WASHINGTON -- For the broad mass of black Americans who struggle for justice and full citizenship, Louis Farrakhan is a curse that just won't go away.
This leader of the Nation of Islam, in his constant grubbing for money and publicity, continues to do and say the things that make it easier for bigots and racists to play the race card and gain broader political power in America.
Mr. Farrakhan appeared as a somewhat constructive force within black America in November, leading a Million Man March. Now he gives fodder to Pat Buchanan and other dangerous whites by hopping in bed with America's worst enemies. During a 27-nation tour, he has suggested that black voters can be bought with Libyan dollars, and that blacks in the United States have endorsed his threat in Iran that "God will destroy America at the hands of Muslims."
A lot of us black Americans are worried and angry about the widening racial divide in America, especially the upsurge of white politicians who are trying to wipe out almost every gain made by minorities during the last 35 years. But we have not designated Louis Farrakhan to articulate our concerns in words that sound treasonous or approving of all the murderous dictators and scoundrels of Africa and the Middle East.
We black Americans know the importance of the 1996 elections, and of our wielding all the influence we have to prevent electoral triumphs by the most virulent bigots. That means there must be political education programs and get-out-the-vote drives. But not financed openly or secretly by Muammar el Kadafi of Libya; or the Iranians who held American diplomats hostage for 444 days; or the Nigerian military regime of Gen. Sani Abacha, which kills and imprisons at a whim African citizens and journalists who dare criticize graft and murder.
Mr. Farrakhan has cast a pall over all black political activity by provoking the stories that Libya will give him a billion dollars with which to mobilize "oppressed . . . blacks, Arabs, Muslims and red Indians" to influence the outcomes of the 1996 elections, and thus U.S. foreign policy.
Nothing could be more diabolically destructive of the goals of black Americans than to have the pre-election period poisoned by congressional hearings into claims that Mr. Farrakhan is manipulating votes at the behest of America's most hated foes. Or to have legal wars in which he would expect us to support him as "a free black man with the right to go anywhere and say whatever he pleases."
Throughout America's great wars and tribulations, black Americans have stayed remarkably far from acts of sabotage and treason. Mr. Farrakhan's trip has raised the specter of masses of blacks making cause with the Muslims who might engage in the bombings of buildings, tunnels, bridges and other things that might cause the destruction of America. Thus he has spread calumny upon the integrity and loyalty of black America that is more damaging than the worst propaganda of the neo-Nazis and the Aryan Nation demagogues.
Atonement and reconciliation
Mr. Farrakhan began this poisonous journey after writing the State Department that he wanted to take "the spirit of the Million Man March" abroad, and to "bring a day of Atonement, Reconciliation and Responsibility to our people in Africa."
What a cruel exploitation of the men who marched last November, but have seen no benefit from the many millions of dollars that Mr. Farrakhan and his colleagues collected from that exercise. They now see talk of him coming out of this tour with a billion dollars allegedly to create a separate black state within the United States -- an entity that would boast "the largest army in the world."
And he gets richer as he intensifies the spirit of racial warfare in America.
What is worse is that he undermines the legitimate cries of Americans who still face egregious discriminations in almost all aspects of their lives.
The pity is those blacks to whom America's leaders and power brokers ought to be listening can rarely get a fair hearing. But come Sunday in Chicago, where Mr. Farrakhan will give his annual Savior's Day speech, the media will be around him in great force. Many will hope that he will say anew things that help the worst white bigots.
He will probably just tell them how the media lied about his tour, and how he was a great ambassador for the U.S. because he went where traditional U.S. diplomats cannot go. Then he will run to the bank.
Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.