[Editor’s note: The following edited excerpts are from a message delivered by Minister Louis Farrakhan on Nov. 1, 1998 at a “Get Out the Vote: A Message to the Grassroots” rally at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago. Religious leaders, politicians and community activists attended the ecumenical event. To order this message in its entirety, visit store.finalcall.com or call 1-866-602-1230, ext. 200. This article was originally published under the headline “Minister Louis Farrakhan delivers a Message to the Grassroots.”]
I came here tonight to talk about the electoral process and the Black vote. In the book of Revelation, it reads, “And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and it is the time of the dead, that they should be judged,” or given justice. The nations were angry. All the nations of the earth today are angry. And the Book says, “and thy wrath is come.” If you can look at what is happening globally and then focus in on what is happening in America, it is obvious that the God of nature is angry.
Now, dear brother and sister politicians, our people are angry and they are hurting. You and I may meet in this beautiful place and go home to a beautiful home or a decent meal, but our people feel a sense of hopelessness and despair. On BET television the other day, host Tavis Smiley said they called a number of persons asking them about getting out the vote. He said 70 percent of the Blacks that he called said they are not voting because it doesn’t seem to change anything. You call it apathy.
Mrs. Hillary Clinton came here yesterday and stood with our brother, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, at Operation PUSH and she said we must vote because our future depends on it. I’m sorry, but my future doesn’t depend on a vote. My future does not depend on a benevolent White person in the White House or in the mayor’s mansion or in the governor’s mansion. We must get past looking to a benevolent Caucasian to save us. They have not saved us and they will not save us, because they cannot save themselves.
I would love for us to go to the polls. Vote for those persons that you feel have done and will do as good as they can for us. But I want all of the politicians and political hopefuls to realize that politicians have never delivered the people of God.
David was a prophet and a king. He was political, but his spiritual side overpowered his political side, so his politics were governed by his relationship to God. If you are just going to be solely a politician, then you can only go so far, because the political system is a system of White supremacy. If the system is a system of White supremacy and you don’t change the system, then you must try to fit in the system and extract from the system what you can for yourself and your people. But you must know by the reality of the system that there is only so much you can extract out of that system for yourself and your people, because no matter what power you have, you are still powerless.
Wasn’t it Frederick Douglass who said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand?” Power isn’t going to concede anything with a demand if the demand is not backed by power. You are not dealing with a moral system; therefore, you cannot appeal to the morality and the heart of mercy in a system that is merciless. I don’t have any illusion about telling you to vote. You should vote for those whom you feel will do good for us, but remember, the good that they do is limited by the system that they are in.
So the question becomes, how do we empower our politicians to make them stronger and better in their desire to serve their people? All of our politicians are good. But the system will make you like itself, unless there is a pool of Siloam (Bible) that you can take a bath in. When we, the Muslims, enter the electoral process, we are not entering this to be like what we see. I would be a hypocrite if I told you we are going to get out the vote and it is going to be business as usual. Our people are angry and they will hurt those of us in leadership who deceive them and play games with their true aspiration for real liberation.
According to the polls, the 1996 presidential election was the lowest turnout for a presidential election since 1924. It dropped by approximately six to eight million votes from 1992 to 1996. America is going all over the world selling them on democracy, and the hallmark of democracy is that we have the right to elect and select those who would lead us. But now, we in America, the American electorate, are dropping out of the most important part of being in a democracy—the voting process.
Now how can we change this? I want to talk to the pastors who are supposed to be the freest people because we have congregations that support us. Nobody in the state should feel that they have us in their hip pocket. You are God’s man and God is universal. You may be the pastor of Cosmopolitan, St. Sabina, Fernwood or Mosque Maryam. These are small congregations, but you are speaking for a big God. When you are speaking for a big God, how could you just be concerned with your little congregation that you would sell out to get a little crumb here and a little crumb there? You are God’s people, and when you speak for God, you don’t speak just for your congregation, you speak for the suffering masses. Whether they are in your church or not, they are your congregation if you truly represent the God of heaven.
I just can’t speak for Muslims. It is not Muslims who are aching alone. Our people are aching and they need us to be a strong advocate for their suffering. You have to stay free in order to keep them strong and clean. But if you (pastors) get bought out, how are they going to stay straight and the men and the women of God have been corrupted? We are the watchmen on the wall. You (political leaders) are, too. You watch with a political eye, we watch from a spiritual eye, but we are supposed to be the watchmen for the people that vote for us.
