A true story, plus
A True Story
The flight from New York to Denver was on a narrow-body plane, so first class wasn’t all that roomy. The person sitting next to me didn’t seem to mind the proximity of our seats, and leaned in – all the way. By the expression on his face, it looked like I was in for a long flight of listening.
We were similarly dressed in business casual attire. He was a light-skinned handsome black man, clean shaven with very short hair on his head. I looked like a hippy in comparison. But I guess my pleasant disposition encouraged him to prattle on and on and on.
I admit, I do not really remember what he said. I just remember laughing to myself – about an hour into his monologue – about his comment that people had suggested that he host a TV talk show. I laughed because the man never paused a moment to ask anything about me in an hour, so how could he imagine that he had any talent for interviewing people?
The conversation took a sharp turn when the food service began.
When the flight attendant brought me my kosher meal, the man looked astonished. I was not wearing a kippah on my head during the business trip so he did not entertain my being Jewish, and opted not to venture into any religious topics up until that moment. The kosher food gave him a new line of talking points.
As I began to eat, the man began to tell me how much he admired Louis Farrakhan who headed the Nation of Islam. He said that he understood that Farrakhan said some disparaging things about Jews, but overall, he did so much important work for black men that the good outweighed the bad. Black men needed real healing and to find a source of pride and power, and Farrakhan gave thousands of black men just that.
The food soured in my mouth.
I put down my fork and asked the man to my right if he really understood the things that Farrakhan said. That he didn’t simply say something non-politically correct once, but over-and-again. His anti-Semitic comments were not an aside, but a core part of his message; he empowered blacks by denigrating whites and Jews.
My fellow passenger nodded but dissented; none of what I said was revelatory. While he didn’t agree with Farrkhan’s comments as it related to denigrating Jews, in the end, he felt the message was powerful. Poor black men saw another black man showing no fear, talking in a loud unambiguous voice to the power structure. The leader of the NOI’s voice and message were effective at empowering black men.
I tried once more to make him see my side: did he understand that Farrakhan’s message was not only about pulling black people up but tearing others down? Did he not comprehend that Farrkhan was a voice of hate, not one of pride? That a movement built on a foundation of racism and antisemitism was both brittle and vile?
His smile disappeared. The voice grew cold.
He objected strongly to my classification that the NOI was built on racism and antisemitism. He raised his voice and said that there was much much more to Farrakhan’s lectures, specifically, his demand that black men hold themselves to a higher standard and be more accountable for their own actions. My objections were based on a very narrow viewpoint, and clearly I wasn’t all that concerned about poor black men when I took a few inappropriate comments that related to my religion and blew them out of proportion. Such a selfish approach revealed my own racism, that a rich Jew sitting in first class couldn’t absorb a small insult when thousands of black men were clearly benefiting from the preacher’s words.
I opened a book and looked down for the rest of my flight.
It’s been over ten years since I took that flight. Louis Farrakhan has continued to demonstrate his racism and antisemitism in vivid fashion, and many people continue to come to his defense.
Powerful black people are not only his defenders, but actively court Farrakhan in spite of (because of?) his vile antisemitism and racism. They include Democratic politicians Keith Ellison, Maxine Waters, Danny Davis, Andre Carson and Al Green. They include TV personalities like Marc Lamont Hill and university professors like Cornel West. Women’s March organizers including Linda Sarsour (non-black Muslim) and Melissa Harris-Perry.
Current CNN anchor Don Lemon (who looks very much like my flight companion of fifteen years ago) interviewed Farrakhan back in 2007 when the NOI leader defended his comments about Jews and Lemon opted to not challenge the antisemitism. With Lemon’s current podium, he has picked up Farrakhan’s tone and suggested that it was time to lock up white men.
Louis Farrakhan and Don Lemon in 2007
(photo: Ashahed M. Mohamed)
The hateful messages have worked their way into society at large. On visiting Cal Berekely in San Francisco last year, I was greeted by a black woman wearing a shirt that read “White Man Bow Down.” Nice.
The theme of black and feminist extremists no longer resembles anything liberals once recognized. The calls are not about raising living standards for those doing poorly, but attacking those whom are perceived to be in a better situation. It is not about “believing women” as much as about disbelieving men. It’s a call to tear down the “patriarchy,” the institutions and white men in power, by any means possible.
The means are irrelevant. The end result is all that matters.
It is easy for BlackLivesMatter and Palestinian-American Linda Sarsour to find common cause in this world of intersectionality. The leaders of the “moderate” Palestinian Fatah party loudly proclaim that killing Israelis is legal and rational. Any means justify a just end. Literally, anything.
From my perspective, I am both appalled and outraged. I am appalled that calls for violence are not met with calls for arrest of those who promote such actions. I am astonished that racists and antisemites are not denounced. And I am outraged that in this upside down world of alt-left extremism, that I am called the racist for pointing out the obvious.
The means do not justify the ends. The slaughter of the Jewish Fogel family in Israel by two Palestinian men was not a “natural response to the (Israeli) occupation.” The racist and antisemitic chants from Farrakhan are not “important” and celebrities should not whitewash Farrakhan’s blatant Jew-baiting with ridiculous comments that “I do not know if he is an anti-Semite.” Farrakhan’s words came out of the mouth of the man who gunned down Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue.
There are methods being deployed and defended that are beyond comprehension, let alone beyond justification. Similarly, there are people like Farrakhan who are being courted and protected who deserve neither respect nor adulation.
Disgraceful words and deeds deserve nothing more than bitter burnt ends.
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