Trump and Farrakhan

A friend of mine said something to me last week which has kept me thinking. He said, “Why do you think the media lets Donald Trump say anything he wants, but has basically censored Minister Louis Farrakhan? Why do you think it’s OK for Trump to say hateful, racist, sexist things, and it’s not OK for Farrakhan?”

I didn’t know. I had honestly never thought about it.

Both Trump and Farrakhan “tell it like it is” according to their followers. Both men have a penchant for speaking to the hearts and spirits of people who are mostly ignored, groups of people who feel marginalized and forgotten, and who are angry about it.
Both men are angry, and make no bones about it.

But Trump gets a pass; the media pretty much looks the other way and refuses to call him to accountability for what he says, while Farrakhan has been vilified and marginalized.

Nothing Trump has said has made the media act like responsible journalists. Most of those who interview him seldom really challenge him and when they do, they allow him to talk over them. They cannot get a word in edgewise.

There have been exceptions. Fox anchor Megyn Kelly, who dared challenge Trump on the statements he has made about women has not backed down. Her challenge caused him to go ballistic, and to attack her in a most disturbing way. As a public figure, seeking the presidency, he had no right to say, in response to her questioning of him, that she had blood “coming out of her whatever..” ((http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/08/10/megyn_kelly_blood_coming_out_of_her_wherever_comment_in_cnn_don_lemon_interview.html) Trump is so bothered by Kelly that he now says she should not participate in an upcoming debate, saying she is biased. (http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2016/01/23/donald-trump-says-megyn-kelly-should-skip-debate-fox-says-shell-be-there/) What she seems to be is determined not to let him bully her.

George Stephanopoulos also challenged Trump (http://mediamatters.org/video/2015/12/20/george-stephanopoulos-calls-out-trump-for-makin/207619) and Trump was questioned when he said he saw Muslims dancing in the streets after 911 (http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/23/politics/donald-trump-new-jersey-cheering-september-11/)

But little stops this man and his rants. Not even his latest statement about being able to go in the middle of 5th Avenue in New York and shoot someone and still not lose supporters has garnered a full blown challenge. (http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/23/politics/donald-trump-shoot-somebody-support/) Anchors have been giggling and have been shaking their heads, but they have not been willing to really challenge him. It is troubling to watch and to listen to.

Trump has been disparaging against women, Mexicans in general and illegal Mexican immigrants in particular. He has put down John McCain as a war hero. He has proposed to ban all Muslims from this country. He talked disparagingly about fellow GOP presidential rival Carly Fiorina, saying, “look at that face!” He likened Dr. Ben Carson, also in the GOP race, to a child molester. When journalist Tavis Smiley challenged the media for not challenging Trump, Smiley got a dose of “Trumpitis” as well, as the presidential contender called Smiley a “hater and a racist” after Smiley said that Trump was a “racial and religious arsonist.”

None of what Trump has said, in person, in front of cameras or via Twitter has been enough for the media to turn away from him.

Farrakhan, on the other hand, has been soundly sanctioned by American media. The head of the Nation of Islam has been unabashed about his disgust with white supremacy and Jewish people. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Farrakhan “… is an anti-Semite who routinely accuses Jews of manipulating the U.S. government and controlling the levers of world power. Farrakhan blames Jews for the slave trade, plantation slavery, Jim Crow, sharecropping and general black oppression.” (https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/louis-farrakhan)
In 1996 in Chicago, Farrakhan said, “”And you do with me as is written, but remember that I have warned you that Allah will punish you. You are wicked deceivers of the American people. You have sucked their blood. You are not real Jews, those of you that are not real Jews. You are the synagogue of Satan, and you have wrapped your tentacles around the U.S. government, and you are deceiving and sending this nation to hell. But I warn you in the name of Allah, you would be wise to leave me alone. But if you choose to crucify me, know that Allah will crucify you.”)

Clearly, Farrakhan’s words and beliefs are anti-Semitic, and he clearly hates white supremacy, but are his words and beliefs any more or less toxic than Trump’s? Is Farrakhan’s dislike of racist white people and Jewish people any worse than Trump’s dislike of Mexicans and Muslims? Is Trump’s virtual silence on issues that affect black people in this nation any less an indication of racial hatred against black people than Farrakhan’s open dislike of Jewish and racist white people?

Aren’t both men Xenophobic? Is Xenophobia coming from a white man less toxic than Xenophobia coming from a black man?

What is up with America’s media? (another friend of mine pointed out that it is not just the white, mainstream media that ignores Farrakhan, but the black media does as well.) Is the fact that Trump is a wealthy white man, a celebrity, who brings ratings up for any media operation the reason he is basically given a free pass? Is the fact that he says what he wants and by and large gets away with it due to the fact he is running for president? Shouldn’t the fact that he is running for president hold him to a higher standard?

It is all very troubling. People have compared Trump to Hitler, and he doesn’t care, or he has said he doesn’t care. This man may very well win the presidency of this nation, and only God knows what will happen to the country should that happen. The support of Trump has shown the widening underbelly of America, an underbelly which is racist at its core. Evangelicals and fellow Conservatives have been largely silent as he has bellowed his racist and sexist rants; it’s only as he has attacked fellow candidate Ted Cruz that there has been a Conservative backlash against him.

But on letting there be free speech and giving vent to those who “speak their minds” when it comes to racism and sexism, there is a clear double standard between whites and blacks. Trump is free to say whatever and Farrakhan is not.

In the land of the free and home of the brave, what is up with that? America’s double standard for white and black people …is showing itself in living color.

