[Editor’s note: The following article contains excerpts from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s address delivered October 24, 1987 on “The Police Slaying of Michael Taylor.” Michael Taylor was a 16-year-old Black male whom Indianapolis police shot to death while handcuffed, and then a series of things were told to the public to justify his being killed. The recent 2023 police related deaths of young Black men Keenan Anderson, 31, in Los Angeles, California and Tyre Nichols, 29, in Memphis, Tennessee again raise the question of justice. The Minister’s words delivered before hundreds of concerned citizens, the Michael Taylor Task Force and the young man’s grieving family at Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, are still appropriate and valuable today with the continued unjust taking of Black life. The Minister speaks of how an Almighty Judge will call to account all of those who perpetrate lies, deceit and murder in the name of justice. More than 35 years later, the events of today have us demanding that true justice be served. The Final Call reprints this timely message as a source of guidance and healing.]
In the Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful.
I read of this unfortunate incident in our newspaper, The Final Call, and it is one of many that are taking place in cities throughout America that you don’t hear of: Young Black men being handcuffed, and shot while they are handcuffed; and then a series of lies are told to justify murder.
When I was called, I was only too happy to come and stand with this family and stand with you and to encourage you that this is all of our struggle. When one member of our family is hurt, we feel it. And as long as we can begin to feel the pain of one another, then we are coming alive as a people, and it will not be long before justice comes.
We cannot live without justice
Dear beloved brothers and sisters, justice is a common thing. Justice is the law that distinguishes between right and wrong. Justice is fair dealing. If it were not for the fact that this world is a world of injustice, there would be no need for the prophets to tell us of a Righteous Judge that would come to judge a world that has deprived the people of justice.
We cannot live without justice. Justice is a prerequisite to life. It is one of the eternal principles that The Creator of the heavens and the earth has decreed that every creature should have the freedom to be what God created it to be. And every creature is born under a law, and that law justifies that creature and renders it equal. So Freedom, Justice and Equality are not conferred on us by the Constitution, but Freedom, Justice and Equality are conferred on us by our Creator.
Any decent human being who has a responsibility of government must see to it that the people and their right of freedom is protected. They must see that the people get justice and equal protection under the law. It is for this reason that the founding fathers of America decided to break away from England, because they felt that The Creator had endowed all of us with certain inalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and to this end, governments are formed.
But when those governments become an enemy to that life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, then the founding fathers said they would break the ties that bind them to that order, and set up a new order that will give them that which that government that they are separating from has denied them.
“What are you saying, Farrakhan?” I’m saying that it is the duty of the mayor, the police chief, the coroner, and the judicial system to render justice—it is not the place of the police department to be the sole “judge, jury and executioner.” We are sick and tired of reading that a suspected bank robber; a suspected purse snatcher; a suspected auto thief was murdered or shot, and died. Died on the way to detention; died while in detention, while in the hands of somebody who should be responsible. Our children come up dead!
But when racism pervades the minds of those in power, then a racist mind can never give freedom. A racist mind can never give justice. And a racist mentality cannot countenance equity. Therefore, racism is the enemy of the principles upon which Almighty God constructed the universe, and therefore no racist can see The Kingdom of God. Any man or woman who feels that because of the color of their skin they are better, this man or woman has the mentality of Satan.
The sick mentality that produces false pride
In the seventh chapter of Holy Qur’an, which is the book of scripture of the Muslims, God is talking about the creation of a man: “We created man, we fashioned him. And then we said to the angels, ‘Make submission to him.’ ” And one of the angels whom the Qur’an names Iblis, said, “I cannot bow down to him.”
And God asked him, “What hindered you that you would not submit even after I have commanded you?” And Iblis said, “I am better than he, for You made me of fire, and him You made of dust.” And God said, “Get out of this state, driven away and accursed, for it is not for you to behave proudly therein.”
The Bible teaches you that “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” A proud man and a proud woman cannot hear the commands of God. They only hear that which feeds the sick mentality that has produced their false pride: “I am better.” And so, when human beings begin to think they are better than others because of their color, or because of their privilege or because of their birth, or because of their money or because of their education, or because of some unique characteristic that they did not give themselves, then you have the making of a devil.
If Iblis in the Qur’an would not bow to the command of God, and if you will not obey God, then you will rebel against God. And to rebel against God is to oppose God; to become the adversary of God, and that is exactly what a devil is: The opponent and adversary of God.
