Saviour’s Day address delivers few workable solutions to pressing problems
Saviour’s Day 2017, from what I could see, wasn’t that much different in message or tone from the last Savior’s Day event I attended in Detroit when Kwame Kilpatrick was still the mayor. Nor was the message much different from many of the other times I have heard Minister Louis Farrakhan speak. The message, at its core, has always been one of the necessity for black self-sufficiency in the face of white oppression and the dangerous delusions of white supremacy. The fact that we now have a President of the United States who is an acknowledged and beloved favorite of white supremacists everywhere does indeed make Farrakhan’s message seem more urgent, and some might even say that Trump’s presidency lends credence to the view that Farrakhan is somewhat of a prophet, at least in the I-Told-You-So mode.
But that doesn’t change the fact that we have been here before. Depending on one’s views of Farrakhan, consistency of message can either be the mark of divine seer or the flaw in a message – and messenger – that has refused to evolve.
I’ve been listening to Minister Louis Farrakhan for at least 35 years now, ever since the first time I heard him speak during my senior year in college. I was on a semester-long Urban Studies program in Chicago, and one of my teachers was a man named Lu Palmer. At the time, Palmer was one of the most well-known black activists in the city, a well-respected – and also very controversial – journalist who was known to speak his mind frequently about what he viewed as the injustices of a white majority society intent on the steady, unwavering oppression of black people. The founder of CBUC (Chicago Black United Communities, “We Shall See in ’83!”), Palmer had a considerable amount to do with the election of Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor.
So it wasn’t surprising when Palmer made the decision to take the black students to see Minister Farrakhan, knowing it would shake us up. Some of us one way, others another. I was one of the ones who was completely and totally enthralled with the man. I thought he was a brilliant speaker, and although I thought the program went on for far too long (over five hours, which I came to find out was customary), I felt his message of black self-sufficiency and empowerment made a lot of sense. His fearlessness in calling out the inherent racism in America was hugely appealing to me, and reminded me of my hero Malcolm X. Sure, he said some things which made me cringe, and other spiritual-related things that I couldn’t make sense of, but I let myself overlook it.
“You’re living in the breakup of America and the white man’s world.”
As the years passed, I would see Farrakhan again in Los Angeles at the Forum, in Miami, and several times here in Detroit at different locales. I also attended the original Million Man March in Washington D.C., as well as the event 10 years later, and then the most recent 20-year commemorative March together with my son in 2015. When white colleagues and friends would ask me in amazed curiosity why I thought black folks continued to revere Farrakhan (although many do not) and to come hear his message in such large numbers year after year, my answer was that, in my opinion, Farrakhan was viewed as one of the few – if not the only – black leader many black people felt they could trust because white people weren’t pulling his strings. Plus, face it, a lot of us love to hear how Farrakhan will tell us about ourselves.
“They [white people] have torn away from us our identity, and we love it. …So you and I are white people in black skin.”
Farrakhan’s money did not – and does not – come from white people or institutions. He was not elected by white people. Which means his power base does not come from white people, which means he is free to say exactly what he thinks without [much] fear of repercussion from White America. To many of us in Black America, the vast majority of whom have never been –and will never be – familiar with that amount of freedom which we equate as the sole privilege of what it means to be white, this is a very appealing quality.
“Your rise is their fall. That’s why they work hard to keep you where you are.”
Farrakhan’s mesmerizing ability as a speaker and his willingness to openly chastise and call into question the white power structure, as well as those African Americans whom he views as complicit in their own white-sponsored oppression, remains enough of a drawing card even today to bring out sizable crowds, especially considering how long he has been at this.
But in listening to his lengthy Sunday speech, I once again got that feeling that I’ve had for awhile that the Minister is too many times off message – or stuck on a message from years past that he must know by now will never come to pass, such as the supposed ‘solution’ of black people separating themselves into a separate nation. And what is this about white people being created 6,000 years ago, and the angels who supposedly were upset about this and questioned what God was up to when He did this? I’m sorry, but this gets hard to take. Where is this in the bible? Or the Holy Quran?
I also had problems with Farrakhan’s analysis of Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton, chastising Hillary supporters for not seeing that Hillary and Trump are one and the same, saying that all black people get is “more deceit from Hillary and more straight talk from Trump.”
Straight talk from Trump? Really?
“Most of you are so hurt because Queen Hillary lost, and some of you have cussed me out because I didn’t vote for her. …See, Hillary lovers, you were so hurt when Miss Clinton lost because you felt her rise to the presidency, breaking that glass ceiling, would mean something good for you. Hillary don’t have nothing for you.”
You don’t have to be a Hillary lover to see that there is, indeed, a huge difference between her and Trump. I think Trump’s first month in office should be all the evidence anyone would ever need to make that case. For anyone to suggest that Hillary Clinton would have governed in the same way as Trump – or that she posed the same level of danger not just to America but to the entire world – is delusional. Would she have been black peoples’ deliverance from the valley of oppression? Hell no. But she would not have overseen the wholesale dismantling and destruction of America either. We can debate forever how evil America has been to black people, but we still live here, which means if America goes up in smoke then so do we.
Which makes me wonder why Farrakhan would ever say such a thing. Sure, it gets adoring applause from the crowds and followers, the comical way he imitates a poor-forlorn Hillary supporter as being too distraught to function because Trump doesn’t like dark-skinned people of any sort. Farrakhan is a master speaker and manipulator of emotions, he is brilliant, and he knows black people better than they know themselves, knowing what buttons pushed will solicit which desired response.
He also knows that most will never go back and take a second look, or take the time to listen to that speech again, with no adoring crowd, so they can listen more intently to what is said and not said, and how it is said.
Don’t be like most. Take another listen…
Italicized quotes are from Minister Louis Farrakhan’s Saviour’s Day 2017 speech in Detroit