“The ‘White’ Louis Farrakhan”

For many years now Louis Farrakhan has been one of the most polarizing figures in America. The leader of the Nation of Islam (NOI) has made many public statements that have been provocative to say the least and has been characterized by some as racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic and in some cases even misogynistic.

While some may argue that it is all based on ones perspective, there is no doubt that Farrakhan is a polarizing figure. For a politician to be associated with him would almost certainly be political suicide.

However, when you stop to think about it how much different is our president, Donald Trump, from Louis Farrakhan? Has his rhetoric been any different? Need I go through the entire racist[1], anti-Semitic[2], xenophobic[3], and misogynist[4] statements and incidents associated with him? Do I need to recount them in this blog to support my premise?

The vital difference here is that President Trump’s virulent posture has been no impediment to his political aspirations, to the contrary, it has advanced them. Trump’s “Farrakhan-like” posture has propelled him to the highest office in the country and the world, the Presidency of the United States. And his virulent verbiage has been followed by surrounding himself with individuals who are known for their biased and xenophobic histories, namely Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions.[5] How does one explain a Farrakhan-like figure becoming the President of the United States? Is it simply because of the difference in skin color? Is America that racist or at the very least in denial about its racism. Racism is a loaded term that most people shun. They will quickly and readily deny any association with it when they fail to understand its true meaning.

Compare Donald Trump’s public record with that of Barack Obama for a moment; his speeches, associations, advisors, appointees and members of his cabinet.

To those who would call me a racist for pointing out the things President Trump has said and done, his statements and actions are irrefutable because they are a matter of public record. There is nothing to argue. What argument can be made to explain what he has publicly said and done? If there is an explanation, where were these apologist during the eight years of the Obama presidency when every iota of his words and inferences were analyzed. You may ask, what specifically am I referring to? Let me give two examples.

Let me use one well-known incident. You may recall a circumstance early in the Obama presidency in 2009. It was reported that Dr. Henry Louis “Skip” Gates was arrested for breaking into his own home by the Cambridge police. As the story went, Dr. Gates, a 70-year-old senior citizen, had just returned from an extended trip overseas and was being helped with his luggage by his driver who drove him home from the airport. When they arrived at his home they found the front door jammed shut and with the help of his driver had to force their way into Dr. Gate’s house. That was the gist of the situation. As you might imagine, one of Dr. Gate’s Cambridge neighbors saw a strange “Black male,” that she did not recognize trying to get into the front door of a house in Cambridge and called the police. I will not venture to explore why she did not recognize her neighbor or notice he was a senior citizen, only that he was “Black,” but the police immediately responded to the call and when they arrived, Dr. Gates was already in his house bringing his luggage. To make a long story short, the Cambridge officer, after listening to Dr. Gates explanation still arrested him in his own home for disorderly conduct. When the incident was learned, it made news around the country and began a conversation about racial profiling and the attendant discussions that always accompany such incidents.

Here is where President Obama comes in. At a press conference President Obama was asked what he thought about the incident. In sharing his thoughts, Obama said he thought the Cambridge police officer “acted stupidly,” by arresting Dr. Gates in his own home. I think most of us would agree that the officer used extremely poor judgment in the way he chose to handle the situation and some would even say that to characterize his actions as “acting stupidly” was a mild description to say the least. However, when President Obama’s response hit the airwaves suddenly what the officer did was almost completely forgotten and Obama’s characterization became center stage. The entire story changed.  Many came to the officer’s defense and vilified the president for his choice of words in speaking about the incident and the officer. The controversy became so heated that President Obama had to publicly state that he “regretted his comments,” and ended up inviting the officer in question and Dr. Gates to the White House for what became known as “The Beer Summit.” All of this furor because President Obama said that a police officer, who arrested a senior citizen for breaking into his home, “acted stupidly,”…really?[6]

Contrast this with the plethora of public statements President Trump has made that were not only ill advised, but rude, insensitive, biased, vulgar, misogynistic[7] and yet there has been no public outcry for him to retract his statements or arrange for a “Beer Summit,” with the offended parties. How does one explain this duplicity?

When it was learned that Barack Obama was a member of Trinity United Church of Christ, because some excerpts of the sermons from the pastor Dr. Jeremiah Wright were considered controversial, candidate Obama had to hold a press conference explaining his position on race and his differences with Dr. Wright. Contrast Obama’s connection to Jeremiah Wright with Donald Trump’s relationship to Steve Bannon, the former executive chair of Breitbart News, the far right news site, along with the endorsements Trump has accepted from various white nationalists groups.[8]  In an interview with Sarah Posner Bannon said Breitbart was the platform for the Alt Right Movement, a White Nationalist organization that embraces white identity politics.[9] Alt Right has been associated with racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and misogyny. Not only was candidate Trump not asked to explain his association with Bannon, the philosophies of Breitbart News and his willingness to receive the endorsement of such movements as a candidate for president; President Trump made Steve Bannon his chief strategist and senior counselor. How does one explain the glaring inconsistencies between the way President Obama was treated and the way the nation is relating to President Trump and his administration when it comes to the extremist racial groups and ideologies that he has associated himself with?

