By Richard B. Muhammad – Editor
A snippet of an interview the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan conducted recently has sparked intense debate and been filed under headlines decrying misogyny–“dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.”
The misdirected headlines and the Twitterverse fire were based on mischaracterization of the Minister’s words as he spoke of the need to elevate and respect women.
His words came in response to a question from interviewer Tahirah X of Hip Hop Since 1987, a Philadelphia-based website. Min. Farrakhan had been talking about the value, power and importance of Black youth and influence wielded by hip hop artists.
The Minister has also been an uncompromising figure when it comes to reaching out to artists to help resolve beefs, teaching artists of their power and duty to impact the lives of their people for the better and calling on artists to clean up their lyrics and images–in particular language and images that hypersexualize and degrade Black women.
The interview opens with the Minister answering a question from interviewer E-Money about the Million Man March. The Minister walks the host through negative images and conditions that led him to call for the 1995 march–the shift from messages in hip hop, and even Black comedy, that offered some enlightenment to gangster rap, scripts promoting a downward spiral in Black images, the feminization of Black men and Blacks “herded into social savagery” through drugs, guns, gangs and oppression. He was in Philadelphia to promote the Justice Or Else! gathering on Oct. 10, in Washington, D.C., marking the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March.
Turning the crisis in the Black community around starts with self-knowledge of which brings self-respect, self-love and self-determination, the Minister said.
“We’ve seen you with rappers but what is the specific role as the female artists, the BeyoncÃ©’s the Rihanna’s? Nikki Minaj was in the city. And for those in my age bracket, the youth, what is our specific role and what is their specific role as female artists?” asked Tahirah X.
“The woman is everything in the way of building civilization. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said where there are no decent women, there are no decent men, for the woman is the mother of civilization. When you have a woman who is ignorant, she doesn’t know, but yet she’s the first teacher of her child. She’s the first nurse of her child. Before the child learns to say God, they say, ‘momma.’ And momma is the agent of God in the rearing of the children. The question is what does she know and who is teaching her? Look at Rhianna, look at Nicki Minaj, look at BeyoncÃ©, these are some of the most beautiful well-formed women you could find. Well in the way of the enemy, and I’m not talking about Jay Z, I’m talking about the people that set styles. … Today you strip the woman of her clothes,” he said.
Once women are judged by body parts alone–with Black women always been seen as sex objects in America–the female is dehumanized. The dehumanization of Black women and stereotypes are then used to justify the destruction of Black women.
Change comes from educating managers about the value of women, the Minister explained. The focus should be on the creative genius and divine gifts of females that are equal to men and sometimes superior, not their bodies, he said.
“We don’t even realize that uncovering yourself is beauty but it’s the beauty of your form,” he continued. “Don’t degenerate your woman and make her nothing but an object of sex. She’s more than that. So I would encourage Jay Z, and I hope you will take it in the spirit that I give it, out of love for you and honor for your greatness, and honor for the love and beauty and greatness of your wife, I would love to see our women clothed demonstrating the gifts of their talent. The gifts of their form should be seen by those who are worthy.”
You might not agree with that, but that doesn’t make it “dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.”
Sex is misused in America nearly every hour of the day and does not build up respect for men and women–a natural desire is exploited for sale and profit. A wax statue of Nicki Minaj posed nearly nude on all fours in a Las Vegas museum requires security to keep men and women from striking sexually explicit positions with a wax figure. Black women depicted on reality shows with silly and shallow focuses are called insulting and unhealthy images. A reality show featuring sorority sisters was so bad Black sororities and fraternities banded together to get the show canceled. What happened to the right to disrobe and act a fool?
When wisdom is dispensed it is not mandatory that you accept it. Scripture is full of examples of those who failed to heed divine warnings. The children of Israel thought they knew better than Moses and Aaron. The only thinking they really respected was the thinking of their enemy–even to their own detriment.
Consider the indignation when the focus was put on Michele Obama’s backside and the first lady, a Black woman, was reduced to her body parts. Most Blacks were outraged.
If it was wrong for Mrs. Obama to be reduced to her body parts–and it was–it is wrong for any Black woman to be reduced to her body parts.
It harkens back to the “Hottentot Venus,” Sarah Baartman, who was paraded around Europe to show her buttocks after she was torn from her native South Africa in the 1800s.
And while the enemy loves to strip Black women down, he has no respect for Black women–look at Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas jail after an unnecessary misuse of police power. Look at 15-year-old Dajerria Becton slammed to the ground by a police officer. She was leaving a pool party in McKinney, Texas. Look at Malissa Williams in Cleveland, whose body was riddled with bullets after police fired 137 shots into a vehicle for no real reason. Look at the numbers of Black women who endure sexual harassment daily. Look at the disproportionate suspensions, incarceration, forced prostitution and the struggles of young girls trying to find themselves. They exist in the world of an enemy who only sees Black women as commodities to bring profits.
So while you may not like the Minister’s words or what you think are his words: Never call him one guilty of hating women. This man has devoted his life to the upliftment of women and teaching respect for Black women, in particular, and women in general.
If you are going to reject Minister Farrakhan’s words, make sure you actually hear his full words and in context. Never depend on the enemy, who feeds you lies, and who is a misogynist.
Lastly if Jay Z and BeyoncÃ© walked into a hotel lobby and a man started to assault his wife and the rapper ran away what would you think and what would you say? You would ridicule him as less than a man for not playing the role of protector–you wouldn’t say BeyoncÃ© is a grown woman who can protect herself. Likewise image assaults on Black women and the devaluation of women require that Black men stand up and defend Black women.
You don’t have to accept Min. Farrakhan’s guidance but you should learn about yourself, your enemy and look deeply into his words. As the Holy Qur’an warns, perhaps you love a thing while it is bad for you and hate a thing while it is good for you. Respecting and defending Black women on all levels is good for us.