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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam, and the Baltimore Riots


From Salon:
Farrakhan is back. He’s fostered relationships with a number of premier rappers, and seeing something of a power vacuum in black leadership, the controversial cleric is moving in to align a more radical approach to racism. He’s rallying black Americans to be ready for an eventual eruption in the face of police violence in communities of color.  
“You’ve got to prepare your people for what is coming down!” he screams as he recounts the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri, and what he sees as the failure of black leaders to appropriately respond–to actually change a system under which virtually every black man feels threatened. He indicts Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as inveterate civil rights activist Jesse Jackson. Black preachers are called out for being “pacifiers for the white man’s tyranny.” 
Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam was credited by protesters on the ground in Baltimore withestablishing a gang truce in the city to unify black Baltimore against the police. The NOI and its well-dressed Fruit of Islam were on the ground in Ferguson, as well, in aleadership role
“This is a new generation and they don’t want to hear your compromising talk!” he screams. What they do want to hear, though, is rap music. Rappers are listened to. Kanye West and Jay Z are listened to. Killer Mike is listened to — he even attended the 2015 White House Correspondents Dinner and was ushered about by none other than Arianna Huffington. Jeezy speaks to a different audience than Mike, even, and so on through the growing list of rappers Farrakhan has met with in recent months. 
Speaking at an Atlanta banquet for music and media figures, Farrakhan and Killer Mikeshared an emotional exchange in which Farrakhan implored Mike and other rappers to speak truth to power and to use the mic for dissent. “It’s getting to the point that it’s throw-down time,” he warns, “and you are the one to wake your people up and unite them.” 
A particularly contentious period of disagreement coincides with the twilight of President Obama’s tenure and the recent emergence of a robust national discourse about police violence against black Americans, structural racism in general, and white privilege.  
The recent high-profile beef between professors Michael Eric Dyson and Cornel West exposed a rift in the black academy. Dr. West, Tavis Smiley and others parted ways with President Obama fairly early and now criticize the first black president in no uncertain terms. Killer Mike is similarly skeptical of Obama. (Jay Z, on the other hand,  remains in support of the president.) 
A radical contingent is emerging, and it appears that Minister Farrakhan is looking to lead a youthful rebellion against what he sees as a dangerously conservative footing. 

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