With hate crimes and mass shootings happening frequently in the United States, the “Red Table Talk” featuring Jada Pinkett Smith, her daughter, Willow, and her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, gathered a special group of leading voices to reveal the roots of hatred and extreme violence.
One of those voices was former Steelers offensive tackle Zach Banner, who shared how he become an ally for the Jewish community after then-Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson made a series of anti-Semitic posts on Instagram in July of 2020. Banner condemned Jackson’s actions in a video posted on Twitter that went viral.
“When a colleague messes up, you have to hold them accountable,” Banner said on the Red Table Talk. “I think everyone in their workplace should have that type of mentality, especially when we talk about these difficult subjects. I saw a tweet about anti-Semitic comments, and I had to look up what anti-Semitism was. And I think that’s important to be able to tell the difference between different hates. Different hates that we deal with as Black and Brown people. Different hates that Muslims have to deal with. Jews, I didn’t even think I can say Jew because every time we hear it, it’s in a negative connotation. It’s also important to understand not all Jews are white and fair-skinned. There’s Black Jews. And taking that time to do that minimal amount of research and speaking out and saying obviously this isn’t correct, we can’t do this.”
Honored to be a part of this powerful conversation. Watch it now!! https://t.co/VKcYlzI2s6
— Zach Banner (@ZBNFL) June 16, 2022
Banner also discussed the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 2018 that left 11 dead.
“In 2018 in Pittsburgh somebody walked in the Tree of Life synagogue and said, ‘All Jews must die’ and gunned down 10-plus people,” Banner said. “Those little Jewish boys and girls cried the same tears that I did in second grade when I read about the Klan bombing the church in Birmingham and killing those four little Black girls. You talked about empathy earlier. It’s surprising when people aren’t empathetic and how hard it is to create empathy in people, especially as an adult. But it’s also important to understand that I educated myself. Jews welcomed me in their homes for their Shabbat dinners and into their Temple.”
Pinkett Smith followed by asking Jeff Schoep, a reformed leader of the biggest neo-Nazi group for 27 years, what was it about his organization that felt Jews had to be targeted mostly.
“The belief in that type of environment is that (Jews) control all the banks, they control all the media. It’s not based in reality, but these are the old stereotypes,” Schoep said. “It’s easier to place the blame on someone else rather than take account for it, and you know what, ‘I need to work harder, I need to try more.’ It’s easier to just say, ‘It’s Black peoples’ fault, it’s Jewish peoples’ fault, it’s Hispanic peoples’ fault.’ It’s not accurate. It’s not true, but it’s easier for them.”
Banner says one of the best ways to end the cycle of hate is to “break bread” and welcome people who disagree with you naturally.
“There was a point in my life where I wouldn’t have been able to sit at the table with you,” Banner said to Schoep. “That old (Schoep) made me cringe, because I can’t see how you would want to exterminate somebody.”
After being active for just seven games and making no starts in 2021 due to complications with recovering from an ACL injury in Week 1 of the 2020 season, Banner was released by the Steelers in March and is currently a free agent. Banner tweeted on May 24 that his leg is “getting better” and that he is starting to “find happiness again.”