Farrakhan's true colors

January 27, 1994|By Lisa Respers

I WONDER if Nation of Islam spokesman Khalid Abdul Muhammad has seen the movie "Schindler's List" or visited the National Holocaust Museum in Washington.

My guess would be that even if he had, it would not change his racist beliefs. Recently, during a speech at New Jersey's Kean College, Mr. Muhammad blamed European Jews for the Holocaust because "they went in there to Germany, the way they do everywhere they go, and they supplanted, they usurped. . ." His speech reportedly elicited applause and cheers from the audience of faculty and students.

Mr. Muhammad and others who share his sentiments should be made to sit through the three-hour ordeal of "Schindler's List" or marched through the Holocaust Museum, a memorial and a testament to human suffering -- physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. I left the museum overwhelmed.

That is why the current defamation of Jews by so-called black "leaders" is so disheartening. It seems to signal a growing acceptability of anti-Semitism within the African-American community.

Mr. Muhammad's views are consistent with the earlier anti-Semitic rhetoric of Minister Louis Farrakhan. Mr. Farrakhan became notorious during the 1980s for his Jew-bashing harangues. He skillfully cultivated discontent among blacks by providing a convenient scapegoat in the figure of the Jew. The Jew, in his twisted cosmogony, was the Manichean worm that brought evil into the world.

Jews have long been the targets of hatred, religious intolerance and violent pogroms. In their book "Anti-Semitism: A Modern Perspective," authors Caroline Arnold and Herma Silverstein note that medieval manuscripts depict the Jew as a devil complete with horns and tail. Hitler's plan to eradicate European Jewry owed much to a 400-year legacy of vitriolic German anti-Semitism going back to Martin Luther. Germans had been well schooled to turn their heads when millions perished in the camps.

In the 1990s, African-Americans are facing their worst economic crisis since the era of slavery. The stereotype of the Jew as behind-the-scenes manipulator and cynical profiteer of black misery holds a certain attraction for the alienated and the disenfranchised.

Mainstream leaders of the black community have often seemed reluctant to condemn the purveyors of hatred. Many blacks, feeling they are subject to a double standard, resist washing dirty linen in public.

Yet the unequivocal rejection of anti-Semitic ideology this week by Jesse Jackson, Black Caucus chairman Rep. Kweisi Mfume and NAACP Executive Director Benjamin Chavis is a hopeful sign that mainstream black leaders are beginning to recognize the grave danger their silence poses to the moral integrity of the post-civil rights movement.

During the civil rights era, a common experience of bigotry and discrimination bound African Americans and Jews in common cause against all forms of racism. Blacks and Jews recognized that bigotry against one minority threatened them all.

Racism against both groups has left a legacy of pain that is still very much with us. Both peoples have suffered unspeakable horrors and prejudice.

As a black woman, I am pained to realize that very little seems to have been learned from the civil rights struggle. Blacks destroy their own credibility by indulging in hateful bigotry. Mr. Farrakhan has not aided his cause by refusing to distance himself from Mr. Muhammad's speech. His tortured rationalization of his aide's remarks and his insistence that Jews "don't want Farrakhan to do what he's doing; they're plotting as we speak," only serve to reinforce his image as a spokesman for the lunatic fringe.

Empowerment can never be achieved through the defamation of others. Hatred is ugly in whatever color it comes.

Lisa Respers is an editorial assistant in the Carroll County bureau of The Evening Sun.

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