Naming names, the Anti-Defamation League and other prominent Jews are chagrined by the failure of black Congressional and other prominent blacks to condemn the recent anti-Semitic rant of Black Muslim Minister Louis Farrakhan. In Farrakhan’s “Saviors’ Day” Address, delivered at the close of Black History Month, the Nation of Islam’s Farrakhan blasted “the Satanic Jew” and blamed Hollywood Jews for the debauchery he imagines is afflicting America.
Why the silence from mainline black and other than Jewish leaders to Farrakhan’s idiocy? One answer is that black extremism has engulfed the rank and file of our civil rights and religious leadership. That Black anti-Semitism and black racism have their roots in ongoing efforts at black political empowerment and in black separatist ideology — currents of anti-intellectualism which were once readily denounced by major civil rights organization heads such as Martin L. King, Jr., Whitney Young of the National Urban League, the Congress of Racial Equality’s (CORE) James Farmer, the March on Washington Coordinator Bayard Rustin and Roy Wilkins, the longtime leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Until his ouster from the NAACP in 1977, Wilkins’s voice was synonymous with the NAACP’s. Back then, the NAACP was a proud and unrepentant interracial civil rights organization — but that was before whites were expelled from other civil rights groups to advance blacks’ “empowerment.” The all-black ideology set in motion a separatist strain in the rights effort that propelled to the forefront pretensions of “black unity.” In truth, as long as Wilkins headed the biggest and oldest civil rights organization there never would be such a thing as “black unity” — if black unity meant capitulation to or cooperation with black extremists like Louis Farrakhan.
In fact, rejecting the “big tent” trope, the entire NAACP delegation broke ranks and walked out of the 1972 National Black Political Empowerment Convention in Gary, Indiana in protest of the assembly’s call for go-it-alone-black nationalism.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Wilkins and the NAACP held the line against black extremism, with Wilkins and the NAACP’s voice raised constantly to decry what they called a cult of “blackism.” The NAACP and black intellectual leadership mostly rejected Black Nationalism in all its guises — opposing all-black dorms and separate black studies programs on campuses. In that era, black leadership also took exception to Marcus Garvey-like entreaties for blacks to return to Africa and — short of that — to work toward establishing a separate black nation within the American nation.
The black leadership back then understood and realized that there was seldom a call for black separatism in the 1970s and 1980s that did not in its message excoriate and scapegoat Jews as”white devils.” The NAACP years ago would have none of that; and big voices such as my mentor Kenneth B. Clark, the social psychologist, weighed in to denounce bigotry of any and all stripes from whatever quarter, including Afrocentric fashionistas like Malcolm X.
Times are different today. The civil rights movement is different today — in the main because the movement has been captured by black extremists. Once Wilkins was gone, and his memory and influence dead and buried, even the NAACP, the flagship of interracial cooperation, joined forces with the Nation of Islam. When the NAACP appointed Benjamin Chavis (Muhammad) as its leader, Chavis and other black leaders, including the Congressional Black Caucus, entered a black unity inspired “sacred covenant” with Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan. Ostensibly, that covenant was then intended by NAACP and black political and religious leaders as a route to gaining “authenticity” and “relevance” with a younger, angrier, self-styled “militant” but callously ignorant black generation. Roy Wilkins and other moderates were expunged from civil rights history and castigated by young black extremists as Uncle Toms, and worse as enablers and apologists for “the white man” and for “white supremacy” over the black masses. That was always sheer racial rhetoric, but it mesmerized and changed a generation of blacks to think, speak, love, and “be” black.
Once the blackness fad took hold of the mainstream civil rights, religious and community-based organizations, the interracial character of the civil rights movement was lost. Farrakhan was the undisputed apostle of black consciousness. In February 1994, for instance, when I stood up at an NAACP members’ meeting to question the NAACP’s avowed covenant with Farrakhan, I stood alone, and I was ruled out of order.
I have been “out of order” with the black civil rights and political empowerment movement ever since.
So, I am not surprised — but still appalled — by the deafening silence of black leadership –during Black History Month — to the racist and anti-Semitic tirade of Louis Farrakhan. We have heard his pitch plenty of times before: how Jews, as whites, are devils. But unlike before, the voices of outrage and disgust from the black leadership to appeals to rank anti-Semitic bigotry have been few and rare. That’s mostly because black political and civic leadership have become caught up in what Roy Wilkins warned against: the cult of blackism. By failing to shun and disassociate themselves from the black bigot who is Farrakhan, and his ilk, today’s black leaders have ceded the moral ground and damaged the credibility of the Civil Rights Movement.
Black leaders’ silence is a flagrant acquiescence to and acceptance of racial idiocy and strident bigotry on the part of a man so many blacks — young and old — admire, and celebrate, and applaud. The nagging and huge question is this: Where are today’s Roy Wilkinses, Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.s, James Farmers, Bayard Rustins, and Kenneth Clarks? Why haven’t we heard a peep from America’s soul-spirit, the first black president, Barack Obama or from the immediate past (first and only African American) first lady? Isn’t now the time for men and women of good will, of every race, creed and color to speak up—to join forces to condemn and oppose the voices and apostles of racial idiocy and anti-Semitism?
Michael Meyers is president of the New York Civil Rights Coalition and a former assistant national director of the NAACP.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.