THE NATIONAL Association for the Advancement of Colored People has done a grave disservice to African Americans by pretending Louis Farrakhan is not a hater and a bigot.
In firing an aide last week for making "mean-spirited" anti-Semitic remarks -- but at the same time defending the "truth" of those remarks -- Mr. Farrakhan stayed true to his usual tactics of paranoid rhetoric and double talk.
This is the Louis Farrakhan who frightens white America, the quintessential demagogue who operates by the old adage that "two wrongs don't make a right -- but it damn sure makes it even."
What they wanted was the Louis Farrakhan with whom they had entered into a tentative alliance against crime and drugs last year at the Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Weekend.
That Mr. Farrakhan seemed to be trying to polish his tarnished image when he preached religious tolerance from the pulpit of Baltimore's Bethel A.M.E. Church last year and played the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in Chicago as a conciliatory gesture toward American Jews.
"We have become a totally divided, fragmented family claiming one God, but we are all at each other's throats," Mr. Farrakhan told the Bethel congregation last year. "Muslims, Christians and Jews should be one."
But that's not the Louis Farrakhan of last week. Though he rebuked his spokesman, he also gave him a conspiratorial wink, then called him a "beautiful black stallion" and a "brilliant" man before spewing more anti-Semitism.
The NAACP greeted this performance with astonishing moral blindness. In its statement, the group said "The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is satisfied with the condemnation and disciplinary action taken by Minister Louis Farrakhan against his aide Khalid Abdul Muhammad."
The organization went on to say that it ". . . is prepared to believe Minister Farrakhan's statement that he is neither anti-Semitic nor racist, and we look forward to concrete deeds in the future that would affirm his statements."
To those who believe the goal of "black unity" must supersede all other considerations, the NAACP's desire to avoid a public break with Mr. Farrakhan might be viewed as an honorable effort but impractical. To those who believe the NAACP has a moral obligation to take a stand and point out right from wrong, the statement smacks of an attempt at pragmatism that falls flat for being so utterly dishonorable.
At what cost should black "unity" be achieved? The NAACP is sadly mistaken if it believes that an alliance with Mr. Farrakhan is healthy for the African-American community. Mr. Farrakhan has proven that his actions are not consistent with his words and that his words are little more than poison darts intended to shift the onus of bigotry from himself to the ubiquitous "they" -- Jews, Catholics, white people, other black leaders and anyone else who disagrees with him.
Mr. Farrakhan enjoys a measure of popularity within the African-American community because he talks of black pride, self-empowerment and economic recovery. His followers have had notable successes in reclaiming some inner-city neighborhoods from drugs and violence. Their proud, disciplined demeanor and obvious dedication impresses many young blacks who are desperately seeking role models.
But African Americans do not need any more lessons in hate and separatism. It was white people's separatism -- slavery and segregation -- that delivered blacks into the dismal condition they confront today. It is black self-hate born of that traumatic past that perpetuates the killing and violence young black people inflict upon each other.
What is needed now is another message, another way. But by exonerating Minister Louis Farrakhan, the NAACP has sent a dangerous message that being a bigot and a hater is fine as long as you do good works among the poor.
Lisa Respers is an editorial assistant in the Carroll County bureau of The Evening Sun.