The sad thing is the people vote, but they don’t give you politicians the money to run your campaigns. So here comes big business seeking to buy you off. They say, “how are you, judge, alderman, congressman, reverend? What can I do for you today, reverend?” You must be strong enough to say, “you can’t do anything for me.” You’ve got to be like Jesus, when Satan took him up on the mountain and showed him all that Satan had. Satan said, if you would just bow down to me, I will give you all of this.
We have to be careful about who we bow down to. When you (pastors) get in your congregation and talk about a powerful Jesus who sits at the right hand of the Father with all power in His hand, but then you go with your hat in your hand to the governor, mayor or president begging for some crumbs, then you have sold your God cheap and you make the White man downtown disrespect all of us.
All of us need something and God knows that the mayor can help us all in some small way. The governor can help us, the president can help us, but at what price? God is God. And if you say God is able and He has power over all things, then why don’t we trust Him? All I’m saying is we have to be better leaders as ministers of God. I’m speaking of myself and you and us. I’m not trying to hurt anybody’s feelings. We have to help our politicians.
At the Million Man March, we said we wanted to create a third political force, taking Republicans, Democrats, whatever persuasion you may be. We have got to form a force for the year 2000, so that we can leverage our demand with power to extract from the governing bodies what is in the best interest, not for a few of us, but for the broad mass of our people.
I know that we benefited from Rev. Jackson’s presidential campaign in 1984. That man was so inspired of God that he electrified the whole world of people of color, because we saw our brother stand toe-to-toe with the best of them and he came out on top. But when our brother went to the convention with this anti-Semitic label hanging on him, they put him in a weakened position, so that he couldn’t put pressure on the party. So what we got were crumbs from the master’s table.
He ran again four years later and did much better. He registered more people for the Democratic Party than anybody had ever done, and what did we get out of it? We got Ron Brown, Governor Wilder, Mayor Dinkins, new congress persons, sheriffs, state legislators, but that’s a few positions at the top.
What did the masses get? What about the old lady that stood in the rain to vote, what did she get? The joy of seeing a Black face as mayor of New York, but a mayor that was more concerned with what was happening in the Jewish community than what was happening in the community that sent him the power? But then we lost our mayor in New York by 60,000 votes. We lost a mayor in Los Angeles. We lost our mayor here in Chicago, Mayor Harold Washington.
But I have got to give Mayor Washington credit. Some of you want a vote and you know that God has blessed me with the people, but you won’t even ring my doorbell. You can’t even sit down and have a cup of coffee with me and say, Brother Farrakhan, could you help me? You want my help, but you don’t want White folks to know that you want my help. But not Mayor Washington. Harold Washington knocked on my door. Harold Washington came in my dining room and sat down and broke bread with me. And Farrakhan had never voted. He said, “Brother Farrakhan, I need your help.” I said, “Congressman, you have my help.” He stayed with me for 40 minutes, had a little breakfast and left. But he left a mark on my heart. And while everybody was condemning me, they kept putting the microphone in Mayor Harold Washington’s face, and the mayor never once condemned Louis Farrakhan, not one time.
We are going to form a political wing that monitors everybody that we send to any official position. Since you come from us, your service should be to those from whom you come. The way you vote should be important to us.
Every 90 days we must call a town meeting. You have got to come back from Congress, you have got to come down from the judges’ chambers, you have got to come in from the state senate, and you have got to sit down with your constituents and tell us why you voted this way and how you want us to help you to do your job better. Tell us how much money you need, so that big business people that want to give you money to control your vote and tell you how to vote, you can tell them you are not interested in their money.
The Million Man March was not a Muslim thing. It was Muslims, Christians, Nationalists, Hebrews and others working together. That’s what made it happen. It was a family working together. And so, my dear family, when you leave here, go tell our brothers and sisters that it’s a new day, it’s a revolution. Tell them that we want to create, not only a political revolution, but a spiritual revolution in America. I pledge to our political brothers and sisters our support, our love and our desire to help you be as strong as you want to be and to put power behind your demand. Nobody is going to take the Black vote for granted again. May God bless you that are running for re-election; may He bless you to be re-elected. May He bless you once re-elected to fight for justice for those who are deprived. Take no mean price for justice, because every time we fail to do justice, we set up judgment on ourselves and on others. …
Thank you for listening and may God bless you as I greet you in peace, As-Salaam Alaikum.