By Richard B. Muhammad
The Washington Post recently published a piece about the Nation of Islam mosque in Washington, D.C. It offered an interesting perspective and exposed the continued problem of White media outlets and White reporters walking through the Black experience.
It could be summed up this way: Can the children of the slaves and slave masters ever see things the same way?
The answer: Emphatically not.
While Blacks had to learn the ways and thinking of White America, it has never been incumbent on Whites to understand the Black experience and the complexity of navigating racial waters in this country. To admit that would mean admitting America has failed and continues to fail miserably when it comes to Blacks in this country and in dealing with the reality of race.
According to the State of Black America 2018 Equality Index, published in this year’s State of Black America report, when it comes to the “full equality pie,” meaning Black life is equal in all things to White life, Blacks come up about one-third short.
“Imagine if we were to summarize how well African Americans and Hispanics are doing compared to Whites in the arenas of economics, health, education, social justice and civic engagement and represent that by a pie,” said the National Urban League. The Equality Index of Black America was 72.5 percent, meaning “that rather than having a whole pie (100 percent), which would mean full equality with whites in 2018, African Americans are missing about 28 percent of the pie.”
The historical void, gap, chasm between America’s ideals and what’s really going on has existed since the beginning of this country.
No Black group or individual who has tried to change that imbalance has been fully embraced and supported by White America. Not one. Such efforts were supported to the degree that these efforts could be controlled, manipulated and managed by Whites.
Once the freedom fighter or the group met its demise, was subsumed or seduced by the White majority and its power, the individual or organization was recast and presented in a way palatable to Whites while placating Black desires for some kind of inclusion, or recognition.
The Nation of Islam has never been an accepted group and the media has never been a friend to the Nation of Islam, from reports in 1930s Detroit newspapers, to the infamous 1959 documentary, “The Hate That Hate Produced,” to ongoing attacks and false changes of anti-Semitism lobbed at Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation.
Writer Michelle Boorstein, who to her credit did reach out to the Nation for comment, discusses Muhammad Mosque No. 4, the Nation’s mosque in Washington, D.C., and its relevance today. She doesn’t quote a scholar. She doesn’t quote anti-violence activists. She doesn’t quote a longtime religious and community leader, like the Rev. Willie Wilson, or similar leaders to discuss any contribution Muslims are making to the community, and in particular, to the troubled Southeast community in Ward 8. The now-gentrified and gentrifying city sees Blacks still suffering as Whites reenter the Nation’s Capital, enjoying its economic and social rebirth.
Unfortunately, despite many photos in its archives, the Post article carries a photo of Malik Shabazz, who has never been registered in the Nation. That error should be corrected.
Post interest in the Nation’s mosque doesn’t even stem from a desire to learn what is happening among Blacks. It was an attempt to unlock the reasons why a young city councilmember refuses to disavow the Nation. Trayon White represents the 8th Ward and was caught in the crossfire of Zionist assaults on the Minister from the national and local levels since a message delivered in February.
An openly resurgent and relentless anti-Farrakhan campaign has emerged, hoping to alienate and crush anyone who dares come near Min. Farrakhan or the Nation. When the young D.C. lawmaker, who serves suffering Ward 8, refused to bow, called the Muslims family and allies in bringing relief to his hurting constituents, the hunt was on.
Part of that hunt was uncovering how could this be and questions about what the Nation is actually doing. Great questions. Not from the best motivation. Journalists should seek the truth.
And if you are concerned about the Black experience, you report on the Black experience because it is important, not as part of a national smear campaign.
Ms. Boorstein writes “the Nation’s role in Ward 8 is a shadow of what it once was.”
“Gone, Ward 8 residents and members say, is the Muslim offshoot movement’s large recognizable force of members in suits and ties, replaced with what they described as the low-profile, helpful efforts of scattered individuals,” she writes. “But despite this diminished presence, mention of the Nation of Islam can still stir powerful emotions among some black residents, especially those with memories of its heyday.”
We have seen such dismissal of the Nation and its work before. Yet we are still here. The Minister was dismissed when he started to rebuild the Nation in the late 1970s. He was dismissed during the forgotten era of “non-racial Black politicians” heralded with the 1990s elections of Virginia Governor Doug Wilder and New York mayor David Dinkins. He and we were dismissed amid euphoria over the election of President Obama and new ways to be Black–new ways that seemingly departed with the Obamas from the White House. We were dismissed in 2015, and the Justice Or Else!, 20th anniversary gathering of the Million Man March. Yet easily 800,000 to one million people showed up, despite opposition and forecasts that such mass gatherings would not happen in the age of social media and webcasting.We were certainly dismissed by the Washington Post and White media before the Million Man March, which drew over one million Black men to the National Mall on October 16, 1995.
Our blessing has been that our success does not depend on numbers, nor the traditional White media, which itself is losing readers, viewers and its reputation. Our success depends on our obedience to the one who guides us, Min. Farrakhan, his teacher, the Hon. Elijah Muhammad, Almighty God Allah and the resurrection of our people.
That’s difficult for White media to perceive and understand but it is understood among hip hop artists and cultural influencers, Christian brothers and sisters and those who struggle to uplift, defend and comfort Black people. We are not strangers among our own. Should we, could we do more? Of course. Every aware person should be trying to do more to improve the lives of others and relieve suffering.
But we are here and our work is in the streets, which is where you will find us. We thank Ms. Boorstein for her work and encourage her to keep seeking the truth. Perhaps she will eventually contribute to improved, honest, race relations and understanding.
Richard B. Muhammad is editor-in-chief of The Final Call newspaper. He can be reached through www.finalcall.com and at [email protected]. Find him on Facebook at Richard B. Muhammad and on Twitter: @RMfinalcall. His website is www.richardmuhammad.com.