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We can both acknowledge Farrakhan’s work AND call out his bigotry

March 12, 2018
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Yeah, to say this whole Farrakhan/Women’s March situation is complicated, to say the least, as most intersectional issues are. And the recent controversy pertaining to Women’s March co-organizer Tamika Mallory’s relationship to the Nation of Islam and its, uh, problematic leader, forces us to examine why it is that time and time again prominent black political figures, activists, and organizers find themselves, for a multitude of reasons, dealing with Farrakhan as a means to improve lives in the black community.

“Most people outside the black community come into contact with the Nation of Islam this way—Farrakhan makes anti-Semitic remarks, which generate press coverage, and then demands condemnation,” writes Adam Serwer. “But many black people come into contact with the Nation of Islam as a force in impoverished black communities—not simply as a champion of the black poor or working class, but of the black underclass: black people, especially men, who have been written off or abandoned by white society.”

But when the anti-Semitism, homophobia, and sexism comes, boy does it ever. And Farrakhan’s history of demoguarery and bigotry is very long and well documented.

As Ijeoma Oluo pointed out, the potential for good that the NOI has a reputation for in pockets of black communities can cause black folks who are already overwhelmed by trauma and up against every institution in the system to stay silent about the rhetoric they don’t believe in, a misguided attempted to foster positive change, but to the detriment of accountability, marginalized factions within the black communities, and non-black communities oppressed by similar struggles.

“This is about how hard it really is to live your values – especially when your values require that you hold love and space for people who may be harming each other and when your values require that you hold love and space for people whose values are at times the antithesis of your own.”

She continued:

“And this is not something that only happens in one group. This is not something only happening in this current Farrakhan issue. Many of the people helped by the Nation of Islam are people who have been regularly sacrificed to the “greater good” of progressive movements, even as their leaders sacrifice other marginalized people to theirs. And to only see this current hypocrisy when it impacts you, after ignoring that hypocrisy when it impacted them is….well….more hypocrisy[…]”You are not fighting for black people if you are not fighting for black women, poor black people, dark-skinned black people, disabled black people, poor black people, incarcerated black people, black people addicted to drugs, queer black people, black trans people.”