Courtesy of a link by Robb Allen, I came across an interesting article about a recent speech by Louis Farrakhan in New York.
When working as a prison chaplain, I had a fair amount of contact with members of the Nation of Islam (NOI), a syncretic religious movement in the USA (not regarded as Muslim by 'mainstream' Islam, although the NOI disputes this). These members were typically fairly smartly dressed, taking the trouble to shine their shoes and iron their prison-issue uniforms. Their religious services were formal and well-disciplined (although some of their members were less so at other times). Other troublesome inmates (and the prison gangs that made inmates' lives miserable) tended to leave the NOI's members alone, individually and collectively, as it had a well-deserved reputation for looking after its own.
The NOI's current leader, Louis Farrakhan, has acquired a reputation as a demagogue in certain circles. He's known for some rather strange theology, alleged anti-semitism, and other negative issues. I've always looked on him with caution, as a potential danger to peace and good order. Nevertheless, I have to admit that he and the NOI have shown genuine moral courage and leadership in tackling head-on the problems of crime and societal breakdown in the US black community. He reiterated his stance in a speech a couple of weeks ago.
“They are building prisons, and who are they for? Not for the white man,” he told an almost entirely black crowd at the Van Dyke Houses in Brownsville, Brooklyn. “Nobody cares about you. You are the product of your former slave masters. You are not as bad as you are acting.”
“You ain’t manufacturing no guns, but you got some,” the minister said in a sermonic speech dubbed, “Stop the Killing.”
“Your people are being herded into a life-style — that is going to jail.”
. . .
Farrakhan’s message that blacks must look at themselves to stanch urban violence echoed that of NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who irritated some leaders and elected officials in the black community this summer when he called on black voices to speak out forcefully gun violence.
. . .
Farrakhan’s sense of outrage over the consistent violence within the black community was palpable, and he said he was not done with his preaching.
“I’m on my way to Queens, because there are some killings going on over there,” he said.
There's more at the link.
His comments remind me strongly of Bill Cosby's famous 'Pound Cake speech' to the NAACP in 2004 (during which the entertainer also recognized the good work of the Nation of Islam). Here are some excerpts from that speech.
That speech had a dramatic impact on the Black community, although some of it troubled observers. As the Atlantic said in 2008:
After what has come to be known as “the Pound Cake speech”—it has its own Wikipedia entry—Cosby came under attack from various quarters of the black establishment. The playwright August Wilson commented, “A billionaire attacking poor people for being poor. Bill Cosby is a clown. What do you expect?” One of the gala’s hosts, Ted Shaw, the director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, called his comments “a harsh attack on poor black people in particular.” Dubbing Cosby an “Afristocrat in Winter,” the Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson came out with a book, Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?, that took issue with Cosby’s bleak assessment of black progress and belittled his transformation from vanilla humorist to social critic and moral arbiter. “While Cosby took full advantage of the civil rights struggle,” argued Dyson, “he resolutely denied it a seat at his artistic table.”
But Cosby’s rhetoric played well in black barbershops, churches, and backyard barbecues, where a unique brand of conservatism still runs strong. Outsiders may have heard haranguing in Cosby’s language and tone. But much of black America heard instead the possibility of changing their communities without having to wait on the consciences and attention spans of policy makers who might not have their interests at heart. Shortly after Cosby took his Pound Cake message on the road, I wrote an article denouncing him as an elitist. When my father, a former Black Panther, read it, he upbraided me for attacking what he saw as a message of black empowerment. Cosby’s argument has resonated with the black mainstream for just that reason.
There's more at the link. I highly recommend the whole article. It's worth reading.
Despite our religious differences, I wish Mr. Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam every success in their efforts to curb violence and crime in the Black community in the USA. I wish more Black religious communities, of any and every denomination, would follow their example! Nothing else seems to be working . . .