Memo to Tim Russert
Jude Wanniski
April 21, 1997

 

Memo To: Tim Russert
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Farrakhan and Racial Separation

I was moderately disappointed in you on Saturday, in your MSNBC-TV interview of Jesse Jackson and Jesse Jr. You did not come close to correctly characterizing Min. Farrakhan's position on "separation." You went so far as to assert that he now believes it impossible not to separate and that he wants a separate territory to which blacks could move and live. You know this is not what he said.

I don't even think I have to ask you to read over the transcript of your interview, for you know you led the questions with Elijah Muhammad's Point #4, in which he talked of separation. Farrakhan immediately asked you to not leave out the first three points, as they indicate what it might take to avoid the fourth point: "We want equal membership in society with the best in civilized society. If we can get that within the political, economic, social system of America, there's no need for point number four. But if we cannot get along in peace after giving America 400 years of our service and sweat and labor, then, of course, separation would be the solution to our race problem." The whole tenor of the interview, as you and I discussed following the show, underscores the fact that Farrakhan is making a serious attempt to bridge the racial divide that has been created by white Americans. To the degree you misrepresent him, you widen that divide. Don't you see that? Yes, he said "it appears that way" when you asked him about a quote of a few years ago to the effect that "we have no hope that we can effect true reconciliation between blacks and whites in this country. The answer, ultimately, is going to be separation."

Don't you give any credence to Farrakhan's argument that after 400 years outside the national family, black Americans continue to sit outside looking in that separation is our idea, not his? His criticism of white America in general and Jewish America in particular is that they have conspired to keep blacks outside the Establishment that makes the nation's central policy decisions. He of course is not alone. Charlie Rangel says that in the banquet of the Democratic Party the blacks get to sit next to the kitchen and in the Republican Party they get to sit inside the kitchen. As Farrakhan puts it, the Democratic Party takes blacks for granted and the Republicans don't want them. The solution would be to have half the black vote go to the GOP, half stay Democratic, and both parties compete actively to give black Americans more of a say in how policy should be made.

When Farrakhan talks about breaking the hold that the nation's Jewish political leaders have over the black vote, he sees a hold that began as a mutually beneficial alliance. Jews have a small number of votes and lots of money and political influence, blacks have lots of votes and little money and political influence. It worked beautifully for a long time, but the coalition is coming apart because it is no longer in the interests of black Americans to trade their votes for the kind of political payoff that winds up destroying the black family. As long as Farrakhan sees the Jewish community as a monolith, he is justified in suspecting that it fears him because he can divide the black vote and dramatically reduce its leverage. He's now beginning to see the rationality of their behavior, I think, but he also sees the divisions among the broader Jewish constituency. His experience in Philadelphia last Monday, as a racial healer, came via an invitation from the Jewish Mayor, and Farrakhan said "this bodes well for black/Jewish relationships." Instead of yelling about the Jewish leaders who refuse to even talk to him man-to-man, which is a negative approach, he is able to see how important it is that he make common cause with the Republican Party's liberal wing, its entrepreneurial wing, in a positive approach. Did you notice how Jesse Jackson Jr. corrected you in your assertions about Farrakhan? He pointed out that Farrakhan is knocking on the door of the GOP, and if it opens, he will have found a second home for black Americans. Farrakhan has no illusions here. He knows many black Americans would be leaving the Democratic plantation for a Republican plantation, but that this would be preferable to the current state of affairs. You know, I wouldn't be surprised to see Jesse Jr. change parties in another few years.

P.S. I listened to an audio tape of Farrakhan's speech last Monday in Philadelphia. It was as good as any I've heard. Mayor Rendell deserves huzzahs for his courage. You should get a copy and listen to it. Before I decided to bet some capital on Farrakhan I did considerable research and I still watch the videotapes as they come out. You can click into the NOI website and order at random. I'd recommend his Father's day speech of last June in Kingston, Jamaica, and his Sept. 26 speech in St. Louis, at the black political convention. The last half hour of the latter may sound harsh, but it is truth telling of the first order. By truth telling, I mean that Farrakhan says what is on his mind, acknowledging he knows it may be wrong, but it is the truth as he understands it. Black Americans have always been afraid to tell the truth of what they really think in talking to white Americans, because all too often their words are turned against them. It takes a very long time for a white guy to win the trust of a black guy, and it is almost impossible to get it completely. The reason he is so admired in the black community is partly for his willingness to say what he thinks, no matter what you think of him. You can't have true dialog with Jesse, when he shies from telling you exactly what he thinks. If Farrakhan can break down that barrier, others can follow for the kind of man-to-man dialog that can finally bridge the divide.