On March 25, 1996, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan was
editors and reporters at the Arizona Republic Newspaper in Phoenix.
MINISTER LOUIS FARRAKHAN: As a person who is a part time resident in Phoenix, it is an honor for me to sit with you. One of the things that I think is somewhat disturbing to me is that a person can grow up in America, grow up in the Black community, work in the Black community for nearly 40 years, and now has come to national and international attention, and whites, in particular, do not have what I think is a good knowledge of the person.
It seems to me that the white community has always wanted to know those persons who become spokespersons for the oppressed. I believe that there is a tremendous lack of knowledge of Louis Farrakhan. So, I'm here this morning hoping to give information about myself, about what I believe, about where we want to go, about the World Friendship Tour, about the things that you may be interested in asking of me. I would hope that it would lead to the American public being much more aware of Louis Farrakhan than the 30 second (sound) bites on television, or the information that you may receive from those whose view of me is far from what I believe I really am.
With that in mind, I would hope that since I've come to submit myself to you for questioning that you'll feel free to ask of me anything that you desire to know with respect to the Nation of Islam, the religion of Islam, the aim of Islam or anything that you have heard concerning the tour. I would be most happy to try to answer them for you. Thank you, very much.
ARIZONA REPUBLIC (AR): What do you think is the white public's perception of you, and what would like it to be?
MINISTER LOUIS FARRAKHAN (MLF): I think since I have never spoken primarily to white audiences--all of my audiences for the past 40 years have been mainly Black, not even Hispanic, or Asian or Arab. Black people, more than likely, have a fairly good understanding of Louis Farrakhan on the mass level as was seen with the Million Man March. The call that was made by Louis Farrakhan was answered by over a million persons, and these persons have some knowledge or understanding of Louis Farrakhan.
Unfortunately, during the Jesse Jackson campaign ...I came to national public attention as a person who is (mislabeled) "anti-Semitic," as a person who is "racist," as a person who is "anti-white," etc. So, most white persons who came to know me, believe me to be anti-Semitic, anti-white, anti-American, anti-Christian.
The perception that I would prefer is: what is the truth? Perception is not necessarily truth. Whatever I really am is what I would like to be know as. That means that you can't just look at Louis Farrakhan and pigeon-hole me by a word-- 'bigot," "anti-Semite," "hater," "anti-white". There's got to be something more to a person than these little words would tend to describe. I would hope that through persons like yourself, that know how to dig behind masks, that you will find the real Louis Farrakhan, whatever that is from your perception. Then, that's what I hope to be perceived as, who and what I really, really am.
AR: Will you reach out to these other communities?
MLF: Yes, I not only intend to do this, but I intend to speak in the Hispanic community, in the Arab community, and in the white community. I would welcome a chance to speak at a Jewish synagogue, because I feel that the Jews need to know me, and know me more than what they've been made to perceive of me. Whites need to know me better. I will frankly say, that I've had several meetings with Jewish rabbis. In the dialogue, I learned the sensitivity of Jews, in particular, and whites, in general, to certain words and phrases that we would speak commonly in the Black community without offense.
Sometimes when you speak only to your own people there are words that you would speak in an Irish context as an Irish person that, even if it were negative, an Irish person might not feel bad because you are speaking and you are Irish. But if someone out of that context spoke as you spoke to your people it might create offense. By talking to people outside of your own group, you begin to learn their sensitivities. This one of the reasons why I wish to speak to more than just my own people, but I want to speak to that which makes up America so that I can learn the sensitivities of other cultures and ethnic groups that my words might not be as offensive as they are not found, necessarily, to be offensive in the Black community.
AR: If you could speak to a Jewish synagogue right now, what would your message be?
MLF: As I spoke to these rabbis, one of them asked me would I be willing to speak before the Board of Rabbis. I said, yes, I would be glad to do that tomorrow, if you could arrange it. And the other rabbi that was present asked, would you come to a Jewish synagogue? I said tonight if you could arrange it. I believe that if I stood before the Jewish people and spoke to them honestly from what I feel and believe, that whether they agreed with me or not, at least they would get to know me better. It disturbs me that members of the Jewish community may feel or believe that I'm another Hitler, and that if I ever get mass following that I would do to them that which Hitler and others have done to them. That is disturbing to me, because no such thought has ever been in my mind and is not in my mind now, and I don't think it will ever be in my mind. So, I would be to them as I hope to be to you this morning, very open, very frank. I think that when you're candid and frank, whether they agree with you or not, they get to know you better. And then they can form a better opinion of you. I would probably just present myself to them, and speak to them from my heart and see what my reaction would be.
