The O.J. Simpson verdict awakened many to a fact pointed out by the Kerner Commission years ago. That body, organized to examine America after the riots of the '60s, said that the U.S. was becoming two unequal nations; black and white. Years later, it took a media-hyped murder trial to remind us that white and black citizens experience a separate reality in which objective responses are nearly impossible. We see, hear and speak based on our experience, and our experience and perceptions never seemed so far apart.
After this latest shock, the Million Man March, planned long before, took place in Washington D.C. Despite the near frenzy of the forces of ignorance, all shrilly instructing black Americans on who their leaders should be, the success of the March was apparent to all but the morally challenged or the intellectually impaired. Regardless of whose count was treated as fact, a magnificent turnout of people, almost entirely black men, swamped the D.C. Mall and heard, saw, and felt a message of unity and hope that would drown out the nastiness and bigotry of America's alleged leaders.
Weeks later, many politicians still purvey their message of ignorance, while still blaming the march leader, Minister Farrakhan, for creating division, as though he had invented racism, ghettos, and the painful history of a people who originally came to these shores not in hopes of creating a better life, but in the chains of slavery. The minister's candid language does not set well with those who have become accustomed to the slight of tongue that passes for communication among our opinion shapers.
His religious philosophy is called illogical, as though the people who stand before Congress everyday and extol the virtues of an invisible man are somehow the foundation of logic His Old Testament faith has the same source as those practiced by millions of citizens, but because he is a black nationalist and more angrily eloquent than any of the intellectual pygmies who are his detractors, he is feared and despised. It's as though he and his words could somehow cause more damage to our national soul than the spirit-crushing material reality of market madness.
Of course, Farrakhan subscribes to the free market foolishness that has moved America to its current position, which is both ironic and sad, though understandable. If people of privilege can succumb to the siren song of fundamentalist individualism, why not the people who have often paid for that privilege? If government has failed to raise all Americans to a level of equal opportunity, who not accept the principles that previously failed, but whose failure has been conveniently forgotten by too many whites?
The Great Depression ended the myth of a free market economy. It became necessary for government to intervene, lest the invisible hand give the finger to morality, ethics and humanity. Private motivation is wonderful, if a democratic public entity is in control and can right all the wrongs that are natural to the anarchy of free markets. But that entity has not yet been created, and so millions of citizens have become enemies of government, because it doesn't serve their interests, but instead makes them pay so that others may profit.
No group in the USA is more ripe for the call to self-reliance than the millions of neglected and rejected black Americans, locked up in our maximum security prisons, and in the minimum security projects which serve as prep schools for prisons. But even when Farrakhan buys into the economic philosophy of a Gingrich, Newt and his ilk join in the chorus of criticism. Why not? There is little difference in the morality of those critics, whether they label themselves liberal or conservative. A strong black leader is taboo. They couldn't tolerate Jesse Jackson, whose benign nature is so obvious only tortured souls and morons could miss it. How can such people respond to a Farrakhan, who wastes no words on humility, but instead tells his detractors to, in effect, drop dead, because he doesn't need them or want them?
As the primitive social contract formed by Democrats threatens to become the barbaric anti-social contract of Republicans, Americans are being torn apart by social friction. It will take something new to help us find common ground, and stop acting as isolated individuals confined to special categories of ethnic, sexual or racial interest groups. But there is one group that has not really come together until now, and for all the scorn and ridicule heaped upon Farrakhan, he is the leader who has finally begun to bring black men together.
White Americans have nothing to fear. Farrakhan will not hurt them, nor will black America. The hurt has already been inflicted and now it is time to heal our wounds. The race mongers who call Farrakhan names are themselves promoters of division. Those who insist he must apologize to them before they will speak to him are the source, not the solution to our problems.
Black men have taken a step toward a solidarity that was not found in the civil rights movement of the '60s; could women find their own connections while taking orders from men? Some of Farrakahn's words may be strong—and distorted by whites who speak and hear a different language—but his actions in bringing that march into being will ultimately serve this nation well. We have all taken a step closer to unity, but it may take us some time to see that fact. It took years to understand the Kerner Commission. Stay tuned.