Black people knew what Jamie Foxx meant by ‘they.’ Perhaps others should understand, too.

OPINION: The superstar was forced to apologize for an Instagram post that unfairly drew accusations of antisemitism — reinforcing racial double standards in who gets the benefit of the doubt. 

Actor Jamie Foxx wearing a white top and sunglasses
Jamie Foxx smiles during an NBA basketball game between the Washington Wizards and Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 27, 2021, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Over the weekend, a simple Instagram post became an unfortunate series of events that was driven by woeful ignorance, unfair hostility and racial double standards.

Last Friday, powerhouse entertainer Jamie Foxx made an Instagram post that ran with the hashtags of “fake friends” and “fake love” and read: “They killed this dude name Jesus… What do you think they’ll do to you?”

When I first saw this post, it was a no-brainer where Foxx was coming from. It was not too long ago that he was finally released from the hospital after being admitted with an undisclosed illness in April. In July, he made it known publicly that the trauma he experienced took him “to hell and back.” I can’t even imagine the hell he went through as he heard of those close to him spreading rumors of his condition to the tabloids. It was clear to the public that many of those “sources close to Foxx” who peddled those lies were betraying him.

So when Foxx said that “they killed this dude name Jesus,” the “they” were backstabbers who present themselves as friends. For those who grew up in the Black church, it was not uncommon to be reminded that those of us who were often shocked that we were betrayed to remember the person we worship experienced such hurt as well. It serves as a humbling reminder that the Lord who Christians serve went through it so that we know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

This sentiment is carried out in Foxx’s followup question “What do you think they’ll do to you?”

Again, he’s begging the question that if you think that you’re above being betrayed, consider the backstabbing that Jesus faced — and reflect accordingly.

Foxx has always been a man who sheds light on his faith and motivation on his social media. Simply scroll through his timeline, and you will see various posts of inspiration and gems of wisdom he shares with his followers. A veteran in the industry who has never been in any major scandals and has always been an overall positive guy, Foxx has built a brand that’s been universally beloved by people from all walks of life.

But a small contingency of Jewish bloggers and social media folks decided to interpret Foxx’s Instagram post as antisemitic without going to the source and/or considering any other cultural context.

A Wider Frame, an online blog that focuses on issues affecting the Jewish community, negatively framed Foxx’s post as a “horrifically antisemitic message to his 16.7 million followers.” Critics interpreted Foxx’s use of “they” as perpetuating a harmful stereotype against Jewish people.

“The myth that Jews collectively murdered Jesus, also referred to as ‘deicide,’ has been used to justify violence against Jews for centuries,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a report on antisemitic myths. “Historians as well as Christian leaders have agreed that the claim is baseless.”

But why would Foxx — who has no storied history of pushing harmful slurs or insults of any marginalized community — choose to jeopardize his career with a random post attacking Jewish people?

The answer is simple: He wasn’t. People simply decided to attack a Black man without considering that there are other ways to interpret and comprehend language.

For starters, “they killed Jesus” has been a longtime Black colloquialism to remind us as a people to be mindful of those around us who don’t mean us well. The “they” are haters, fake friends, and evil people – not Jewish people. For people to be quick to assume the worst in those who haven’t shown us such ill will in the past says a lot.

The fake friends and “they” quickly showed up in how actress Jennifer Aniston was quick to throw Foxx under the bus after blogs noted that she initially liked the post.

“This really makes me sick. I did not ‘like’ this post on purpose or by accident,” Aniston said on an Instagram story post sharing blog posts accusing Foxx of antisemitism. “And, more importantly, I want to be clear to my friends and anyone hurt by this showing up on their feeds — I do NOT support any form of antisemitism. And I truly don’t tolerate HATE of any kind. Period.”

What makes Aniston’s reaction problematic is that it wouldn’t have been hard for her to contact Foxx and just stay out of it. There were others who also liked the post, but her need to fuel the inaccurate narrative did nothing for either of them. As a result, Black Twitter dragged her for showing up as an online “Karen” that sought to put Foxx’s reputation in the trash.

Aniston could have simply awaited Foxx’s class-act response and amplified that rather than just keep the misinformation going. In an apology posted on Instagram, Foxx said: “I now know my choice of words have caused offense and I’m sorry. That was never my intent.” He clarified that he was “betrayed by a fake friend and that’s what I meant with ‘they’ not anything more.”

See? It’s that simple, folks.

What’s very maddening about this entire situation is how we’re reminded yet again of the double standards that impact Black people compared to others in similar situations. In less than 48 hours, Foxx had to make a public apology because white people don’t understand Black colloquialisms. In a world where the likes of white filmmaker Mel Gibson and controversial comedian Roxanne Barr can make deliberate antisemitic remarks while still having careers speaks volumes.

When Kanye West lost major endorsements for making antisemitic remarks, I remember seeing several people on social media ask the Black community to speak out as if we were a monolith. I have yet to see white people being asked as a collective to respond to the far-right, neo-Nazi behavior that’s run rampant in recent years. It’s insulting that at every turn, Black people are quick to be prejudged as being harmful to other communities without reconsideration.

The fact that people would be quick to frame Jamie Foxx as being antisemitic without the benefit of the doubt reminds us that our sayings are still under attack because they can’t seem to consider that culture impacts context.

And for clarity (since common sense isn’t common), “our” is Black people and “they” is the rest of y’all who can’t stop being obtuse.


Ernest Owens is the Editor at Large of Philadelphia magazine and CEO of Ernest Media Empire, LLC. The award-winning journalist has written for The New York Times, NBC News, USA Today and several other major publications. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and ernestowens.com.

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