A Very Different March

It's all about the Black fist. Wielded by a million men. In Washington, Today.

Minister Louis Farrankhan, head of the Nation of Islam, has called for fellow African-Americans to join him in our nation's capital in order to protest the policies of the United States government. A promotional pamphlet promises, "The whole world will be watching to see if this march will produce civil unrest and strife. The world of investors will be watching to see if it is safe to invest in the economy of America. We say to the world you will be witnessing the power of Allah's (God's) Own Hand on the children of ex-slaves whose mind is on freedom, justice and equality for all of our people."

Nervous? Louis Farrakhan wants you to fear the notably all-male demonstrators. You Harvard students who decided the fate of the Black man in America. You who determine policies for the poor; who can salvage affirmative action. You who can save America from Black wrath. Farrakhan is leading his troops to the battlefront--and their message is nothing less than a political ultimatum. Blacks, increasingly on the losing side in Washington debates, are fearful of the elimination of the American welfare state which they prize so greatly.

Farrakhan's so-called million man march is about power, or lack thereof, in Black America. As marcher and Professor Cornel West '74 said two Wednesdays ago in a speech at the Kennedy School, "America is drifting in a cold-hearted direction and there has to be a demonstration that says we aren't going to stand for it."

Preceding West's speech were the cautionary words of the Nation of Islam's New York Minister, Conrad Muhammed. Speaking to cheers from a crowd of 350, over 65 percent of whom were Black, he said. "You don't have to worry America, because if Louis Farrakhan can call one million black men to D.C., he has already gained notoriety in America."

That Farrakhan's power is well-established within his community we should not doubt. But should we refrain from worrying about this concentration of authority in so evil an organization as the Nation of Islam?

With Farrakhan in charge of the African-American agenda, there will be no more King-like integration efforts, no more mushy sentiments like Black and White kids holding hands. Farrakhan & Co, are separatist radicals who believe that there is no justice in America, except for that disbursed by O.J.'s acquittal. Conrad Muhammed declared to the Los Angeles Times, referring to the infamous verdict, "It's a justice system that for a change has worked. The jury believed that that racist character (Fuhrman) laid that evidence." Yet after boxer Mike Tyson was convicted of rape some years ago, Muhammed told The Bergen Record that the guilty verdict was invalid because "Indiana is the home of the Ku Klux Klan."

The word of a mostly Black jury, then, is acceptable, though that of a white one is not. Such a deduction is far from revelatory--the Nation of Islam has been Black separatist for years. But even worse for our nation's future than such segregationist tendencies are the invectives that roll off the tongues of Nation ministers. Muhammed told students at Emory University in 1991 that "AIDS and cancer are white plots against the Black people." Indeed, Farrakhan and troops seem to be drawing the line for a race war.

The frightening fact of note is that Farrakhan commands the respect of a great deal of African-Americans of our generation. In an Op-ed piece in last Saturday's New York Times, Professor West once again defended his participation in the march by telling us. "Young blacks are hungry for vision, analysis and action; (even) radical democrats must go to them and be with them."

Maybe Farrakhan is letting us know what it means to be an African-American today. Given the support shown him, that reality must be quits unpleasant.

Joshua A. Kaufman's columns appears on alternate Mondays.