Despite Farrakhan's faults, NOI Security did job well

November 15, 1995|By GREGORY KANE

Readers of this column, prepare for a shock: I, Gregory Kane, longtime critic of Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, supported Nation of Islam Security in its efforts to reduce crime in city public housing projects.

This from the man who has referred to Farrakhan as a thug and a lunatic, you ask? Why, this Kane guy must be, at best, inconsistent, or a bit of a lunatic himself. Well, I'm loony enough to believe that poor black neighborhoods have the same right to be crime-free that rich white ones have. And, as you've probably guessed, I ain't too particular about who gets the job done.

Everyone knows by now that NOI Security has been given the boot as the agency that guards Baltimore's public housing projects. It has been replaced -- at the behest of the federal housing department -- by Wells Fargo Guard Services, which put in a bid some $1 million lower than NOI when contracts were submitted.

Critics have pilloried Mayor Kurt Schmoke's and housing commissioner Dan Henson's use of NOI Security. The Nation of Islam is anti-white and anti-Semitic. The organization is not entitled to a government contract, the argument goes, and critics follow it up with a question no doubt intended to be rhetorical: Would Schmoke and Henson use the Ku Klux Klan to guard public housing?

Although the question is rhetorical, I'll answer it, laced as it is with historical irony. Comparisons between the two groups sound logical at first: the KKK is anti-black and anti-Semitic, the Nation of Islam anti-white and anti-Semitic. Both have a history of violence -- against black people. But the Nation of Islam's black-on-black violence -- which its supporters still try to either deny or downplay -- shrink into near nonexistence against the wholesale, century-old violence of the KKK.

And let's not forget that KKK violence was designed to terrorize and intimidate blacks and to establish for whites what Alexis DeToqueville called "the tyranny of the majority." KKK violence also received some degree of support from the white majority. President Woodrow Wilson praised D. W. Griffith's 1915 film "Birth of a Nation" -- a veritable paean to the KKK. Membership in the group soared into the millions in the 1920s.

That's quite a different impact from a few Nation of Islam loonies flying off the handle and committing random acts of violence inspired by fanaticism. We cannot and should not dismiss the Nation of Islam's role in the assassination of Malcolm X, in the beating of some of his supporters or the 1973 murders of Hanafi Muslims in Washington, D.C. But to compare these acts to the scope and severity of KKK violence is absolute nonsense.

The KKK represents the ultimate failure of American government on all levels to protect poor black people. (And some middle class and rich ones, too, for that matter.) It is quite the curious irony that the Nation of Islam -- a symptom of that failure -- has been the only organization to reduce significantly crime in public housing projects. What white America couldn't do for poor blacks, the Jew-baiting, white-hating Nation of Islam could. All of us who claim we're opposed to everything the Nation of Islam stands for should be ashamed.

Because, you see, we anti-Nation of Islam folks -- we believers in brotherhood, we pundits, we wimpy, wussy, dorky columnist types -- can't really do anything to help reduce crime in housing projects. We're certainly not going unarmed down to Murphy Homes and Lexington Terrace to face down armed drug dealers -- as guards for NOI Security did on a daily basis. We're not going to help keep the places clean, as some residents said security guards for NOI Security did.

Noooooo. We have something we consider more valuable and tangible to offer public housing residents. Something more satisfying than being able to walk in their communities safely, unobstructed by drug addicts and gun-toting drug dealers. We believe in brotherhood. That, in essence, is our message to poor blacks.

"We realize we can't do anything to protect you from crime. But we believe in brotherhood."

I have a pretty good idea where the residents of Flag House Court and Murphy Homes and Lexington Terrace are going to suggest we cram our beliefs about brotherhood.

Gregory P. Kane's column appears Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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