On March 3, 1994, ABC-TV’s Nightline devoted its half hour to the question of deteriorating relations between blacks and Jews. As background, the program showed clips of newsreels from the civil rights era, the “halcyon days”—and years—of unity between Jews and blacks in the 1950’s and early 60’s. The narration then jumped to the 1980’s and 90’s with statements by Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan and by his spokesman Khallid Abdul Muhammad attacking Judaism as a “gutter religion” and Jews as “blood-suckers of the black community.” Unfortunately, the guests. Cornel West of Princeton University and Leon Wieseltier of the New Republic, seriously distorted the history of black/Jewish relations.
True, blacks and Jews did work together in the civil rights movement, and the emblem of that unity was forged in blood during Freedom Summer 1964 when three activists were murdered near Philadelphia, Mississippi: Chancy, Goodman, and Schwerner—a black and two Jews. But even in the 1950’s and 60’s neither all Jews nor all blacks were sympathetic to the civil rights movement. For example, while a student at Tulane University in my native New Orleans, I was one of the first to join the local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in I960. Quickly, nearly half our members were whites, mostly Southerners, and some were Jewish Southerners. But on the other side was fellow Tulanian Ken K., Jewish, who boasted that he had spied on civil rights organizations in Atlanta on behalf of the Ku Klux Klan! His rationale—so long as the Klan was fighting blacks, it would not have time for Jews. Also, when Alan Nathanson was arrested in an early CORE sit-in, some of his AEPi fraternity brothers sought to expel him from the Jewish fraternity. Ultimately, AEPi did not expel him, and more importantly, the only fraternity to which any of the white GORE members belonged was the Jewish AEPi.
It must be stressed that CORE and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNGG) were deemed extremely radical at that time, and it was not only a Jewish organization that feared contamination by them. When the New Orleans CORE began a sit-in campaign in September 1960, the leaders of the New Orleans NAACP threatened to lift the charter of the NAACP Youth chapter if it did anything to support our sit-in. The NAACP Youths defied the adults and picketed on behalf of the GORE demonstrators, and the adult NAACP group relented.
Yet, far more vociferous in its opposition to the civil rights movement in the early 1960’s was the Nation of Islam (NOI). Thus, the official newspaper of that organization, Muhammad Speaks, printed in 1962 an open and lengthy letter by Dolores Dunlap to “The Freedom Riders and Sit Ins,” admiring their courage but deploring their tactics and urging them to forsake integration. She observed: “You have better opportunities to expand in the [segregated] south than in any other part of the country.” Muhammad Speaks derided integrationists and mocked Martin Luther King, Jr. This is how the paper reported an April 1962 incident in Louisiana:
Mixed Sit In Pair Jailed. Baton Rouge . . . Two young ringleaders of the integration movement came here recently allegedly to visit a man in prison—and ended up in jail themselves on charges of criminal anarchy.
The two are Charles McDew, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a southern organization that agitates for mixing the races, and Robert Zellner, a staff member of the same organization. McDew is a so-called Negro, and Zellner is white and apparently the “brains,”
That report might almost have been reprinted from a Klan paper.
The Nation of Islam philosophy was summarized in a heading that covered a third of the front page of Muhammad Speaks in January 1962, “Blood Mixing Death to Races.” When in its very first issue in October 1961 it asked “Who Speaks for Negro?” the Black Muslim paper answered, “Certainly not Arthur Spingarn, white president of the NAACP, or Henry Steeger, white president of the Urban League; James Farmer, director of CORE, married to a white woman,” or Harry Belafonte, George Schyuler, Adam Clayton Powell, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dorothy Dandridge, Diahann Carrol, Lorraine Hansberry, or Eartha Kitt, who were all married to whites. The paper warned: “A chief trick of Communists is dangling their white women in our direction. Do us a favor and keep your women in your beds and stay out of ours, and our neighborhoods and homes.”
Clearly, the NOI opposed integration in the early 1960’s. Thus Muhammad Speaks quoted Minister Malcolm X: “The anemic Negro leadership that is willing to settle for TOKEN integration instead of complete separation [emphasis mine], is only asking for continued slavery . . . and these Uncle Tom Negroes do not represent the true sentiments or feelings of the masses of our oppressed people.” One of the Howard University students pictured in the paper as “spellbound” by Malcolm’s oratory was an unidentified Stokely Carmichael, who in 1966 would announce the close of the civil rights era with his slogan “Black Power.”
