In the past few days, an implicit endorsement of the Minister Louis Farrakhan has caused a minor dustup on the left.
Tamika Mallory, one of the co-chairs of the Women’s March and a prominent activist, is under fire for her support of Farrakhan. In response to the criticism she, and other people I really respect like Shaun King, have been less than transparent and forthcoming about explaining why it is ok that Mallory is taking Instagram selfies with the Minister.
Let’s put this into some context here. Mallory, Carmen Perez (another Women’s March co-chair), King and other activists are doing extremely important, necessary, committed work to make the world a better place. They do this day in and day out, often working through the death threats they receive from right-wing Nazis and trolls. They should be lauded for this.
Furthermore, they’re right to be upset that members of the media focus their attention on Farrakhan, rather than the conditions that created him. Someone like Louis Farrakhan is able to exist, in part, because of the history of how people of color have been treated in this country: brought over via slave trade, lynched, had the whole American system set against them. People of color are, by-and-large, still treated this way today. But is there daily outrage on CNN about this? No, but when Farrakhan says something moronic, they’re quick to bring the cameras. To many people of color, this feels like a set up, especially when they see the Nation of Islam in their communities performing acts of charity.
And it would be disingenuous to not say that there is an element of that in there as well, considering how the media portrays black people. But in this particular case, the scrutiny is justified, on the same day Mallory, King and others are giving non-answers about her Farrakhan alliance, Farrakhan himself is tweeting that Jews wanted Jesus boiled to death in hot shit.
Ok, so let’s forget about the anti-Semitism for a second, after all many religions preach bigotry and hate. Beyond the religious nonsense he preaches, why is it not ok to be cool with Farrakhan?
Because he was (at least) passively complicit in the murder of Malcolm X. When X broke from Elijah Muhammed and the Nation of Islam, Farrakhan has admitted that he helped create a violent climate that led to X being shot by members of the Nation of Islam. Muhammed’s reaction to the assassination was essentially “he deserved it” and the family, including Betty Shabazz, believed that Farrakhan was behind the plot.
Furthermore, the Nation of Islam is adamantly anti-vaccine. I understand that some of the sentiment comes from the decades of horrific medical experiments that the U.S government has performed on people of color, but that does not justify practices that facilitate allowing children to potentially contract measles, hepatitis or other preventable diseases.
Mallory and others would do well to acknowledge these facts about Farrakhan and let him go. We would all do so much better as a society if we could see the bigger picture and attack the systemic issues that allow Farrakhan to keep power.