Farrakhan and the Black Community: A Hostage Situation

The ‘Millions More March’ came to the National Mall in Washington DC over the weekend, and according to estimates by various organizations, the millions predicted to show, didn’t. In fact, the event should have been billed as the ‘little over a half a million’ more march. The movement, whose goal it is to promote unity, spiritual values, education, economic development and political power amongst Black peoples and organizations, might be better described as a protest led by the Nation of Islam and its enigmatic leader Louis Farrakhan. In many ways, the Millions More Movement has been hijacked by Farrakhan and as a result of their overwhelming presence, this organization tends to focus its energy more toward rallying anger over complaints of Black discrimination and less emphasis is put on uplifting messages that provide positive solutions.

During his 75 minutes at the podium, Minister Farrakhan’s performance included a segment he has become particularly well known for – the promotion of conspiracy theory as fact. This time, the soapbox he stood upon focused on Hurricane Katrina and it’s vengeance on the Black community. He dished out plenty of red meat to the hungry crowd.

Railing against the delayed relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan said Saturday that the federal government should be charged with “criminal neglect of the people of New Orleans.”

“For five days, the government did not act. Lives were lost,” Farrakhan said at the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March. “We charge America with criminal neglect.”

Although he didn’t mention it explicitly during his speech, Farrakhan has been pushing the notion that levees surrounding New Orleans were intentionally blown up by the US government so as to direct flood waters toward communities housing large percentages of Blacks. They did this, he says, to save profitable neighborhoods, like the French Quarter, and businesses owned by Whites.

“I heard from a very reliable source who saw a 25 foot deep crater under the levee breach,” Farrakhan explained. “It may have been blown up to destroy the black part of town and keep the white part dry.” 

Followers of Farrakhan grasped upon this wild idea and have peppered their dialog with the accusations since September. Influential Black leaders have picked up on this theme as well, and many Blacks have accepted this idea and believe it to be the truth.

Jesse Jackson, the president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, urged people to channel their frustration about Katrina toward change in their communities. He also told the crowd that “a barge in the canal hit the levee and the waters came rushing in,” but he did not elaborate on whether he believed this may have been deliberate.

This kind of message is irresponsible. It overshadows demonstrations like this, and limits any positive outcome hoped for by organizers. More importantly, solutions to core problems experienced by the Black community take a back seat. Wacko conspiracy theories make national headlines, and no forward movement can take place. So long as Farrakhan and his disciples occupy Black territory, the hopes and dreams of ending discrimination against Blacks become less attainable, and their shackles remain locked.

If Black leaders really want to improve the quality of life for Blacks in this nation, they must end this hostage situation and wrestle control of the message away from Louis Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam.

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