What would make you an adversary of God? It is when you think yourself to be “above” what God commands.
To the family of our beloved young Brother: I want you to lift up your head, dear mother and father; sister and brother. This young son born into the world, given to you and to those who knew him—he’s a gift from God. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. We don’t know how long we will live. Jesus was a young man when he left us, so, it is not how long you live—it’s the quality of life that you live. This was a young man, full of the life that most of us, as young people, lived and acted. He was not a saint, but he was not a sinner.
“Why do you say he wasn’t a sinner?” Because he was born in sin, and shaped in the iniquity of a world that had destroyed him and his people.
Sin, according to the scripture, is transgression of the law. This young man was born into a world that was already rebelling against The Law of God. That young man didn’t shape his life; his life was shaped from the womb. He was born Black into a world that doesn’t want Black people. He was born in a society that brought his fathers into slavery. He was born into a world that said, “I’m better than you; I’m better because I’m White, and you are worse because you are Black! I am better!”
The attitude of the general White populace toward Black people is an attitude of superiority, and that attitude, when it hardens, comes into a system of belief. And then you begin to believe some things about yourself that may be half-truth, or, not truth at all.
You believe that Black people are born into the world to serve White people; to be “hewers of wood and drawers of water.” To wash your dishes and wash your clothes and cook your food, and be your dancers and your singers and your flunkies! And when you believe like that, then that belief is codified into a law.
Evidently, many of the founding fathers of this country we live in believed like that for they had slaves. And when they sat down, and said, “We the people,” they were not talking about you and me. When they said, “We the people,” they didn’t even mean “We, the common White people”—they meant, “We the privileged class of land owners and industrialists; we White people of privilege.”
The compromise was made over you and me because the South wanted us to count, even though we didn’t vote; and the North said “We don’t want them to count.” So they made a compromise, and they called us “three-fifths of a human being” for representative purposes that more Whites could come into Congress from the South.
So here is my brother, Michael Taylor, born into a world that legislated him into “sub-humanity.” So what has been built in America? What has been built in America is a sick mind that believes: “I am better, so I don’t have to obey God when He says that if I rule over His creatures, I should have to rule after His order and give justice.
And because I’m White, and I feel that I’m better, I don’t have to listen to your cry for justice. So when I kill one of you, I haven’t done anything wrong—I just killed another animal. There’s no need to have any inquest—we’ll have one as a matter of formality…”
Our Brother was murdered in cold blood! But the enemy lied to justify murder! They want the people to think that it happened the way the police who killed him said it did, even though the truth is clear! There were too many inconsistencies; too many lies, too much falsehood to cover up murder! The mayor, the police chief, the coroner: co-conspirators, hiding the truth! And Negro preachers on the payroll!
What happens when justice is denied?
Michael Taylor was just 16 years old—he deserved to live, but God, in His Infinite Wisdom, knows better than you and me, for Allah (God) says in the Holy Qur’an that He gives life and He causes death. Our young brother is gone, and nothing we say can bring him back, but dear mother and dear father: We praise God for the life that He gave us and for the time that He gave us, because some of us do more in death than we did in life.
Sometimes, mother, God may take your child, and He makes your child a symbol to bring people together. Weep no more, mother, because justice is coming! Weep no more! Justice is coming …
I’m not here to pacify, nor am I here to incite, but I’m just here to tell the truth the best way I know it. Something is wrong here. Something has been wrong here! High counts of murders in the city? Police action killings year after year? There has been too much that has gone unanswered, and it is a result of the sickness of racism that pervades America and her government.
I must say this: There’s a God on the scene today that will give you retribution. You cannot continue to snuff out the lives of the innocent and think that there is no payday for you. You gotta wake up, White folks, and understand that the old way won’t work anymore. And if you’re not going to change, then there’s something coming. If you won’t conform to God’s Law, to God’s Way, then there is something on the way that we won’t be troubled with you any more!
Agitation for justice is right; but let me tell you something about when justice is denied:
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said to us that justice is represented by the balance. Justice is the balance held by a woman who is blindfolded. Justice should never look at your color. Justice should never look at your position or posture, or who your father or mother is. Justice should have on one side of the scale the weight of facts; and on the other side, our action in accord with those facts. It is thereby we render true justice.
