The first rule for any public speaker is to know your audience. It is a shame that Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the very knowledgeable Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center who was a guest on Nick Cannon’s show, thought that his audience was Nick Cannon himself.
Cannon was not the audience. His tens of thousands of fans are the audience. And Rabbi Cooper did not think enough about how his words would be understood by them.
The conversation was convivial and concentrated on what Jews and Black people have in common. Rabbi Cooper referenced the Holocaust and Simon Wiesenthal numerous times. He had spoken to Cannon the days before and they were in many ways continuing a private conversation in public.
But that is not what was needed.
What was needed was a frank discussion, and even argument, over the specifics of what was offensive and wrong about Cannon’s previous podcast with Professor Griff. Those issues were barely alluded to and papered over in this video. But if you look at the comments from Cannon’s fans, they are essentially unanimous – Cooper didn’t prove that anything Cannon (or Farrakhan) said was wrong and therefore Cannon’s apology was simply his bowing to the white people that pay him.
The tragic thing is that Cannon seemed to want to have that conversation. An acrimonious debate on the basic topics, not softened with jokes and asides, is what was necessary – and it didn’t happen. Cooper seemed to prioritize commonality over hard truths, and his desire to be respected by Cannon caused him to be disrespected by Cannon’s audience.
It could have been done.
Why is it wrong to say that Blacks are the real Jews? Because it means that Jews aren’t the real Jews, which is offensive. Jews can trace our history back in great detail and we have been killed and expelled numerous times because we were Jews. Now someone else wants to come along and say we aren’t real? That we were mass murdered for no reason? That a group that has no tradition of Judaism is the real thing? The burden of proof is on the Blacks who say that they are the real Jews – let’s see the evidence of their history since Jerusalem fell in 70 CE.
Why is it wrong to say that the Jews control the banks? They touched on it but they didn’t attack the issue. Cannon tried, saying that to him the real problem is capitalism (with Cooper gently pointing out the Cannon has benefited greatly from it) but Cooper spent too long on talking about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and he went off on a tangent about Japan and China that again ignored the audience. The truth is that some Jews became bankers because of their oppression, but to say that there is a Jewish conspiracy to control the world is absurd and hate speech. And Cannon admitted that he believes some conspiracy theories, when the vast majority of them are ridiculous and a way to blame others for one’s own problems.
Not a word about the melanin theory, possibly the most offensive thing Cannon said. How difficult is it to say that a theory that white people are naturally violent is exactly as wrong and racist as saying that black people are naturally violent because of the levels of melanin in their skin?
Cooper could have gone into detail on Louis Farrakhan’s lies about the supposed Jewish control of the slave trade, or about his pretending to know what real Jews are, or his Synagogue of Satan themes. Cannon’s audience doesn’t care that he liked Qaddafi or Iran’s ayatollahs.
It’s wonderful that Cooper likes Motown. That is not what the audience needed to hear. Even if Black people would disagree, they would respect a Jew who says exactly why Cannon and Griff and Farrakhan are wrong, in plain language, highlighting the lies more than the insults.
It is more respectful to Nick Cannon to have an honest discussion of the actual topics than to try to be his pal. Cooper quoted the Talmud a couple of times (again without context) but he should have kept in mind the Talmudic expression that says (paraphrased) two people who study Torah together start off as enemies and do not leave until they love each other.
Rabbi Cooper might be good at his job, but he missed a big opportunity here.