oppression Olympics

By Lily Wolfson ’21

(Photo Credit: Charles Del Vecchio/Washington Post/Getty Images)

In July, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson posted quotations to his social media that were falsely attributed to Adolf Hitler. The quotations read: “because the white Jews [know] the Negroes are the real children of Israel and to keep [America’s] secret the Jews will blackmail America. [They] will extort America, their plan for world domination won’t work if the Negroes know who they are.”


Jackson received immediate backlash from Jews and non-Jews alike. Social media feeds that were filled with Black Lives Matter posts were suddenly dominated by posts condemning anti-Semitism. The swift diversion from focusing on anti-Black racism to anti-Semitism seemed counterproductive: true activism does not place one form of bigotry above another when it’s trending. I noticed that many self-proclaimed activists who began posting about anti-Semitism had not posted anything in support of Black Lives Matter; at the same rate, many people who posted about anti-Black racism were silent when anti-Semitism entered the conversation. This is nonsensical, as activism should not be selective. 


After a few days of feeds inundated with posts about anti-Semitism and denouncing DeSean Jackson, attitudes shifted. I saw posts comparing America to Nazi Germany, comparing the Holocaust to anti-Black racism in America, comparing statues of high-ranking Nazis to statues of Robert E. Lee. President Donald Trump has been continually compared to Hitler, especially on social media. Regardless of whether or not you consider them valid, all of these comparisons perpetuate an oppression olympics that helps no one. 


Now more than ever, the Holocaust has been used as a point of reference or political tool. For example, there is a post circulating Instagram that reads, “UN warns 18.4 million Yemenis to starve to death by the end of the year, 3x the death toll of Jews killed in the Holocaust.” The Holocaust should not be used as a point of reference, and this post trivializes the six million Jews who perished. It is ludicrous to compare the Holocaust to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen; the crisis warrants a sense of urgency without such comparisons. The crisis in Yemen and the Holocaust are also very different; one is a humanitarian crisis, and the other a systematic genocide. Comparing the two obscures history and creates the erroneous illusion that the two events are similar. 


Pitting Jews against non-Jewish Black people and other oppressed groups has become a pervasive trend. When one uses slavery or the Holocaust as political tools, neither affected group is validated. Oppression olympics is a wild goose chase: when groups who have been oppressed cannot come together to fight bigotry, progress is hindered, and bigotry thrives.