When you have liberty, but not justice, then there is no joy in being free because the only reason that people are joyous in liberty is that there is justice coming to them in the society. But when justice is denied, the balance of the mind is tipped.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught me that the star in the heavens is a representative of Justice. It is a bearing of witness of The Master Mind that created the heavens and the earth, and without the star, he said, men go silly or savage. When you deprive a man of justice, you see him beginning to act silly, or savage. And what is a savage? A savage is a person that has lost the knowledge of self, and begins to live the life of a beast. Why would the enemy want to make us this way?
A human being cries out for justice, and that is why you have courts. The purpose of the court system is that we may go to a court and express our grievance before an impartial jury; a jury of our peers, so that when a decision is rendered, our breast can be calm.
The mother and father of Michael Taylor would feel better tonight if they knew that justice was going to come. It would not bring their child back, but at least their breast would be calm knowing that the murderer, or murderers, and their conspirators are brought to justice. That’s nothing but right. But when no justice comes, I can look in the father’s eyes, and I see him angry. The mother is calm, but underneath is a raging sea. The children, the family—the people— have had enough.
Now, when the enemy turns us away from their court system, where shall we find justice? Do they want us to take justice? I want you to listen to me well. Record the words with the face of the man who speaks them, because I, as a Black man, am not going to continue to walk around this country seeing grieving mothers and fathers, and lying mayors and police chiefs and coroners, and say nothing! I’m saying the ball is in your court!
The responsibility of the people to ensure justice is served
And the press has a responsibility! If the press can search hard into the lives of well-known men and women, and expose them in the media to discredit them, they can find those things out because that is what their nose was after! But, the press won’t even dare to raise the necessary questions to ask how could the killing of this young man be justified?
Seek it out, press! That’s your job. But the press is afraid because the press is controlled by the same powers that control the mayor and the police chief. There is no such thing as a “free press.” If you’re free, write like a free man! Write like a free woman!
Which one of you members of clergy, government and press will be courageous enough to see that justice is done? It is only justice that will keep tranquility in the society. But every time a little “insignificant” Black boy or girl is killed in an alley, you turn your back, and the press won’t expose it. No one has the courage to speak up, because the preachers are muzzled; the politicians are shaken and afraid. Did you think God was not going to remember the iniquities, and pay you back at a time when you least expect it? If you love your city, preserve it.
If you love this country, preserve it. And the only way you can preserve it is with righteousness and justice. It is not your money that makes you great, for righteousness exalted the nation—but wickedness will carry you swiftly into the bottomless pit of hell.
Brothers, sisters: We have to clean up our act. If you want to stop this, let’s stop it! I love all of you; and I’m willing to give my life anytime for God’s sake and righteousness, and for the liberation of our people. That’s a small thing for me to do. But I want you to clean up your act and become more brotherly and sisterly to one another. And don’t wait for a crisis to come before we come together like a family. We should stay like a family, and then we will make sure that Michael Taylor will never be again because we will stop it as of tonight.
Brothers and sisters: Keep the pressure going! Keep the pressure on! Don’t let up! All of you young warriors should come forth, and stand around the men of God who are willing to stand up for justice. Don’t you let them stand alone!
Don’t ever take up a struggle without the thought of enduring until the end. Don’t start something without a will to see it through. If it’s painful to you, the Holy Qur’an says, “Remember, it’s painful to the enemy too,” so press on in the Name of God.
Jesus didn’t say that you wouldn’t get a hickey on your head. Jesus didn’t say some of us wouldn’t go to jail. Jesus didn’t say that some of us would not die. But what he did say was to those who overcame, he would give you the “Tree of Life.” To those who overcame would come “The Victory.” The race is to the ones that have the will to endure to the end.
As a community, we must embrace the mother and father of our little brother. Don’t let them grieve alone. It was because of Michael that I’m here, and I would never have met these wonderful men who are fighting for justice if it were not for Michael!
Michael Taylor brought us together! He helped us to see what we’ve got to do! Michael did it! Michael who? Michael, an angel from God, sending us a message. Though physically he’s gone, and he wasn’t conscious of what his life would be; but in death, he’s serving more than what he did in life! That’s the way it was with The Master: When they thought the end came when they said he died, the end was the beginning! So, there is no end to Michael Taylor. This is the beginning of a brand new day!
Keep on marching! Keep on pushing! Don’t stop! Keep on going! And may Allah (God) go with you, as I greet you in peace: As-Salaam Alaikum (Peace Be Unto You).