AR: You said you were reaching out to other communities. Are you also getting more involved here in Phoenix? I noticed that ASU (Arizona State University) and the Nation of Islam were involved I a controversy there over racial tensions. They had an event there Thursday. Saturday, the Nation of Islam's young group, one of the drill teams, was involved in an event they had here at ASU, for hundreds, maybe a thousand Black young people across the state. Is that something the Nation of Islam is consciously trying to do?
MLF: Well, we are a part of the community. We have been separate and we want people to know us better. We come from the community, and our desire is to serve the community, and our desire is to serve the community. The only way we can serve the community is that the community knows us, we know the community, know its needs and then work to fulfill the desires of our community in harmony and in coalition with other groups who are working for the same cause. We are not against building coalitions past racial lines or identification. We know that if our people are going to be successful in America, we can't do it all by ourselves. There has to be the help of others to help us to help ourselves. We're not against coalitions; what we are for is coalitions on the basis of strength, not weak coalitions where we come to the table bringing nothing, and then having to accept other person's guidance, instructions, and philanthropy. We want to be able to come to the table as an equal and then think about forming these coalitions for the good, not only of our community, but the total community at large.
Most of our coalitions, unfortunately from my vantage point, are usually from a position of weakness. When we sit at tables with our white counterparts, we come with ideas but not money. So other people finance our marches, finance our things, and when people finance you they're the ones paying the piper so they usually feel justified in calling the tune. We don't feel that as a people we can make progress with these kinds of coalitions where it serves the best interest of others who we are coalescing with, but not our best interests.
By coming to a table from a position of strength, strength means that a s community we know what is our self-interest, we know what is our best interest. We are unified in the pursuit of what is in our best interest and then we come to the table with Hispanics, with Whites, with Arabs, with Asians, but we bring something to that table with something more than just a request or a demand.
All of us are in this ship called America. America is in deep, deep, deep trouble. If she goes down, all of us are going to be hurt whether we feel that we're an oppressed community or not-oppressed, so we have a stake here. So, it's going to take coalitions, but coalitions that are based on equity, fairness, justice, and certainly bringing something to the table more than a demand.
AR: That last statement about America being in deep, deep, deep trouble--what would you characterize as the single most, in your eyes, the single most vital issue that in a perfect world that this country won't address.
MLF: That last phrase, "in a perfect world" ...as I see America, there is no nation on Earth her equal. She is a superpower with great strength economically, politically, and militarily. But from my vantage point, she's not a superpower morally. It is the righteousness of a nation that sustains it. If America now as the only superpower in the world is motivated, her self-interests, her international interests are motivated by four hundred or more corporate entities that determine America's domestic and mainly foreign policies, and they are driven by greed, which is not a good moral character: if policy is formed to help America interact with nations in the world, but there is a greed in this policy, and then that greed is coupled with power, with wealth, with military might, and the poison of racism, then is sets this country up to be like the great empires of the past with whom God became angry and moved in His own way to bring those civilizations to naught.
I see this nation going in that direction, and I hope to be a voice crying in the wilderness to Jews, to Gentiles, to Blacks, and Whites, and especially to government. We're on a wrong course and if you don't change the course that we're on, there are very serious consequences to this present course. The greatest single thing that I would hope to see in America is that religious leaders would begin to teach and stress the moral values that make a nation perpetually great, and stop compromising that of His prophets by what we'd call modernism, or humanism, that makes us compromise the very values that make the nation great.
AR: What are those values, the core values, what would make a nation great? Would you list them?
MLF: Yes. In my judgment, the belief in God, by whatever name you choose to call Him. A belief in God's Sovereignty over our lives. And since God is the Giver of life, He's the Best One to direct how we should live our lives, and from that flows our system of justice, our system of social values, our economic values, our family values. It all flows from our belief in God and our willingness to carry our His Will our lives.
