To My Black Brothers And Sisters:
I truly don’t understand how anyone in a position of social justice leadership could support or excuse Louis Farrakhan (I refuse to grant him the the honorific of Minister), and it makes me incredibly angry. I also don’t understand how people in the black community continue to support him. This, too, makes me incredibly angry.
Hold on. I’m going to stop you right there. Before you “educate” me on all Farrakhan has done for black people, let me assure you that I am aware and informed. Whatever he’s done, it does not and should not change one damn thing. He is a misogynistic, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ fountain of nonsensical hate. His anti-semitism has earned him respect by the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, and he’s entertained the idea of collaborating with them. He’s praised Donald Trump for “[standing] in front of some of the members of the Jewish community and [telling] them to their face ‘I don’t want your money.’”
Now, while I would love to treat Farrakhan’s lunacy with the flippancy it deserves, I can’t afford to. As a black Jewish woman living in 2018, your support of Farrakhan denies me that luxury. Because even in the face of all this, some black people are still out here supporting this clown. You excuse him, and now you’ve made him my problem.
The Nation of Islam is a cult. This may not be the news y’all wanna hear, but it’s true. It is a cult, possessing almost every negative connotation of the word, with an extreme theology based around a charismatic leader (Louis Farrakhan and the late Elijah Muhammad). Their theology is batshit insane, with mad scientists and a Japanese UFO that also contains… bombs? And as cults are wont to do, NOI targets vulnerable people, in this case, that includes black prison inmates who have been failed by our society. This is how cults operate. It’s how Scientology operates. In fact, the theology of NOI closely mirrors Ron L. Hubbard’s religion. Dianetics is required reading.
Ben Faulding, a black Jewish man, put it perfectly in a recent article in these pages, when he wrote, “[Louis Farrakhan] is an exploiter. He exploits the economic depression, resentment and anger of blacks to leverage his own power and status. He uses the language of liberation and the language of demagoguery in tandem. He is a poverty pimp. No civilized discourse or progress can move forward with him, or anybody who associates with him.”
It doesn’t matter what Farrakhan has done for black people. None. Of. It. Matters. The church of Scientology helps people out too! Should we condone the abuse and isolation that happens there because Scientologist philosophy sounds appealing sometimes? Cults pinpoint the anxieties and desires of their target group and they speak to that, but along the way they add crazy shit. Like… I don’t know… a mad scientist named Yakub who created “the evil race of Jews”? Complete obedience to a wrinkled old man who can’t keep it in his pants and extorts money?
Also, can we please stop saying that Farrakhan is being unfairly maligned? I’ve often heard from Farrakhan’s supporters some version of this statement, “The white media twists his words to make it look like he’s anti-Semitic, but he’s anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic.” Such a statement misunderstands Zionism, but okay, let’s put that aside for now. Below are a few of Farrakhan’s own statements about Jews and LGBTQ people. Does it really sound like his only problem is the occupation of Palestine?
“The Jews have been so bad at politics they lost half their population in the Holocaust. They thought they could trust in Hitler, and they helped him get the Third Reich on the road.” —Saviours’ Day Speech, Chicago, 2/22/98
“… Israelis had foreknowledge of the attacks… We know that many Jews received a text message not to come to work on September 11” —Saviour’s Day Speech, 2015
“Jews were responsible for all of this filth and degenerate behavior that Hollywood is putting out, turning men into women and women into men….And Farrakhan, by God’s grace, has pulled a cover off of that Satanic Jew, and I’m here to say your time is up, your world is through.” —Saviour’s Day Speech, 2/25/18
And here’s more. If you can read that and still tell me that these aren’t the words of a hateful, homophobic anti-semite, then all is lost. These statements are indefensible. Simply put, uplifting Farrakhan erases black Jews and black LGBTQ people. You’re supporting a misogynist who sets back black women. His hate literally pushes us out of our black spaces. How could I possibly sit and listen to Farrakhan speak without fear or anger? How could you?
If after reading my words and Farrakhan’s words, you continue to support him, then shame on you.
Shame on you, because for some unfathomable reason, you have chosen hate. You’ve chosen Holocaust jokes and pleas for women to cook for their husbands. You’ve chosen someone who thinks trans people are an abomination, and that gayness is a satanic Jewish invention. You’ve chosen someone who thinks Hitler was “a great man,” and considers being likened to Hitler a compliment.
The truth is that Farrakhan is irrelevant to me. What’s not irrelevant to me, though, is your silence and acceptance. This is what kills people like me. That’s what divides our community. And that’s why I’m so damn angry.
You say you’re not anti-Semitic, that you don’t think that’s what’s going on with Farrakhan. Maybe you really believe that. After all, it’s easy to see anti-Semitism when it’s dressed up in the form of a Nazi salute or Richard Spencer’s tiki torch. It’s easy to see anti-Semitism when you’re weeping at the Holocaust museum or at your favorite WWII movie.
But, I guess it’s not easy to notice anti-Semitism when the Jewish people around you are screaming their throats hoarse and bloody, trying to get you to see them — and to see what’s happening to us, Black Jews. I guess it’s not easy to understand Jewish fear, when anti-Jewish bias is the motivation for 62% of religious hate crimes. I guess it’s not easy to comfort your Jewish friends who worry for their safety in a world where a rabbi’s daughter was burned in an acid attack and a young Jewish man was murdered by a neo-Nazi in Southern California. I guess it’s not easy to see anti-semitism when it’s in the form of your problematic Women’s March faves. And I guess it’s not easy to speak out against anti-semitism when it’s coming from your friendly neighborhood cult leader.
Nylah Burton is a sexual assault survivor advocate, and a student from Howard University. Follow her on Twitter, @yumcoconutmilk.