ATLANTA -- A New York Republican congressman says Louis Farrakhan should answer before Congress for visiting enemies of the United States in Africa and the Middle East.
Go ahead. Throw ol' Bre'r Rabbit into that briar patch.
Addressing an estimated 15,000 people in his annual Saviors Day address at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion Sunday, Farrakhan rejoiced over Rep. Peter T. King's attack of the Nation of Islam leader's recent 23-nation tour that included friendly visits with Arab and African tyrants and sponsors of international terrorism.
''Bring me before the Congress and bring your best minds,'' Mr. Farrakhan crowed. ''They will never defeat what Allah has built. But threaten me. Do it. I was born for this moment.''
Perhaps he was. Mr. Farrakhan would love nothing better than to be hauled before Congress and television cameras. It would enhance his status as the greatest black victim of racist government persecution since the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover went after Martin Luther King and the Black Panther Party in the 1960s -- or, as a young agent-on-the-rise, after Marcus Garvey in the 1920s.
That's the problem with race relations today. Too many people -- black, white and otherwise -- are busy grasping for victim status (even David Duke claims it), and too few want to take personal responsibility for cleaning up the mess.
Mr. Farrakhan explained his 35-day trip as a message of atonement and reconciliation. ''Human suffering is what I'm interested in,'' he said.
If so, he should try to reconcile the human suffering inflicted by some of those he praised. Among those he patted on the back were the radical fundamentalist government of Sudan, which conducts slave raids against the black, non-Muslim southern Sudanese, selling black women and children into slavery for as little as $15 each, according to reports from the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and human-rights organizations.
Mr. Farrakhan's representatives have dismissed the charges as plots of Israel or the CIA. But the Roman Catholic archbishop of south Sudan is not Jewish or a U.S. agent. He and other south Sudanese refugees have pleaded with Mr. Farrakhan to denounce persecution of black Africans. Mr. Farrakhan turns a deaf ear.
He also rubbed shoulders with Nigeria's notorious Gen. Sani Abacha and visited a political prisoner, but said nothing about the execution of nine others. General Abacha's tyranny has brought denunciations from TransAfrica's Randall Robinson and other black American activists, but not from Mr. Farrakhan.
Mr. Farrakhan praised the Iranian government as a model religious democracy, called Iraq's Saddam Hussein a ''great asset'' and ignored a lecture from Nelson Mandela on ''building a nonracial society.''
All ears for Kadafi
But he was all ears with Libya's Muammar el Kadafi, well-known sponsor of terrorists and harborer of fugitives linked to the PanAm jetliner bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. Having granted Mr. Farrakhan a $5 million nonrefundable loan 10 years ago, he now promises a billion dollars to influence American domestic and foreign policy and enable blacks to ''have a black state in America.''
That's the irony of Mr. Farrakhan's prescriptions. While he talks a good game against white racism, he actually flatters and accommodates it. His call for blacks to separate themselves from America's socio-economic mainstream -- forsaking all that black Americans have invested in this country through centuries of blood, toil, sweat and tears -- would make the dreams of white racists come true.
Booker T. Washington offered a similar response a century ago when white America decided after the Civil War to segregate the races, rather than welcome freed blacks as fellow citizens. But W.E.B. DuBois and others who founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People would not buy it. DuBois did not want to accommodate racism. He and his NAACP colleagues chose to fight it and their crusade led to the civil-rights reforms of the 1940s, '50s and '60s.
Washington's legacy lives on. Combined with Garvey, a self-help Jamaica-born nationalist whom the federal government convicted and deported on tax-evasion charges in the '20s, and the religious trappings of the Moorish Science Temple, a popular Islamic black-community sect in the 1920s, it gave root to the Nation of Islam in 1930.
The Nation's 65-year-old history of service to black communities gives Mr. Farrakhan a credibility greatly enhanced by last fall's Million Man March. But he has squandered the good will that demonstration built by exploiting its good name on his tour of ''reconciliation and atonement.''
Reconciliation and atonement begin at home. Self-help is nothing new to black Americans. We need more of it. But we also need to fight racism relentlessly at home and abroad, every day and in every way.
Clarence Page is a syndicated columnist.