In the beginning, America started off with a belief in a Higher Power, but we as Blacks were not necessarily included in what flows from belief in terms of the treatment of fellow human beings. So, here you have America at the pinnacle of her greatness, confronted with a problem that started from the institution of slavery and the founding fathers setting up a magnificent document that did not have us, the Blacks, in mind. Now Americans who have to decide whether the view of the founding fathers was somewhat narrow. If you want this land to be multiracial, multi-cultural, then the vision of the rulers has to expand to include those persons.
You are faced now with the terrible Black and White problem. You are faced with a rich and poor problem. You are faced with a rich and poor problem. You are faced with an economic problem--that little talk that's going in the Congress about arguing over whether they're going to balance the budget in seven years or five years. These re serious problems, but they flow our of a basic immorality. I'll close this by saying that each of us has responsibility for the moral condition of this nation, and to see cultural degeneracy displayed day in, day out, on radio, television, newspapers, magazines, the lowest, the base instincts of the human being is pandered to and the masses of the people are ignorant, in a democracy.
These are serious problems, as I see it, that demand all of us looking at it intelligently, and coming up with solutions that can save America from herself. There's no power outside of America that can destroy, even as we speak, by an internal rot that is not being properly addressed necessarily by the spiritual leaders, by the political leaders. The economic leaders, who have benefited so much from this country, have no sense of patriotism. Patriotism is not a part of corporate America's modus operandi. When you think more of a dollar and how you can make your bottom line fatter at the expense of the very nation that gave you c chance to become rich and powerful, then we have some serious, serious problems that have to be addressed.
The politicians, in my judgment, are not forthright enough. They want to talk about hopes and dreams of a good future, but they don't have the moral strength or courage right now to deal with the serious problems that this country faces. They've done a lot of comparing me with Pat Buchanan. Pat Buchanan is a very honest person. Whether you agree with Pat Buchanan is a very honest person. Whether you agree with Pat Buchanan or not, there's fire in that man's belly for what he believes. He speaks with passion because he's concerned about the future of this country. Whether you agree with him or not--that's entirely the people's choice--we need more people speaking forthrightly for the things and against those things that are absolutely destroying this nation.
AR: Do you hope to become a factor in the elections this year, to use the power you have, the influence you have?
MLF: I would like to be able to help as many Blacks, Hispanics, Arab-Americans, Asian-Americans, and White Americans, who have dropped out of the process or have not become involved in the political process, to get involved. I would like to see these votes leveraged, particularly since most Black people are Democrats, but yet are not getting from the Democratic Party what Blacks have given to that party. We have put our hopes and trusts in individuals, rather than in an agenda that is in the best interest of our people. If we, meaning the Nation of Islam and those who were responsible for the success of the Million Man March, could marshal those votes and mobilize those votes and develop an agenda that is good for the weak and the poor and the vulnerable in this society, then we could ask both parties to address these concerns. The one addressing our concerns best would get our vote. I would hope, not as a politician, to influence that direction, by the help of God.
AR: Is there a candidate right now who appeals to you?
MLF: No. Not at all. Mr. Clinton, according to what I read this morning in the paper, has great support in the Black community. But Mr. Clinton went further in dismantling affirmative action than the Supreme Court did. President Clinton spoke well on affirmative action but did the very opposite of what he said. Our people are very loyal, they're democrats, but what we would hope is to make Mr. Clinton more responsive to the needs of the Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Arab constituency. We can't do that by letting this man get off the hook with wonderful sounding speeches. We have to present him with an agenda, programmatic things, and get him to sign off on that which we feel is not only in the best interest of Black people--because it goes beyond us--but what is in the best interests of the masses of the American people--Black, Hispanic, Asian, Arab, and poor Whites.
If these concerns are not met properly, the thing that we saw in April of last year--bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma, the rise of a militia that feels that the country is going wrong and that nobody has to get it right--this spirit is growing in America. While the politicians are playing silly, little childish games, the American people are suffering and becoming more and more disillusioned with politicians, with the process. When that happens, you're facing possible anarchy and revolution.