Even integrated socials in the north sparked Muslim scorn. A January 1962 cartoon depicted whites developing rockets and neutron bombs and Africans developing their newly independent nations, but in America, “The so-called Negro is also ‘busy’ developing the ‘slop,’ the ‘roach,’ the ‘twist,’ the ‘horse,’ and other such obscenities from which the white man reaps millions.” While the cartoon shows integrated couples twisting in the background, the white man running the dance says, “Say, Mary, remind me to set some of this [money] aside for my Israel bonds.” Anti-Semitism was not an uncommon feature of cartoons in Muhammad Speaks.
In August 1963, during the huge March on Washington for civil rights, Malcolm X was quite consistent when he denounced the “Farce on Washington.” Muslims had meeting places in the South in the early 60’s—Kingston, Lynchburg, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, Orangeburg, Pine Bluff, Tampa, etc.—but unlike some black churches, the Muslim centers did not nurture and house the civil rights movement. Indeed, when Malcolm X traveled South at that time, it was not to protest segregation, but to negotiate with the Ku Klux Klan on how best to thwart the civil rights movement. None of this appeared in Spike Lee’s film or in a recent PBS-TV documentary on Malcolm.
Some debate whether Minister Farrakhan described Adolf Hitler as simply “great” or as “wickedly great,” but again, the debate occurs in a vacuum. On February 25, 1962, the Nation of Islam held its annual convention in Chicago’s International Amphitheater, with 12,000 in attendance. The featured speaker, Elijah Muhammad, spoke on “The Future of the American So-Called Negroes.” Prior to his address, differing views were presented by non-Muslims. Dr. Audrey M. Mackel stressed, “I believe in the American way and the NAACP,” and he recounted various legal victories by that organization in the struggle for civil rights. Also addressing the 12,000 was Commander George Lincoln Rockwell of the American Nazi Party and Mr. Joseph Buharis of the White Circle League. Buharis complained that Rockwell should wear an armband with an American flag rather than a swastika. Otherwise, he generally agreed with Rockwell. Rockwell, wearing his swastika armband and Nazi uniform, spoke to the Muslim assembly. With such diverse preliminaries, how did the leader of the NOI react? Elijah Muhammad began, “Dr. Mackel, who just left the microphone, offers you slavery. . . . And if Dr. Mackel and his kind want us to bow and lick the boots of white people instead of going for ourselves, they are not fit even to be in the society of black men. The White Circle League is not a hypocrite. The German Nazi [he undoubtedly meant Rockwell, the American Nazi] [is] not [a] hypocrite. They are telling you and me that they stand for white people! I’m telling you that I stand for black people!” The newspaper printed some of the remarks by Dr. Mackel, a former member of the board of the NAACP, but here is how Muhammad Speaks introduced those remarks: “Dr. Mackel is another professional who seeks to destroy his people by intermixing although he makes his living from 99 percent so-called Negro patients.” Elijah Muhammad’s main attack was not against the Nazis, but against a representative of the NAACP.
One article in an early Muhammad Speaks was “Garvey Revisited,” in which the black Muslims rightly paid homage to Marcus Garvey as a predecessor to and hero of the Nation of Islam. Before the establishment of the NOI, in the I920’s Garvey led the Universal Negro Improvement Association, which became America’s largest black nationalist organization. The UNI A created Black Cross Nurses, the African Legion, and the Knights of the Nile and established the Black Star Steamship Line. Though black liberals and socialists like W.E.B. DuBois and A. Philip Randolph bitterly opposed him, Garvey found other associates—the leaders of the Ku Klux Klan. Garvey and the Kluxers met and shook hands in the 1920’s. Eventually, Garvey was deported to Britain where he supported the Conservative Party and urged it to transfer some of Britain’s African colonies to him. Garvey also admired some European leaders, like Mussolini. Indeed, Garvey reminded his followers, “We were the first fascists.”
The problem, therefore, is not a single speech by Khallid Muhammad. Nor is the problem a single individual, be he Khallid Muhammad or Minister Farrakhan. The problem is the idea. Lurking behind much of black nationalism is the idea of fascism.
This explains much of the separatism, as well as the reaching out to the KKK and to the Nazis. It explains the anti-Semitism and anticommunism. It even explains why black nationalist professors now espouse black superiority. And while all of these ideas can be expressed crudely, they can also be asserted with considerable intellectual vigor, as in Harold Cruse’s highly influential The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (1967). The crisis, according to Cruse, was that Negroes had listened to and been duped by Jews, especially Jewish communists. Substitute “German people” and “Germans” for “Negro people” and “Negroes,” and one might be reading Dr. Goebbels.
