Trump’s meeting with Ye (Kanye West) and Nick Fuentes has again put antisemitism front and center. Across the political spectrum, commentators have argued that this meeting disqualifies Trump’s candidacy. Senator McConnell stated: First, let me just say that there is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy. And anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States.
While I genuinely hope that this continues Trump’s permanent downfall, it brings into question the inconsistency among progressives who have turned a blind eye to the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan’s broad acceptance among black leaders. Atlantic columnist John Pagano reported:
No one expected to discover that three Women’s March co-chairs—Linda Sarsour, Carmen Perez, and Tamika Mallory—had ties to Farrakhan. More mysterious and disturbing was the extended reluctance of the Women’s March, nearly a year since it became public, to acknowledge Farrakhan’s extremist views and disassociate themselves from them.
And Black Lives Matter was also infected with similar ties to Farrakhan. As Carol Glick reported, Over the past several years both the BLM-Los Angeles head Melina Abdullah and her daughter Thandiwe Abdullah who is the co-founder of the BLM Youth Vanguard have racked up long records of anti-Semitic rants and fawning praise for Nation of Islam leader Farrakhan.
Leftwing Jews have tried to minimize Farrakhan’s influence in the BLM movement; not so much because it isn’t true but that by emphasizing it, black-Jewish unity is undermined.
Commentators too often focus on leftwing and rightwing antisemitism without any mention of black antisemitism. A fall 2020 YouGov survey found that “about 15% of self-identified white liberals believed in one of the three stereotypes included in the survey, compared to … 42% of Black liberals. Likewise, about 30% of white conservatives believed one of the stereotypes, compared to more than 50% of Black … conservatives.”
In NYC, the denial of black antisemitism has led to an unwillingness to prosecute black perpetrators of antisemitic crimes. Americans Against Antisemitism has studied 194 anti-Jewish assaults and 135 property incidents in New York City since 2018 but can identify only two offenders who have been sentenced to prison. Others receive probation or counseling or their charges aren’t followed up. “There are practically no serious consequences to be had,” the group concludes in a July report.
Most recently, Farrakhan’s publicly called out LeBron James for his silence in the face of the harshness of the NBA penalties Kyrie Irving faced for his promoting of an antisemitic video. Almost immediately after this rebuke, James issued a public statement in support of Irving. (Interestingly, Amazon has refused to delete the video from its streaming services, claiming it must allow differing viewpoints.)
The desire to downplay Farrakhan’s reach was on display with the 2018 press coverage of Aretha Franklin’s funeral celebration. The four honored guest were Farrakhan, Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Bill Clinton. Both MSNBC and ABC News, unlike the Washington Post, cropped Farrakhan out of their published photo.
A particularly situation arose in 2018 when a photo of Barak Obama smiling with Farrakhan at a 2005 Black Congressional Caucus meeting became public. The reason that it only surfaced thirteen years after being taken is because a Caucus staffer pleaded with the photographer not to release it. He feared the harm it would do to Obama who clearly was a rising star after his 2004 speech at the Democratic Party presidential convention. Indeed, Alan Dershowitz indicated that if he had known of this picture, he would not have campaigned for Obama.
The Nation of Islam’s antisemitism covers decades and includes recent claims that Jewish people were receiving different vaccines for COVID-19. However, it is complicated why some antisemites like Ye become persona non grata whereby anyone who meets with them is cast away while having positive contact with Farrakhan does not. Farrakhan is the head of an organization that has an estimated 50,000 members and a newspaper that had a mass circulation estimated at 500,000 during the 1990s. Its members are well respected in black communities, particularly for efforts to encourage black men to be more responsible, culminating in the widely successful 1995 Million Man March. Indeed, the 2005 Caucus that Farrakhan attended was likely to discuss planning the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the march.
These efforts led many to give Farrakhan’s antisemitism a pass. In addition, there are some black Democrats who share his anti-Jewish feelings, if not his doctrinal and historical analyses. His influence is incredibly noxious, though I suspect it’s more symptomatic of long-standing black antisemitism than a cause of it.
An effective response must go beyond cajoling black leaders to condemn Farrakhan or pointing to the disproportionate role Jews played in the civil rights movement more than fifty years ago. It must counter the negative Jewish stereotypes that are widespread within black communities. How many black Americans know of the overwhelmingly positive role of Jewish peddlers and shopkeepers in black communities throughout the country during the twentieth century? How many know of the 5,000 schools in the Jim Crow South, Sears Roebuck president funded that educated 30 percent of black children in the 1930s?
How many know that Irving Berlin’s 1934 musical A Thousand Cheers was the first fully integrated Broadway show? More importantly, it featured Ethel Waters singing “Suppertime” – a song which explains to her children that their father had been lynched. The performance was a major catalyst for 1935 Congressional hearings that reduced dramatically the number of lynchings nationally.
How many know that the policies King Records owner Syd Nathan instituted in his record-producing factory led to the integrating of workplaces throughout Cincinnati? How many know that the forceful efforts of Duke Ellington’s manager Irving Mills and impresario Norman Ganz integrated many performance venues throughout the country? And how many know that through government efforts Israeli Arabs (https://www.nationalreview.com/2022/02/countering-the-false-apartheid-narrative/) are more fully integrated into hi tech and medical professions than black Americans? Only by making this information widely known can we hope to counter negative Jewish stereotypes and the reach of antisemites within black communities.
Robert Cherry is an American Enterprise Institute affiliate and author of Why the Jews? How Jewish Values Transformed 20th Century American Pop Culture.