Earl Ofari Hutchinson
“We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology.” Thus, sayeth Facebook in announcing its crack down on hate mongers on its platforms. Two top white nationalist type agitators were mentioned as “dangerous” haters. I get that. Their inflammatory race baiting and anti-Semitic rhetoric has resulted in a trail of bodies and mayhem in some corners.
But Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan I don’t get. Yes, Farrakhan has made what can be construed as anti-Semitic quips. And he did pen a widely promoted tract The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews that claim all sorts of nefarious manipulations by Jews. Farrakhan has been relentlessly denounced for this and his anti-Jewish digs by many Blacks.
But violence? There’s not one documented case where Farrakhan’s followers have gone out and attacked whites, shot up malls, campuses, synagogues or mosques, beaten senseless their opponents, or planted bombs. There’s not one documented case where anyone directly influenced by Farrakhan marched with guns and intimidated whites or Jews. Farrakhan’s lengthy discourses are 99 percent focused on the long standing Black Muslim themes that stretch back to the days of Elijah Muhammad and the early Malcolm X. That is self-help, economic development, self-sufficiency, respect of Black women, family cohesion, religious devotion and values, cultural pride, and respect for the law.
So, why then is Farrakhan on Facebook’s hate villains list? Here’s what comes immediately to mind. Facebook tossed him in with the other hate mongers to racially balance out the list. His at times racially incendiary digs have made him the softest of soft targets, and a perennial whipping boy for all those who delight in claiming that blacks can be just as racist as many whites. Who better to prove that than Farrakhan? Another reason is that Facebook casts a nervous eye over its shoulder at Trump. He’s saber rattled the networks, newspapers, and Facebook for its alleged fake news bias, tilt toward liberals, and the left, and bashing of the president, i.e. him. The last thing Facebook wants is to further antagonize Trump.
Then there’s this reason. It believes Farrakhan is the dangerous race baiter that he’s been routinely made out to be over time. The reality, though, is far different from the media bogeyman image of him.
In times past, Farrakhan’s alleged “dangerous” tag from Facebook would have drawn howls of protests from the Anti-Defamation League, a quick distancing from civil rights leaders, and cries of fowl from black athletes and entertainers. This time it drew barely a ripple of comment and silence from all other quarters. The muted response raises one question about Farrakhan. Does he still have the name, cachet, and power to move tens of thousands?
Nearly a quarter century ago, Farrakhan was the only black leader that had the message and the dynamism to draw a roughly a million plus persons to the largest black gathering ever held on America’s shores — the Million Man March. His leadership was deemed vital enough to move blacks to rally behind the fight against racism, poverty and political apathy. Farrakhan then seemed to fill a significant leadership gap. He was an unchallenged go-to-guy for black America.
With the brief exception of the sole unifying crusade black voters mounted in order to elect Barak Obama, the same political confusion, inertia, and malaise still divides and tears African-Americans apart. The hunger for a leader and organizations that can stir the masses is still just as great. More
Farrakhan was right for the times two decades ago when there was still the residual vestige of the 1960s militancy, defined in part by black leaders who could deliver rip roaring, give the white man hell speeches. Long after black militants H. Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael, and Malcolm X, was gone and the Black Panthers, SNCC, and CORE were decimated by government assaults, and self-destructed from infighting and criminal gangsterism, Farrakhan was the last galvanizing militant standing. His longevity and the hunger among blacks for strong, outspoken leadership created the perfect storm for the Million Man March, with him as titular leader. The backlash against Farrakhan’s racially polarizing and frequent anti-Semitic sentiments made him an even more alluring anti-hero to many disenfranchised blacks.
But that was then. Though Farrakhan clearly cannot move racial mountains the way he once did, he’s hardly a fringe figure within the black community. He still packs in the crowds. He was honored with a prime place on the dais at Aretha Franklin’s memorial Tribute. The family of Nipsey Hussle thought he was important enough to have his voice heard at Hussle’s memorial tribute.
Farrakhan still has the name recognition, and the many years he’s spent on the racial circuit still get tongues wagging with his occasional well-placed dig at Jews or whites. But, also so does his still compelling message of black self-help, empowerment and religious values. In the Trump era, this is still enough to make him an inviting enough target for Facebook to give him the boot.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Biden Versus Trump: Who Would Win? (Middle Passage Press/Amazon Kindle). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.