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October 13, 1995 - Image 62

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-10-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Million Man Dilemma
Faces Jewish Leaders

JAMES D. BESSER WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

j ewish leaders have spent daunting problems.

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many anguished hours in
recent weeks contemplating
an effective response to next
week's Million Man March —
conceived by Nation of Islam
Minister Louis Farrakhan.
In a New York Times ad, the
Anti-Defamation League ex-
pressed support for the broad
goals of the march, but argued
that black leaders who endorse
the event are helping legitimize
the Rev. Farrakhan, and by im-
plication, his racism and anti-
Semitism.
Other Jewish groups reacted
angrily to the ADL action, argu-
ing that such statements will con-
vince black moderates that Jews
are blind to continuing racism
and rising poverty.
Both sides may be right; the
march represents a lose-lose sit-
uation for a Jewish community
that supports the message but
fears and abhors the messenger.
Although relations between
the two communities will in-
evitably be affected, it would be
a mistake to portray Rev.
Farrakhan's success in winning
support from prominent African-
American leaders as a black-Jew-
ish issue.
For this march is about a na-
tional crisis caused by an in-
creasingly perilous racial divide
that is being further widened by
today's headlong retreat from the
economic and social justice poli-
cies of the past fifty years. Jew-
ish opposition to the march is
justified by Farrakhan's anti-
Semitism. But it ignores the
deepening dilemma facing all
Americans.
Jewish leaders girding for the
march cannot begin to fathom
what motivates responsible black
ministers, politicians and civil
rights leaders — longtime allies
in the civil rights struggle — to
lend precious legitimacy to this
man and his theology of hate.
But for many African-Ameri-
cans, the appeal of the march is
not the Rev. Farrakhan's bizarre
world view, but its address of
what many see as an unprece-
dented emergency in our cities
and an accelerating effort to undo
the civil rights progress of the
past two decades.
The urban underclass is grow-
ing, with drastic government ser-
vice cuts certain to make things
worse. Welfare programs, com-
passionate in their origin, have
bred dependency, not mobility.
Drugs are destroying neighbor-
hoods; illegitimacy and a culture
of defeat ensure that future gen-
erations will face even more

The Rev. Farrakhan is almost
alone among black leaders in ad-
dressing those issues in uncom-
promising terms, without simply
pleading for timeworn, ineffec-
tive liberal social policies. He
alone is telling the black corn- '\
munity what many feel it needs
to hear — a message of cultural
rejuvenation, of responsibility to
self and community, the themes
of next week's march.
But he seeks to take the sting
out of that message by resorting
to the crudest kind bigotry — a
dazzling panalopy of scapegoat- (
ing including Jew baiting, con-
spiracy mongering, and
slamming Catholics and whites.
An impotent black leadership
has generally endorsed the
march because they recognize the
extraordinary crisis that spawned
it — and that the Rev. Farrakhan
is filling a vacuum they helped
create. There may be an element
of guilt in their support, as well
as a kind of in-your-face anger
that a white national leadership
allowed things to get this far.
The Rev. Farrakhan address-
es a great psychological wound
caused by the terrible decay of the
cities. He may not address it well;
he certainly does not address it
responsibly. But so far, he's the
only doctor in the house.
Publicly opposing the march is
out of the question for most Jew-
ish leaders, who recognize that
the time for halfway solutions to
the urban breakdown is long
past.
Supporting the event is equal-
ly impossible. The fight against
anti-Semitism has been based on
the premise that every overt ex-
pression of hatred must be pub-
licly condemned; turning a blind
eye to the Rev. Farrakhan's big-
otry because of the importance of
the message may, in fact, give
him new and grander platforms
for the dissemination of hatred.
Maintaining a grim silence
may be insufficient, as well. In to-
day's atmosphere of fear and po-
larization, silence represents
collusion with the forces that are
bringing our cities to ruin.
The ADL ad sought a middle
ground — supporting the goals
of the march, while labeling the
Rev. Farrakhan an unacceptable
leader. But the racial chasm is so
wide that this distinction may be
lost on a black community that
no longer sees fine lines in their
community's battle for survival.
The ADL is right that a suc-
cessful march will undoubtedly
increase the Rev. Farrakhan's
MIWON page 64

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