We can't sit and say that that can't happen in America, when you see the great Russia, which was an empire, and all of a sudden in the twinkling of an eye it's done. The Shah of Iran sitting there with the powerful backing of America, and in the next day or two it's gone. President Ceausecu in Romania, so solid on the throne, and in a few minutes he's gone. What is this says is if our own intelligence-gathering institution could not see this and even prepare adequately for it, then it says we are like the ostrich with our head in the sand. Whatever we're doing with our head in the sand, some part of us is greatly exposed, so it would seem to me that we'd better start locking out for the masses of the American people, and bringing some sort of satisfaction to their dissatisfaction, otherwise, in the next four years there is great trouble on the horizon, in my humble judgment, for this country and for the world.
AR: What about other Black leaders such as Jesse Jackson, Benjamin Chavis, and others? Do you feel that they're doing an adequate job or could they be doing more?
MLF: We could do a much better job together that we do apart. The Rev. Jackson has tremendous skill and brilliance, both spiritually and politically. He's a major player, not only in Black affairs, but the Rev. Jackson can be a major player in the affairs of America. Kwesi Mfume, who has accepted the mantle of leadership of the NAACP and that organization, as well as Hugh Price (of the Urban League), as well as the Nation of Islam. All of us are valuable, but none of us individually can do what needs to be done. But this collective strategy of coming together and forming a consensus to in that direction, I think that would be in the best interest not only of Black people, but of America.
I will close that question with the point made by Martin King... that the oppressed, with all of our hurt and our pain, we became the moral conscience of a nation. Since there is not superpower on earth that can challenge America--we've always had this balance of power thing, Russia in the east and America in the west and the poor nations could opt to either play like they're going to communist to extract something from America or extract something from the Soviet Union. Well, now that the Soviet Union is gone, and England is not as powerful as she once was, nor France, so they have the EC, the European Community, coming together. But, they don't come together to challenge America, to make America more moral and more just.
Here is the unique contribution that Blacks can make to the survival of this nation. I feel that it is my duty to call Black people, in particular, and the oppressed, in general, to the task, to the mission of challenging America. Not with guns, because I really don't think that is necessary. Not with terrorist activity that takes the innocent lives of human beings, but challenging America with the force of our unity and the power of our logic.
I believe that once the American people really know, they will act appropriately. And to me, that's the responsibility of the news media. For the news media not to be free, is not in the best interest of the American people. The media must be free in order to keep America free and strong. I read an article in the paper recently that media people should not be used as spies. "Should not be," but some are. Some media folk are planted there by CIA, by FBI, to plant stories and this has been going on for years. It does not help America in the long run.
Now, I am a voice that you may not like, and that's alright with me. I'm not here to win popularity contests. But, if you report me accurately, that's all I ask. I don't ask you to give me some roses. What I do ask is that you do your research, question me as hard as you wish to, but then quote me accurately. Then, the American people are not deceived by false words because people fear me. And if you have any fears, I would like to dispel them.
At the Million Man March, which was a great triumph of will, a great triumph of character, we put that Million Man March on a Monday. Everyone told us you can't do it on a Monday. You must do it on a weekend. I said, no, it must be on a Monday, when government is in session, when school is in session, when people have to go to work, because I want to see if they will make a sacrifice; and they did.
Here was a mass of human beings that responded to a call. At the height of this "manifestation of influence and power," go back and listen to my speech, I never threatened America, I never said "well, we're going to do this." That was an army of Black men standing in front of me. You can say they liked the message, but they didn't like the Messenger. You can tickle yourself with that, if you wish to. They loved the message AND they loved the Messenger. Don't' you fool yourself or be fooled by those who manipulate your fears. I wanted to demonstrate to America that that's not my aim at all.
My aim is to do good for our people. Since this is the only country I know, and though I have love for Africa, great love for Africa, this is home to me. I would like to see America get it right. I would like to play a part in helping her to get right. Since all of us are only here for a short time, we have to ask what are we going to pass on to our children, and our grandchildren. Is this the America that we wish to pass on? I don't think so. That puts on all of us to do something better than what we are doing and have done. I hope I'm not talking too long on simple questions.
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