This whole ordeal with Kyrie is a convergence of things.
Kyrie Irving is one of, if not the, most skilled basketball players ever (though personally, I give that designation to Kobe). He is a black man searching for answers; trying to excavate a history he can be proud of and wants to teach others to do the same. He’s a young man who seems to have gone deep into the internet rabbit hole and doesn’t have the media or historical literacy skills to get out. He grew up in a social media world where we are provided infinite versions of reality; on platforms that allow users to remain in tight-knit ideological bubbles.
When cornered about his controversial views, Kyrie tends to offer word salads that provide him with an exit. He can be both slippery and contradictory. In front of news media, he implied that he both has influence and doesn’t have influence maybe within a couple sentences of each other. When he said that he can’t be anti-Semitic because he knows where he comes from, most black folk watching were not confused about what he was implying — though I imagine that if you called him out on it, he would retort that he never “said” what a rational person would presume that he implied.
Yet (and this may be nonsensical to some), I honestly do not think he means harm to anyone. I don’t think Kyrie’s heart is in a bad place. But I’ve noticed an uptick of black athletes, entertainers, etc. adopting a Black Hebrew Israelite idea that black people are the real Jews. And I’m on the fence about whether or not they even think about the anti-Semitic implications of that view — the reason being (I surmise) is that they are blinded by its serviceability.
In the quest to dispel centuries of anti-blackness, some in the black community preach the idea that you are better because you’re black. I understand it, even empathize with its intent, but it’s dangerous. Kyrie’s promotion of that documentary (let’s not split hairs here, he promoted it. Evading that fact is a bit cowardly) reflects ways in which Jewish people have become tools (in this case, casualties) in the dialogues and diatribes of black political identity formation.
Some readers might not know this, but a lot of black folks grow up thinking Jewish people are just Other White People. I know I did. Many of us aren’t around…