NAACP's posture as troubling as 3 men's villainy

March 15, 1994|By MICHAEL OLESKER

Professor Tony Martin, following in the footsteps of Minister Louis Farrakhan and Khallid Abdul Muhammad, came to town over the weekend to blame American blacks' problems on American Jews. So what else is new?

In the parlance of all the great ministers of propaganda, such talk is known as The Big Lie. At first it was infuriating. But, when all three men come to Baltimore in the span of a few months with the same hideous message, and the leader of the NAACP sits in his office here and wishes to embrace these fellows, it becomes sad and appalling.

Martin, author of a book called "The Jewish Onslaught," which is reportedly selling pretty well in Afrocentric book stores despite charges of sweeping inaccuracies, showed up at Walbrook High School Saturday night. He was welcomed onstage by men pounding a frantic beat on African drums, and by listeners who occupied maybe half the auditorium.

And then he proceeded to rewrite a little history. He decried the "Jewish onslaught" against blacks, a Jewish "concerted effort to mobilize against black progress." Such talk is an echo of Farrakhan and Muhammad, whose version of American history dates back to a myth about Jews running the slave trade.

Cooler heads have set the record straight on that one: During slavery times, when Jews accounted for about one-half of 1 percent of the American population, a small number of them took part in the slave trade (in fact, about the same percentage as those Jews assisting in the anti-slave movement), but not nearly as many as the number of both Christians and Muslims who traded in slavery.

If those like Farrakhan and Muhammad and Martin wish to refer to such practice as "bloodsucking," they'll get no argument here. Slavery is bloodsucking, whoever is doing it. But they should spread the blame appropriately, and stick to the facts.

In their zeal to slam the Jews, they willfully distort some more recent history: In mid-20th century America, when the great civil rights movement was kicking into gear, Jews accounted for the majority of white volunteers who went south to work for racial fairness.

Also, they put their money where their philosophy was. More than half of the funds raised by civil rights organizations in that era were contributed by Jews -- even though Jews made up less than 3 percent of the American population.

Those like Martin and Farrakhan don't deny this, so much as twist it. The Jewish volunteers who risked their lives in the South? Oh, they now claim, they were there to spy on blacks. The Jewish money? Oh, they now claim, it was the Jews' attempt to "control" the civil rights movement.

Oh, please.

For those like Farrakhan and Martin, picking a fight with the Jews makes a certain mathematical sense. When casting blame for the problems facing blacks, it's easier to take on 3 percent of the population than 97 percent.

Also, to be more specific, every Jewish landlord, shop owner, lawyer, teacher or social worker -- yes, there are plenty of Jews in all those categories, and what about it? -- becomes not only a potential antagonist, but an easy personification of any black frustrations. And this is precisely what those like Farrakhan latch onto.

The only problem is a slight matter of truth. Shall we talk about the troubles of black America? In the breakdown of families and the vast numbers of school dropouts, in the drug addiction that's ravaged entire neighborhoods, in the shattering gunplay, all of which tear at the heart of black America, is there anyone seriously linking these things to the Jews?

While Tony Martin was here over the weekend, reinventing history, five prominent black ministers were raising serious questions about Louis Farrakhan's links to crime -- specifically, the assassination of Malcolm X -- and challenging him to answer "30 years . . . of whispers."

And, in the face of this, Benjamin Chavis, director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, talks of inviting Farrakhan here, of embracing him under the umbrella of various black organizations. The NAACP has been a beacon for civil rights since it was founded by blacks and Jews together. Chavis ought to keep his organization on higher ground than Farrakhan's while there's still anybody left -- Jew or non-Jew -- who can remember when the NAACP would have been embarrassed by the actions of the Farrakhan types.

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