LOUIS FARRAKHAN,THE MILLION MAN MARCH & NAACP By Julian Bond (1995) (This is a classic and historical debate between Bond and Farrakhan echoes a similar debate between Garvey and Dubois. See my commentary at end). What was the Million Man March? By the accounts of those who attended, it was a wonderful occasion. As many as a million Black men assembled peacefully on the Washington mall and pledged a renewed commitment to self, family, and community in a day of atonement for past sins. Those I’ve talked to describe it as “miraculous” and “powerful”. Many say that it was “the most” significant gathering of their lives. But I believe it was also something else, a disturbing event whose other purpose was clear to its sponsors from the first call. It was intended to be-and it became-the occasion of the symbolic inauguration of Minister Louis Farrakhan as President of Black America. It was intended to be- and it became- his elevation as the premier leader and spokesperson for Black Americans, the designer of their politics, the guiding force in their lives. Why these two purposes? And why, if the first was so grand and noble, is the second so disturbing? How could something so great be dangerous as well? What do both mean for the NAACP? The second purpose was clear from the start and became clearer as the day of the march approached. The original posters featured a large portrait of Minister Farrakhan, inviting Marchers to follow him. Four days before the march, his chief of staff and son in law, Leonard Muhammad, argued that all who attended were doing so to support Minister Farrakhan and the march would confirm his position as “leader of black people”. The marchers, he said, “are coming because they support the Honorable Louis Farrakhan and that’s a fact. I assure you, if they didn’t support Louis Farrakhan, they wouldn’t be in Washington”(1). The march’s national fund raiser said of Farrakhan, “there’s got to be someone to lead us, and he’s the one person we have who can pull this together (2). To critics of Farrakhan, the march’s executive director, Dr Benjamin Chavis said, “this is an attempt to separate the message from the messenger and it is not going to work” (3) Dr Chavis presence was reason enough for the NAACP to steer clear of the March. He looted the NAACP’s treasury to buy off a victim of his alleged sexual harassment and his wild spending left the organization near bankruptcy. Insistence that the Marchers endorsed Farrakhan is disturbing because of what he is and has been. He is notoriously and unapologetically anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, anti-white, misogynist and anti-gay. And he has long espoused a philosophy that runs counter to time-honored NAACP beliefs and principles and to democratic ideas. The political scientist Adolph Reed Writes: He weds a radical, oppositional style to a program that proposes private and individual responses to social problems; he endorses moral repressiveness; he asserts racial essentialism; he affirms male authority; and he lauds bootstrap capitalism…he has little truck for cultivation of democratic debate among Afro-Americans, and he is quick to castigate black critics with the threatening language of racial treason. To Farrakhan, the most pressing problems confronting the poor and working-class Afro-American populations are not poverty and dispossession themselves but their putative behavioral and attitudinal byproducts: drugs, crime, social pathology. In an August  interview in Emerge he declared that to improve black America’s condition it is necessary first to ‘recognize that we are sick’. in his march 13, 1990 Donahue appearance he maintained that blacks suffer from a dependent, welfare mentality inculcated in slavery; there and elsewhere (in a march 1, 1990 Washington Post interview, for example) he has implicitly trivialized the propriety of the thirteenth amendment, alleging that at emancipation the infantilized blacks ‘didn’t have the mentality of a free people to go and do for ourselves’. Farrakhan’s views of politics and government also share significant features with Reaganite right. The flip side of his self-help notion is rejection of government responsibility for the welfare of the citizenry. Like Reagan, he assumes the classic demagogic tack of an anti-political politics, presenting himself and his subalterns as redeemers coming from outside the political realm and untainted by its corruptions. Their mission is to bring moral order” (4). The themes that Reed shows Farrakhan discussing in 1990 are the themes he pursues today. The politics of the Reaganite right, of course, are on the ascendancy today, carried forward by the Gingrich revolution. Farrakhan is a Black Pat Buchanan or David Duke. His vision of black Americans as pathologically unsuited for citicizenship has its parallels in the most racist diatribes of white supremacists. His prescriptions for curing this condition are precisely those Gingrich and his comrades promote-elimination of safety net programs and a withdrawal of government’s protections against discrimination and poverty. While condemning whites, he echoes the growing vision among white Americans that racism has ended and black peoples problems are entirely of their own making (5). That is a vision the NAACP has never shared and does not share now. Nor has the NAACP ever shared his deionization of others -of Jews, of whites , of Homosexuals, of others religions. The NAACP has never believed it can build black people up by tearing others down. The NAACP can never make common cause with demagogue, no matter how attractive part of his message may be or how much support that message garners in black America. A 59% majority of blacks post -march-fewer than a year earlier-think Farrakhan “speaks the truth” and provides “a good role model for black