Imagine if the Ku Klux Klan returned to securing streets, recruiting prison inmates and dabbling in social services. Would the mainstream media ask us to look the other way at its racism because of these other deeds?
Of course not. But that is essentially what is going on with Louis Farrakhan right now.
Farrakhan, the 84-year-old leader of the Chicago-based Nation of Islam, has become a problem for Democrats. In January, a photo surfaced of Farrakhan and Obama smiling with a group of men at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting in 2005.
The man who released the photo, journalist and Washington jazz impresario Askia Muhammad, said he kept it secret for more than 12 years because he knew it would damage Obama politically.
Then, other black Democratic members of Congress were exposed as having met with Farrakhan, and Republicans in Congress have called on them to resign.
In late February, Farrakhan gave his annual Saviors’ Day speech in Chicago, in which he blamed Jews for apartheid, Hollywood sleaze and “turning men into women and women into men.”
“Farrakhan, by God’s grace, has pulled the cover off of that Satanic Jew,” he said, referring to himself in the third person.
To make matters worse for the left, Tamika Mallory, national co-chair of the Women’s March, attended the rally. Calls have gone out for her to step away from the organization or for the organizer to denounce her and her association with Farrakhan. Planned Parenthood even cut ties to preserve its donor relationships with liberal Jews.
But the media has worked to protect Mallory from the fallout.
“Her presence drew faux outrage from right-wingers demanding she denounce him, pronouncing the cause undermined otherwise, wrote Neil Steinberg in the Chicago Sun-Times. “That’s ridiculous. If one leader of a worthwhile effort is caught on video kicking a puppy, or stealing an Amazon package or attending a Saviour’s Day Rally, that doesn’t indict the greater effort.”
Writing in The Forward, a news magazine established by 50 Yiddish-speaking socialists in 1897, journalist Anoa Changa saw a racial angle.
“When Black America sees white and Jewish people demanding that Tamika [Mallory] denounce Farrakhan, what we see is the demand that we all do so. And this demand is not a simple one,” she wrote.
Changa asked when was the last time someone “was disinvited from Planned Parenthood for failing to call out Steve Bannon, architect of the ‘alt-right?’” Bannon went on to be a presidential adviser, she wrote, and the man who couldn’t bring himself to denounce former Klan leader David Duke is now president of the United States.
“Because of this unfair and unequal set of demands, when the Black community hears the demand that Tamika denounce Farrakhan, what we see is the desire to destroy a Black woman.”
Farrakhan’s success in the community, she wrote, “is directly tied to white supremacy. Absent a broader conversation and reflection on why someone like Farrakhan continues to enjoy a degree of prominence and respect, denouncing him is an empty gesture to appease those who themselves maintain problematic liaisons.”
Calling on people to “call out” or “denounce” Farrakhan “has little to do with upholding matters of justice,” she wrote. “This is concern trolling at its finest. There is no context for the conversation, just a demand rooted in false equivalence.”
False equivalence also occurred to Terrell Jermaine Starr, writing at The Root. Asking Mallory to be accountable for Farrakhan’s words “reinforces how black women are held accountable in ways white women rarely – if ever confront.
“Kellyanne Conway, Hope Hicks, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and other white women are regularly interviewed on network television as officials of the Trump administration, but face no consequences for supporting a white supremacist.”