A candid observation…

The President’s Moral Authority

Official photographic portrait of US President...
Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I expected a slew of criticism about President Obama’s commencement address to the graduates of  Morehouse College this weekend, but I was taken aback by Boyce Watkins‘ statement that President Obama had “no moral authority” to say some of the words he spoke.

Citing what he says is the president’s failure to enact effective policy to help black people, Boyce wrote, “Hence, this lopsided approach to racial inequality does not give Barack Obama the moral authority to come into a room full of black people and talk about what’s wrong with us. Chris Rock, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan and Harry Belafonte could make these very same statements and have credibility because they are not afraid to speak the same way to whites.” (http://www.blackbluedog.com/2013/05/news/dr-boyce-president-obama-lacks-the-moral-authority-to-give-his-lopsided-speech-at-morehouse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dr-boyce-president-obama-lacks-the-moral-authority-to-give-his-lopsided-speech-at-morehouse)

In his article, Dr. Boyce states that black people are “happy when the president berates us. We like being told that we don’t try hard enough and that the reason so many of us struggle is because we have come to embrace an inferior set of habits and cultural norms.”  Boyce cites what he calls the president’s “significant, even embarrassing lack of action to help alleviate the clearly documented, undeniable, legislatively enforced poison of racial inequality that continues to impact our society.”  He says that the president tends to be more conservative when he talks to black audiences than he is when he talks to white ones, and he is critical of that.

But as I read through the president’s address, I failed to see where he was talking in a way that was offensive to African-Americans. Yes, he spoke about the need for these African-American men not to make excuses: “I’m sure every one of you has a grandma, an uncle or a parent who’s told you at some point in life that, as an African-American, you have to work twice as hard as anyone else if you want to get by. I think President (Benjamin) Mays put it even better: “Whatever you do, strive to do it so well that no man living and no man dead, and no man yet to be born can do it any better.” I promise you, what was needed in Dr. Mays’ time, that spirit of excellence and hard work and dedication, is needed now more than ever. If you think you can get over in this economy just because you have a Morehouse degree, you are in for a rude awakening. But if you stay hungry, keep hustling, keep on your grind and get other folks to do the same – nobody can stop you.”  (http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/prepared-text-for-president-obamas-speech-at-moreh/nXwk2/)

The president cited “a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: ‘excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments to nothingness.'” What President Obama said is certainly what I heard in my house growing up; it had something to do with race, yes, but it had more to do with being an individual. Excuses, my mother would say, won’t work “out there. Nobody cares in the real world what your issues are. They just want to get things done.” She was right. She said to us all, yes, that as African-Americans, and, to me and my sisters, that as women, we would have to do better than our white sisters and brothers. It was a valuable lesson. Nobody caters to those who make excuses, she said. In fact, those who make excuses get passed by. S0, what the president said on that subject was not problematic to me.

What IS problematic, however, is that many, too many young African-Americans, both male and female, hear nothing about how important it is to forge ahead, to confront walls in front of them. Too many of them hear that the world owes them something because they are African-American, or poor, or female. Too many women still think men are supposed to do something FOR them. Too many African-Americans still want to blame the society for their ills.

Society for sure has been unfair and unkind to minorities; that is undeniable; it always has, and it still is. I think that the Congress has been largely responsible for President Obama not having been able to pass more policies that will make the playing field more even for the oppressed; it seems the Congress has been hell-bent on opposing almost everything the president has proposed.

But this message about not using this racist (and sexist and homophobic) society as an excuse is a viable and important lesson for these new graduates to hear. Just because they have a Morehouse degree does not mean they will have an easy time; Langston Hughes wrote that “life ain’t been no crystal stair.” It isn’t and it will not be. “Out there,” the ones who succeed are the ones who take the unfairness and the meanness on the chin, maybe get knocked down, but refuse to be knocked out.  The president’s message to the graduates that they have a responsibility to teach that lesson to the young kids who are coming along …is vital. The president said, “Be a good role model and set a good example for that young brother coming up. If you know someone who isn’t on point, go back and bring that brother along. The brothers who have been left behind – and who haven’t had the same opportunities we have – they need to hear from us. We’ve got to be in the barber shops with them, at church with them, spending time and energy with them, spending time and energy and presence, helping pull them up, exposing them to new opportunities and supporting their dreams. We have to teach them what it means to be a man …”  Quoting W.E.B. DuBois, he said they are called to be a “class of highly educated, socially conscious leaders in the black community.”

Yes, yes, and yes.

President Obama may not have come up with enough policies to help “the least of these,” but he probably has done as much as he can, given the political climate in Washington. The unemployment rate for black people is still too high; the rate of incarceration for black people is so disproportionately high that it is unconscionable, but he has begun to chip away at the thick walls of oppression that have for too long been characteristic of American democracy.  His charge to the Morehouse grads to take up the baton and build on what he has begun was not ill-spoken; he knows the struggles of being African-American even though, as Dr. Boyce points out, he is “half white.”  I don’t see where that matters all that much. In the eyes of the world, he is the “first African-American president.” Nobody cares about his white blood much; the color of his skin is the telling feature of who he is to the world, not the color of his mother.

That being said, he knows enough about being black in America to have the moral authority to say what he said. Even more, he has the responsibility to say what he said…and hopefully what he said will be taken to kids who never hear words of encouragement, and lessons on how not to use excuses as they live their lives. The more kids who hear it – black , white, Hispanic and any other color or ethnicity, the better equipped they will be to handle this disease called oppression which unfortunately in America is still too often connected to the color of one’s skin.

A candid observation …