youth”. But that support is qualified. When asked to compare the Nation of Islam with the NAACP, the NAACP was favored by 74% to 31% (6). An October, 1995 poll shows only 40% of blacks have a “favorable” view of Farrakhan; 31% view him unfavorably” (7). Still, the numbers gathered in Washington on October 16 threw down a challenge to the NAACP. The largely middle class assembly pledged to return home and to begin to rebuild and assist them and should provide an organizational structure that will enable them to carry out those goals. The march organizers intend to challenge the NAACP in this role. Marchers who came to Washington on MMM-sanctioned trips had to register and pay a fee. Organizers Chavis, Farrakhan have their names and addresses and their money and have announced plans for an African-American leadership summit later this fall, a gathering whose purposes are to carry out the supposed “mandate” of the March. This gathering will reflect in part, like the march, an ancient effort among a sector of nationalist thought: attacking and destabilizing established black leadership by tying it to whites or Jews or others “outside” Black communities and by charging the NAACP is not “representative of” or “relevant” to” the needs of African-Americans. How should the NAACP respond? Should the NAACP respond? Should the NAACP make common cause with one man who tried to destroy the organization and another whose public statements denigrate our white and Jewish members, who believes our majority female membership should serve only in a supportive, not a leadership role, and whose philosophy stands opposite to the vision of a pluralist America the NAACP has pursued for nearly 90 years? I believe the NAACP cannot But the NAACP can open its arms to and recruit the Million Men who returned to their communities determined to make a difference-solicit them to join the NAACP and other groups in fighting discrimination, improving the education of our children, strengthening and creating black entrepreneurs, winning jobs for our people that provide support for strong families, building political power, as effective NAACP branches do across America every day. This has been our program since 1909, and we ought to aggressively invite and welcome all who share it. It is an approach nine of every ten black Americans endorse too (8). To continue and expand that support, the NAACP must ensure that branches and state and regional conferences are open to all who wish to participate, and that their activities are pertinent, timely, determined, aggressive and well publicized. Many NAACP Branches across America do all these things now, but if the MMM had a message, it is that the NAACP and all others must do more-with more vigor and militancy, more consistently and often! These are especially trying times for African-Americans. One of every three young African-American males, on any given day, is in prison or jail, on probation or parole. In addition to the assault on Affirmative action and pending destruction of the social safety net, the Republican congress is gutting environmental, health and work-place safety regulations. The gap between rich and poor in America is wider now than at any time since 1969, and while salaries for top CEOs are at their highest level, wages for working women and men experienced their lowest increase in forty years. American families work longer hours at lower pay for fewer benefits and declining standards of living. For generations, black Americans have looked to the NAACP to help them address these and similar dilemmas. Poll results show that most will continue to do so, but these times demand that the NAACP’s voice be heard louder and clearer. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote: “There is an epidemic of grief and a shortage of hope among black Americans. But those afflictions will not be healed by marching in the foot-steps of s flame-thrower who has always wanted to be a big shot and is now getting his wish” (9). (end) (Julian Bond is an NAACP board Member.) Commentary below Footnotes*** 1. “March called Endorsement of Farrakhan” By Hamil Harris & John Harris, THE WASHINGTON POST , Oct 13, 1995 2. Ibid 3. Ibid 4. “False Prophet 1& 2, The Rise of Louis Farrakhan” By Adolph Reed, The Nation, January 21 &28, 1991 5Washington Post Poll Oct 8, 1995 6. See Yankelovich Survey, Time Magazine, February, 1994 October, 1995 7. See U.S. News & World Report, October 7, 1995 8. See U.S. News & World Report, in which 90% of Black Americans survey support the NAACP, October 7, 1995 9. “Harmony or Discord” By Bob Herbert, The New York Times, October 16, 1995 Commentary: One of Farrakhan’s goals was to get Blackmen to Atone and not to abandon their families so that they wouldn’t have to be dependent on welfare. Farrakhan wants the Blackman to be responsible not the government to his own family. Farrakhan considers Julian Bond a slave and traitor to his race in like manner Garvey considered Dubois. Bond is married to a white woman. The NAACP isn’t just for Black people despite its trademark name. recall what Bond said: “whose philosophy stands opposite to the vision of a pluralist America the NAACP has pursued for nearly 90 years?”. Bond states Farrakhan is anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic. No he just wants blacks to be independent of those groups. He does tease the Pope’s dress and makes mockery of gays but has appeared with the gay gospel singer Bobby Jones for musical shows. But to say he is anti-Catholic and anti Jew on par with Hitler or David Duke is crossing the line. He has never done a criminal or civil offense against them and those groups create him as a boogeyman to launch fund raising drives for their organization. Farrakhan wants to be a man and stand on his own two feet and Bond wants to be a Slave.