If black fascism is not new in America, then, one, why are so few Americans aware of the history of black fascism and, two, what is new about the role of black fascism today? First, there has been a conscious distortion of black history. The left, sometimes with the official sanction of government, has pretended that blacks cannot be racists. If blacks cannot be racists, they certainly cannot be fascists. So to support this ideological assertion, the history of black racist and black fascist movements must be ignored, revised, or refashioned and falsified.
Numerous universities throughout the nation currently support Black Studies departments. Why do they not discuss this history? What do they study? The staffs of those departments prefer to remain silent about links between black nationalism and fascism. Why? It is possible that some teachers in those departments are ignorant of that history. It is likely that others know but are afraid to expose that history to the public. They do not dare to criticize Malcolm or Elijah or Marcus. If they are black, they do not want to be labeled “Toms”; if they are white, they recognize that should they be called “racists,” they might be fired. So both blacks and whites cover up any history that depicts blacks as racists. And finally, some members of such departments are themselves black nationalists, if not black racists; some peddle a black racism similar to that propounded by the Nation of Islam. That such ignorance, cowardice, cover-ups, and racism have gained such prominence at universities is, at core, the fault of the liberals who control academia.
If black fascism is not new, why does it appear to be more prominent and influential today? It is more prominent. In the early 1960’s it was the civil rights movement that seemed to represent the hopes and dreams of most blacks (and many whites); the black anti-civil rights fringe was marginalized with Malcolm and the Muslims.
But is the Nation of Islam on the fringe today? One reason it has grown in importance is that black nationalists and black fascists are being subsidized by American liberals. When Khallid Muhammad spoke at a New Jersey college, he called Jews blood-suckers; gays, sissies; and the Pope, a cracker. He suggested that someone lift the Pope’s “skirt” so we might find out what is beneath. A speech reeking with hatred was sponsored under the banner of . . . tolerance and multiculturalism! Khallid had made similar speeches at other colleges. What was different in New Jersey is that someone recorded his words. And though the special issue of Time did not mention it, Der Spiegel reported that Muhammad received an honorarium of $2,650 for that speech. When Khallid addressed students at Columbia University, he referred to it as Columbia Jew-niversity in Jew York City. How much did Columbia University organizations pay for such enlightenment?
On February 24, 1994, the Nation of Islam’s Minister of Health, Abdul Alim Muhammad, addressed an audience at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. In his speech Abdul Muhammad informed the audience that AIDS was part of a white conspiracy of genocide against blacks. While some protested outside the hall, others defended the appearance of the Black Muslim minister in the name of free speech. But it was not “free”; the university paid $3,000 for that lecture. Abdul Muhammad and Khallid Muhammad and other Muslim speakers have been rewarded with thousands of dollars to promote their nationalist and fascist doctrines. Madison’s Wisconsin State Journal courageously published a perceptive cartoon depicting Minister Farrakhan, Abdul Muhammad as his Minister of Health, and a dopey University of Wisconsin student as his Minister of Finance.
A month later the student center at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee became a storm center over Khallid Muhammad’s scheduled appearance on March 23. Opposition to his views apparently prompted the university to cancel his use of an auditorium. Leaders of the campus Black Students Union and the university administration jockeyed in the dispute, which formally focused on the NOI’s requirement that all attending be frisked and that no armed university guards be permitted in the auditorium. The university canceled the contract, but the BSU demanded free speech and threatened suit, and the university “compromised.” Khallid would be allowed to use the auditorium, but university guards could be present, and metal detectors would be used rather than frisking. However, the squabble provided both the BSU and the NOI with much local publicity.
In February, Jan Weller, liberal talkshow host on Wisconsin Public Radio, had announced that he might invite anyone to be a guest on his program except an overt racist. A week before Khallid’s lecture, Weller invited BSU president Bernell Ross to be a guest. Liberal Weller raised only faint objections as Ross defended Khallid, whose lecture at UWM was sponsored by Ross’s BSU. Ross added that he thoroughly agreed with Khallid’s belief that, in South Africa, every white should be killed, including children, babies, and the disabled. But Weller did not call Ross a racist! How comforting to know that this is not racism.
