The Million Man March

Louis Farrakhan is a demagogue, a misogynist and an anti-Semite, but he has good reason to be proud of himself. He mobilized hundreds of thousands, possibly a million, black men to D.C. for a march that was notable for its calm and self-discipline. Perhaps the media found the lack of violence disappointing; once it was over, the Million Man March became a non-story. I would have liked to see more reporting on why people turned out, what they expected, what the point was, and if there was any follow-through planned after it was over. Was it a naked power show by Farrakhan, just to show he could mobilize so many? It seemed like a tremendous waste of an opportunity to advance a political agenda. One million black men should have been demonstrating against a Congress that cares nothing for them, that has slashed at affirmative action and social safety nets; that rejected the idea of any parity in sentencing between white middle class cocaine offenses and poor black crack offenses; and which is eager (once the memory of Oklahoma City dies down enough) to repeal the semi-automatic ban and put more guns on the urban streets.

I grew up thinking conservatives were liars--I believed many of the "Young Americans for Freedom" types I knew were closet racists who steered clear of admitting their beliefs because of the political climate of the times. Today I know I was right. Hate is in the air again, and people who concealed their essential meanness for decades are letting it all out. Whether it is Mr. Gingrich blaming welfare thinking when a black woman is murdered (actually, only the victim was on welfare, not her killers), Senator Helms flippantly inviting "the Hutus and the Tutus" to go on killing each other, or the deeply accepted caricature of the black welfare cheat that has spread through the white nation, it is clear that the party that dominates two of the three branches of government today believes there is no need to try to represent all of the population.

It wasn't always this way. Lincoln, as moderate Republicans like to remind us, was one of them--most people today don't even realize that the Democrats were the party of slavery and the Republicans freed the slaves. Well into this decade, the Republican party had a significant moderate wing which agreed with the Democrats on certain social goals and disagreed mainly on the most efficient way of carrying them out. Even Goldwater, the Phil Gramm of 1964, proved in later years to be more sympathetic to minorities than politics allowed him to be back then. And has been repudiated by the right wing of his party as a result. One sympathetic phrase you heard a few years ago, especially after the far right's pathetic performance at the 1992 convention, was that the Republican party ought to be a "big tent", with room enough for all. Check in over at The Right Side of the Web and on their "Wall" you will doubtless see the popular riposte: "A big tent is only for clowns."

What do you expect twenty-five or thirty million black Americans to do? Quietly vanish away? Recipe for disaster: concentrate millions of Americans in urban ghettoes. Allow the banks to redline them. Allow infrastructure and schools to decay. Let jobs flee. Funnel the adult males into prisons and back into the community. Pump in guns, and allow drugs to be pumped in. Allow generation after generation to arise full of anger, with low self esteem. Then shred the remaining fragments of the safety net, and broadcast the message loud and clear that they are hated, not regarded even as Americans. The Contract Republican rhetoric about equality of opportunity in this country, about tough love, is a crock. A couple more years of this and we will see riots in this country that will make those of the '60's seem like a playground scuffle. A hard rain is gonna fall.

The Republicans abdicated their special relationship with black Americans to the Democrats early this century. The Democrats, PACs full of corporate money like anyone else, gave up their relationship with black Americans to Louis Farrakhan. The real message of the Million Man March was that there were so many black men in this country to whom no-one is attempting to speak except the demagogue Farrakhan.