Sunday, October 18, 2015

Minister Louis Farrakhan: Friend Or Foe?

Minister Louis Farrakhan
Friend Or Foe?

One week following the 10.10.15 Justice or Else Rally in Washington, DC I couldn't help but notice the widespread criticism of Minister Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam by both mainstream media and the everyday person via their social media page. Some of these criticisms have been outright name calling such as "FarraCON" or 'FarraCoon"; defining the minister as a misleading charlatan that's blood sucking the poor. Others have been less abrasive and have articulated their desire to see the evidence and practical application of "or Else" -which they claim wasn't defined at the rally. In his defense, some of his supporters have retorted that a General doesn't announce his strategies to the public, the minister has laid out plans of action years before the rally and people have no right to question someone in his position because they're not the leader. Well today I wanted to offer a perspective to willfully help reconcile these perspectives.

For those who are Anti-Farrakhan:
First and foremost I think it's important to keep in mind that as a leader, some view the minister as a spiritual father, father figure and ultimately someone who occupies a parental role within their life. Considering this, whatever your criticisms are of him, it sounds and feels no different than you talking about someone's parent. Imagine someone talking about your mother or father. Regardless how respectful or on point someone is with a criticism of your parent, you're going to feel some kind of way about it, initially. I don't know many people who are comfortable with someone calling their parent names, ridiculing them or etc.: those are usually fighting words. Even though no person, parent or not, is above criticism, there's always a certain level of respect we've shown our parents even if they were dead wrong. And when I say respect I don't mean "agree and go along with any and everything they say" because sometimes they're not the best knower in every given life situation. To take it a step further: even though the minister may not look it and he colors his hair, he is an 82 year old grandparent and great-grandparent. That in itself warrants the kind of respect we show any elder, not just a parent. And just like our own grandparents and great-grandparents, we may not agree with everything they're saying or doing, but out of respect, there's a way we should talk to and talk about them. That is the posture, decorum and etiquette of a civilized person.

Because I am a free thinker I don't agree with what everyone says or does. Everyone doesn't always agree with me and there are times I reassess something I said or did and don't agree with myself. That being said, I think it's healthy to express the right to critically analyze what anyone says or does. However, I think we have that right not simply for the purpose of argument or to point out what we think is wrong. We have that right, and responsibility, to show and prove what's wrong by presenting what's right. In other words, if you think I can use a better strategy in my STYA Program to teach my youth, don't just point out what you think I'm doing wrong, offer me the right way. When you approach people by penalizing them, as opposed to offering them an alternative, people tend to shut down and be unreceptive to what you have to say. For example, I also teach preschool in addition to my program and there are times I see my students do something wrong. One day I gave a student instructions on practicing their writing. When I walked over to check their work they weren't following the instructions. They were writing, they just weren't following the right instructions. I didn't walk over, snatch the pencil out of their hand and say, "No, that's not how you do it. This is the right way." I said, acknowledging they were at least writing, "Hey..., that's good. Now see if you can write it this way" as a patted them on the shoulder and redirected them back to the right instructions. As adults the same approach, sense of consideration and tact applies. People are generally more welcoming to being offered alternatives than just being criticized or even ridiculed for what they feel, think or believe. This is not to say that we should not engage in intellectual discourses and tiptoe around everybody. This is to say that the basis of these discourses should not be for the purpose of name calling, to ridicule others or for pissing contests. The purpose of any intellectual discourse, especially with our people, should be to discuss and assess the best ideas and strategies to solve our problems. If someone is so caught up in their feelings that they have an inability to rise above their emotions for that purpose, then you need to walk away. Some people worship who they perceive as their leaders, whether it's Jesus, Muhammad, Beyonce, Buddha, Minister Farrakhan and even The Father Allah. And anything you have critical to say about them will be outright rejected, including you and some of your well meaning uninvolved associates. 

For those who are Pro-Farrakhan:
Just because someone questions a man or woman's idea or strategy it doesn't make them an agent, hypocrite, hater or anything else some of you define as antagonistic. Sometimes people simply have and can share a perspective others don't see. This is the reason Minister Farrakhan has a research team; there are things he simply doesn't know or understand and he relies on a counsel of advisors to teach him. And yes, some of them are about half of his age. Now keep in mind that there are many people who are not a part of the minister's advisor team who are more than qualified to advise him, and them, too. Many of these men and women are not Muslims nor are they registered members of his Nation of Islam. Some of them are a part of your social networks and you interact with them often. I mention this to emphasize the fact that knowledge is inexhaustible which gives everyone the potential of being a best knower in any given situation. Some find it difficult to grasp this reality because it seems to conflict with a hierarchal structure of having one leader at the top and a descending order of roles beneath them. It's difficult to imagine that someone beneath the person at the top can conceptualize something beyond that leader's realm of thinking. It's also difficult to imagine that the person at the top cannot conceptualize something from someone that's beneath them. You are aware that someone had to teach Minister Farrakhan how to set up and use a Twitter account right? I'm sure you also know his team of advisors put him on to certain Rappers he never heard about before because they were key support contacts he needed to meet in order to promote the Justice or Else rally, right? The point in saying this is to remind all of you that the title of leader doesn't mean that someone personally has all of the answers. No great leader would make that claim, and when these leaders do make the honest claim that it's not about them, and even give credit to their benefactors, many of us simply don't believe it.

One of the other things that's important to understand is this: there are those who respectfully disagree with the 10.10.15 Justice or Else rally because they have a hard time "quantifying" it. Sure many can speak about the quality of their personal experience and no one can take that away from them, but how do you accurately quantify or measure that experience? This is one of the reasons some people were/are discouraged and disenchanted with the rally; they don't see a tangible, concrete example of "What's next?" For example, the 2015 BET Hip Hop Awards viewer ratings were down over 50% [1.4 million] this year from 2014. It can be argued that this plunge is a direct result of the BET Boycott social media campaign against the network for not covering the rally. You can even argue how the current nationally conscious #BlackLivesMatter backdrop, coupled with the Justice or Else rally, has created the Anti-Empire sentiments responsible for their weekly rating drop. That is quantifiable, it's tangible and concrete. For those who would like to effectively demonstrate the rally's impact, or even the minister's impact on a local, regional, national or international level, these kinds of quantifiable Talking Points are necessary to show and prove it. Some people are simply not moved by someone's personal beliefs or human interest stories. Understandably, some people want to know what's in it for them, what is the actual outcome, if/when they invest their time and/or money into something.

In conclusion, I think it's important to keep the focus on the collective movement of people who are actually invested in programs, projects and initiatives to bring about justice. I had an opportunity to participate in a National Community Forum after the rally which echoes these sentiments. It took place at We Act Radio Station [Washington DC] and its purpose was to bring people from across the nation together to discuss these programs, projects and initiatives we're already invested in and how you can also get involved. In addition to checking out the above link for ideas of how you can get involved, here is something else you can do and share with others: Down from 11% last season, we the people are again calling for a Nationwide Boycott during the Holiday season (November – December 2015) to not purchase any goods or services. If anyone makes any purchases, it should be strictly with Black-owned businesses. Also, we are encouraging everyone to not advertise or promote any goods, services, brands/logos of outside companies using their social networks [Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and etc.]. We should only advertise or promote Black-owned businesses. Let's keep our personal beefs and religious disagreements off of social media and at home. Publically we must continue to be positively invested in this collective momentum that's quantifying the transformation we would like to see.

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