A week later on another station, talkshow host Charles Sykes also had Bernell Ross as a guest. Ross reiterated many black nationalist positions, including the importance of patronizing black businesses, black stores, black professionals. I mused that at least Khallid Muhammad had been consistent; he had attended Dillard University, a historically black college in New Orleans. Why was Ross at UW-Milwaukee, which he himself had characterized and denounced as culturally white? The reason seems clear. Ross and his fellow BSU members get a better deal from “white” colleges. Because of affirmative action, “white” colleges often admit blacks where they would reject similarly unqualified whites; white colleges provide special scholarships for blacks only (they provide none for whites only) and pamper blacks with special tutoring programs, even recognizing a BSU but denying recognition to a White Students Union.
Khallid Muhammad did speak at UWM. Across the street, a free, multicultural rally for tolerance at a synagogue drew 1,000. Inside the student union building some 100 protestors, organized by Zionist leader Rabbi Avi Weiss, shouted against racism and anti-Semitism to those lining up for Khallid. The protestors’ placards wrongly equated Muhammad and David Duke, for whatever Duke’s personal beliefs, in his recent campaigns he has run on the platform of the 1960’s civil rights movement —a color-blind government and an abolition of racial preferences and set-asides and double standards. Muhammad’s appearance was a success. The auditorium overflowed, and hundreds had to be seated in other rooms to view him on closed circuit. Over 1,600 persons paid to hear Khallid’s message. He was introduced by former Milwaukee Alderman Michael McGee, who, during the Persian Gulf War, had sent a letter of solidarity to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Khallid gave his audience what they wanted to hear, opening with “I didn’t come here to pin the tail on the donkey. I came to pin the tail on the honkey.” Echoing Elijah Muhammad decades before, he asserted he was not present to teach hatred of whites, but “to teach blacks to love your black selves.” A week later, the president of the Milwaukee Jewish Council complained that the Milwaukee Sentinel‘s report of the event had “painted a false portrait of a ‘kinder, gentler’ Muhammad” and added: “Can one imagine the justifiable outcry that would greet a white supremacist speaker who announced he intended to ‘pin the tail’ on African-Americans (referring to them with a similarly disparaging term)?” Khallid Muhammad displayed his kinder, gentler side to reporters of the city’s black newspaper: “When he issued his diatribes against Jews, Dr. Khallid said he was hurt and angry because Jewish protestors were attempting to stop Black students from entering the auditorium, and even more inciteful, were chanting ‘Kill Farrakhan.'” Khallid added: “They should consider themselves lucky they just got words from me. They’re lucky we didn’t leave the auditorium and bum rush them.”
In April, Khallid Muhammad raised his rhetoric in a speech at Howard University. Sponsored by Unity Nation, which is headed by a Howard law student, the program included an address by CCNY’s black nationalist Professor Leonard Jeffries. Featured speaker Khallid Muhammad roused a number of gasps from his otherwise sympathetic audience when he declared that he “loved” Colin Ferguson, the black racist murderer who had shot and killed many whites and an Asian on a New York commuter train last December. According to Khallid, “God spoke to Colin Ferguson and said, ‘Catch the train, Colin, catch the train.'” Presumably, Cod also told Ferguson, “Shoot the whites! Shoot the Asians!” Of course, many in the Howard University audience applauded Khallid’s praise of Ferguson (as many applauded when Minister Farrakhan merely mentioned Ferguson’s name at a massive Nation of Islam rally last December).
While Howard University students were given the opportunity to hear Khallid twice in early 1994, the university denied them the chance to hear one of the foremost scholars on the subject of slavery, Yale professor David Brion Davis, who is a convert to Judaism. As Mary Cage reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education in May, “Howard officials had decided to cancel the talk because they said the atmosphere was ‘volatile.'” Rather than control or expel the disruptive elements that made the campus volatile, the Howard leadership simply canceled Davis’s lecture. It was announced soon thereafter that Howard’s president would become president of the University of Texas in Dallas.
In May, Khallid Muhammad spoke before yet another university audience, this time in Riverside, California, after which a man described as a former NOI minister attempted to assassinate him. The crowd then turned on the black would-be assassin, the Reverend James Bess, and would have lynched him had police not intervened with drawn weapons. Clearly, universities are no longer ivory towers of reason. They are battlegrounds where scholars are silenced while preachers of hate duel for students’ allegiance, both literally and figuratively.