Farrakhan wins a degree of respect
Million Man March: Messiah or racist hatemonger - only time will tell - but the Nation of Islam leader has made his mark
Wednesday 18 October 1995
Only gradually will the impact of Monday's event become fully apparent. Time will tell whether the good intentions of the "Day of Atonement" will produce deeds to match in black communities. No less nebulous are the implications for race relations and the national political scene.
Will the march loosen the Democrats' hold on the black vote, a vital constituency if President Bill Clinton is to win re-election next year? Will it ease racial tensions - or merely make them worse? Will it generate more registered black voters, as Mr Farrakhan demanded? Most tantalising of all, will it help or hinder General Colin Powell if he runs for President.
All are questions as yet impossible to answer. But Mr Farrakhan, as the abuse heaped upon him anew by many leading politicians only serves to prove, is now a figure to be reckoned with by all. He may be, in the words of Speaker Newt Gingrich yesterday, "an unrepentant bigot," who laced his two-and-a-half hour speech with attacks on the white icons from George Washington down.
The fact, however, remains that the leader of the Nation of Islam, previously considered on the margins of mainstream black politics and best known for his rabid anti-Semitism, assembled the largest gathering of black Americans in history. Whether 400,000 as the National Park Service estimates, or the 1 million plus claimed by the organisers, the number on the Washington Mall far exceeds the 250,000 drawn by Dr Martin Luther King in August 1963.
Since then, a depressing cycle of black politics has run its course. Traditional black organisations such as the NAACP have lost influence as the old civil rights movement has come apart. After two runs for the Presidency, Dr King's heir, the Rev Jesse Jackson, is a fading force, among blacks and in national politics. Into the vacuum has stepped Mr Farrakhan.
Even blacks who had been suspicious of his separatist message acknowledged his success, from Mr Jackson who waited two months to give the march his approval, to Myrlie Evers Williams, leader of the NAACP, which had officially boycotted the event. "There was a spiritual awakening," Ms Williams said, "He's moving forward and he's using all of us to do it. I say, let's give him a chance."
Whites, though, were universally unimpressed. While Jewish leaders rejected Mr Farrakhan's call for peace talks between blacks and Jews as a stunt, a gaggle of Republican candidates rained abuse on Mr Farrakhan and criticised Mr Clinton for not condemning him by name in his powerful appeal for racial healing in Texas on Monday.
Bob Dole called Mr Farrakhan "a racist, unhinged by hate" and attacked Mr Clinton for "the implication that ours is a racist nation". But not one prominent Republican has come forward with a serious speech on race, the most burning issue in national politics and one fanned further by the OJ Simpson verdict and the approach of the Million Man March.
Speaking on CNN's Larry King show, Mr Farrakhan bragged that not even General Powell, who leads Mr Clinton in the polls by 10 points, could have drawn as many people. On a Powell presidency, the Nation of Islam leader was withering: "I'm past applauding a black man for running to be the manager of a white reality."
Brian Appleyard, page 19
Farrakhan, Section Two
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 4 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
- 5 UK weather: 'Coldest night of the year' tonight as freezing temperatures plummet to -10C
President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations
Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
AirAsia flight QZ8501 missing: Search for plane carrying 162 passengers from Indonesia to Singapore suspended overnight
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...
£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...
£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...