The ‘Farrakhan Litmus Test’

In an essay for The Root — the excellent new African-American-oriented Web magazine published by The Washington Post and Newsweek — Marjorie Valbrun asks why black politicians are always being asked to repudiate Louis Farrakhan.

Writing on the heels of Tim Russert’s grilling of Barack Obama, she makes a strong case that the “Farrakhan litmus test” is unfair:

Valbrun has a point. A black politician who has nothing to do with Louis Farrakhan shouldn’t be forced to issue denunciations of the Nation of Islam leader at every turn simply because they both have ancestors who hailed from Africa. Indeed, to demand such a denunciation from such an individual even seems a bit racist. One of the reasons that Tim Russert’s questioning of Obama seemed a tad unfair is that the Illinois senator hasn’t had a relationship with Farrakhan.

The one problem with Valbrun’s argument is that many black leaders have, in fact, chosen to associate themselves with Farrakhan (including Obama’s pastor, who has effusively praised the Nation of Islam leader). For instance, back in 1994, the then-head of the Congressional Black Caucus, Kweisi Mfume, even announced a “covenant” with the Nation of Islam leader, before backing away from it after one Farrakhan’s deputies went on an antisemitic tirade that made his boss’s ravings seem sweet by comparison.

So here’s a covenant I’d propose: Black leaders should stop embracing Farrakhan. And whites should not pester black leaders who have nothing to do with Farrakhan to denounce him.

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The ‘Farrakhan Litmus Test’

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