When hundreds of thousands of black men converged on the nation's capital Oct. 16, I was at a conference of black newspaper columnists in St. Petersburg, Fla. -- stubbornly sticking to my guns about my one-man boycott in protest of the leadership.
But I did get some genuine merriment from the march. Specifically, the way some whites -- talk show radio hosts and their callers come immediately to mind -- reacted as though Louis Farrakhan had called 1 million black men to Washington to break into their houses. I tried to be sympathetic to the concerns of my Caucasian brethren as I listened to speakers at the march, but failed when I flopped down on the bed of my hotel room with my legs stuck straight in the air and cackled uncontrollably.
But because the march was a numeric success, Farrakhan may well have 1 million black men knock on some doors next year, unless folks get behind my plan to be rid of him once and for all. And the beauty of the plan is that Louis Farrakhan himself has provided the solution.
In my column of Oct. 11, I explained my objection to the march, calling Farrakhan a lunatic in the process. Some people expressed outrage. Some insisted I retract the statement. An inmate wrote to me from Maryland Correctional Training Center and said he had shown the column to a Nation of Islam member there, who suggested that I should be killed.
Therein lies my major problem with Farrakhan: his utter inability to get his followers to realize that they live in a democratic society with free speech protections in which we don't kill people for what they say.
So there will be no retraction. But I'm starting to think that we -- the decent, fair-minded citizens who say we object to everything Farrakhan stands for -- are even loonier than he is. At least he knows what he wants. He puts it in his paper, the Final Call, every week. We haven't bothered to notice and recognize that if we just accommodate the guy, we could be rid of him for good.
Part of the Nation of Islam 10-point plan calls for the government to set aside land for a separate state, which would be populated by the members of the faith. I say give it to him. Let him and his followers gather unto a state of their own, with Farrakhan as leader. Those blacks who believe that Farrakhan cannot and should not be criticized can move there, where I assure them that they will never hear a harsh word about the Nation of Islam leader again.
If Farrakhan is as popular as he claims, he should have no problem getting blacks to move to the separate state. But it should be on a voluntary basis. Only those African-Americans who want to live there should go. It would be interesting to see how many jump at the offer.
The idea of a separate state has long been considered an egregious solution. But these are egregious times, calling for egregious solutions. And there is no better indication of how egregious the times are than a comparison of how society has reacted to David Koresh -- the "Waco Whacko" -- and Louis Farrakhan.
As America drifts ever rightward, Koresh has become a veritable martyr to conservatives in the wake of the gunfight and fire that killed nearly 80 members of the Branch Davidian sect in 1993. Koresh was the white guy with Messianic delusions who molested children and stockpiled automatic weapons.
Farrakhan is the black guy who forbids his followers to carry weapons and -- no matter what else you can say about him -- has never even dreamed of touching a 10-year-old girl. In the eyes of the overwhelming majority of those who consider Koresh a martyr, Farrakhan is a madman. There seems a distinct lack of symmetry here, one that speaks volumes about our racial polarization. Separation is no longer a fantasy. It is practically an imperative if we aren't using any better logic than this.
Supposedly responsible conservatives have written articles and books either defending Koresh or suggesting that the FBI and the Justice Department simply "didn't understand" his theological worldview. Three of them -- Philadelphia lawyer Lloyd George Parry, local radio talk show host Ron Smith and college professor Richard A. Shweder -- wrote articles for this paper.
Such understanding of Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam's theology is neither required nor desired, I suppose, although at its simplest level NOI doctrine is far less convoluted than Koresh's. For all the Nation of Islam talk about white devils, Jewish bloodsuckers and Elijah Muhammad being on board a spaceship -- which is just as believable as the fundamentalist Christian belief that thousands of people will disappear in the rapture - there remains one constant tenet.
NOI adherents believe that a divine power will judge and punish America for its treatment of black people during slavery and Jim Crow. They want a separate state so they'll be out of the line of fire when the thunderbolts hit.
No doubt some blacks see the way whites view Koresh and Farrakhan as a classic double standard. During a panel discussion in St. Petersburg, some black columnists were especially rankled at the continued calls to repudiate Farrakhan, suggesting that white America was not judging him by the same standards it used to judge its own - be they heroes or heels. When whites continue to defend a David Koresh and praise Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Henry Ford and John "I believe in white supremacy" Wayne while condemning Farrakhan, they are being inconsistent at best, hypocritical at worst.
Of course, there is another way to deal with Farrakhan. Simply ignore him, as most whites did before 1984, when Farrakhan supported Jesse Jackson's bid for the presidency. The mainstream media used Farrakhan's friendship with Jackson to torpedo the reverend's presidential campaign. But while tearing down Jackson, whites built up Farrakhan. And now it's time to pay the piper.