There were many Christians who voted for Donald Trump as president. Statistics say that white evangelicals voted in the 80 percentile[10] for his candidacy. Some of those same evangelicals did not hesitate to characterize President Obama as the anti-christ.[11] Some were predicting before the election that Obama was going to declare marshal law and suspend the election so that he could remain president indefinitely.[12] How do Christians explain these inconsistencies? Are we to look the other way and say nothing, especially when it seems the bias is glaring and obvious?

According to 2 Timothy 3:1,2 in the last days, men (people) shall be lovers of their own selves. Some modern translations say people will love only themselves. The Amplified Bible says people will be narcissistic, self-focused. This phrase, “Love only themselves,” stands as the first and primary descriptor in enunciating the condition of humanity in the last days. It gives one a fuller understanding of the motivation behind the sins that are listed in the succeeding verses. It has been our tendency to individualize such phrases and texts but to do so would be narrow, limiting and simplistic. While there is a personal application, there is also a corporate and communal application as well.

The tendency to be biased, bigoted, xenophobic, misogynist and racists is a sign of a love for self, the communal self. It is a love for the individual and communal self to the exclusion of all other selves. The fact that there is such a tolerance in some, acceptance in others and embracing in still more of Donald Trump and his brand of exclusionary politics is a clear sign that we are living in the last days of earth’s history. And what is more disturbing is when Christians, whom Christ commands to accept, minister and love “the least of these,” embrace and endorse the candidacy of a figure as overtly polarizing and openly divisive as Donald Trump. It suggests that Christians have lost their sense of what it means to reflect the Character of Jesus Christ as a Community.

When you consider that humanity was created in the image of God (a collective noun), we need to think of that image as being more than individual but communal. God exists in community, perfect community and perfect harmony. The longest recorded prayer of Jesus is found in John 17 and its theme emphasizes the importance of community. Jesus stated in John 13:34—35 that His commandment to his disciples was to love one another as he loved us and that love for one another would be the distinguishing mark of His kingdom.

The “White Louis Farrakhan”…I hope it caught your attention. But more than that I hope it caused you to think about what it means to truly exemplify Jesus Christ, not just as an individual but as a community. Where Jesus is, there can be no divisions, no separation, no biases, no bigotry, no xenophobia, no misogyny and no racism. Christians must be better as individuals and as a community and we must be willing to make our position distinctive and distinguishable daring to be different when society says otherwise. I will leave you with this compelling challenge from Martin Luther King Jr.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, and even his life for the welfare of others. In the dangerous valley and the hazardous pathways, he will lift some bruised and beaten brother to a higher and more noble life.”[13]

[1] Lydia O’Connor, Daniel Marans, “Here are 16 Examples Of Donald Trump Being Racists.” 12/13/2016, updated 2/16/2017, Huff Post..

[2] Gideon Resnick, “Trump Appears to Suggest Bomb Threat Against Jews Are False Flags.” 2/28/2017, Daily Beast,.

[3] Marie Claire, “Yes, The President of the United States really has said this.” May 17, 2017, Marie Claire Co. UK.

[4] Claire Cohen, “Donald Trumpsexism tracker: Every offensive comment in one place.” January 20, 2017, The Telegraph.

[5] Lydia O’Connor, Daniel Marans.

[6] Wikipedia, “Henry Louis Gates arrest controversy.”

[7] Chirs Kirk, Ian Prasad Philbrick, and Gabriel Roth, “230 Things Donald Trump Has Said and Done That Make Him Unfit to Be President.” November 7, 2016. Slate.com.

[8] Mark Potok, “The Year in Hate and Extremism.” February 15, 2017, splcenter.com

[9] Ryan Lizza, “Steve Bannon Will Lead Trump’s White House.” November 14, 2016, The New Yorker.

[10] Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “White Evangelicals voted overwhelming for Donald Trump, exit polls show.” November 9, 2016, Washington Post.

[11] Grace Wyler, “O’Donnell: Here’s Why People Think Obama Is The Anitchrist.” September 28, 2011, businessinsider.com.

[12] Dean James, “Breaking: Obama To Declare Martial Law If Trump Wins Election, Here’s What We Know…” October 20, 2016, americasfreedomfighters.com.

[13]The Words of Martin Luther King Jr. Selected by Coretta Scott King, Barnes & Nobles Inc. New York, NY. 2014, 24.