Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuu . . .

One of the things I love about getting older is my own social past has become today's social history. I have personally watched the world's vast and complex system of how people deal with their differences turn and spin and change. 

February 28, 1994 cover of Time Magazine 

As a white, southern teenager (and a passionate advocate of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s peaceful brand of activism),  I didn't know what to make of the Nation of Islam. Which, I suppose, was exactly their point: I, as a white girl, did not have a clue about what black men were dealing with in mid-Twentieth Century America.

I remember studying pictures of packs of strong, angry-looking men in dark suits and strange hats, walking in formation around Malcolm X or Louis Farrakhan, all of them obviously in a hurry to get somewhere I wasn't invited.

I was particularly perplexed by (awed by? afraid of?) Louis Farrakhan, "The Minister of Rage,"  who spoke with such venom even against his own, slightly less radical cohort Malcolm X. In 1964, I was dimly aware when their final rift was triggered somehow by Elijah Muhammad's impregnation of a couple of his teen-age secretaries. Farrakhan and Malcolm X were by then intense competitors within the Black Islamic movement. Farrakan called Malcolm out in the NOI newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, writing:
"Only those who wish to be led to hell, or to their doom, will follow Malcolm. The die is set, and Malcolm shall not escape, especially after such evil, foolish talk about his benefactor; such a man is worthy of death and would have been met with death if it had not been for Muhammad's confidence in Allah for victory over his enemies." 
Malcolm X was shot dead ten weeks later. Farrakhan denied involvement in the assassination. Yet he did say in a 1994 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace and Malcolm X's widow, Shirley Shabaz, "I may have been complicit in words that I spoke leading up to February 21 [1965]. I acknowledge that and regret that any word that I have said caused the loss of life of a human being." 

Anyway, to me, Louis Farrakhan had always seemed militantly uninterested in any kind of social change that would unite his race with my race.

Let's move backwards to a couple of years  after Malcolm X's assassination.

I moved to Charlottesville in 1968 where I lived, off-and-on, for the next 22 years. When I got there, Mr. Jefferson's town was still pretty socially conservative.  I remember the native whites as not troubling much to hide their inherited racism. It was exactly the kind of place Louis Farrakhan might have been talking about when he said, as late as 2000: "White people are potential humans - they haven't evolved yet."  

Or maybe we have. At least, that's what I see as I keep hanging out, keep watching the world turn, and its events unfold.  I'll leave it to others to write about our first black President's second State of the Union Address, and what that says about the wheeling and turning of social history in the last 50 years.

What I want to write about now is last Saturday's 72-64 trouncing of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets by the Virginia Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena. crowed: 
Senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan scored a game-high 23 points. . .The 23 points are Farrakhan’s career high in an ACC game and he tied his overall career high with five assists.  
Mustapha Farrakhan slam dunks
I listened to the game (you can take a girl out of Charlottesville, but you can't take the Hoo out of an old Cavalier sports reporter) and noticed that every time Mustapha Farrakhan,  Louis Farrakhan's grandson, touched the ball, the crowd exploded with a loud chorus of  Muuuuuuuuuuuuuu.

I'm not an historical sentimentalist. I don't know Mustapha Farrakhan's politics, nor whether there were still old-timers in the JPJ arena who were made uncomfortable by his presence. But that doesn't negate the fact the grandson of as militant a black militant as I'm personally aware of, chose to go to the University of Virginia and has been embraced by its legion of basketball fans.

I love getting older. You live long enough and times change. And sometimes they almost seem to change for the better.


  1. Love the time traveling evolution of a part of the civil rights movement. When I was in college in Boston, I marched on the streets in a black armband after Martin was assassinated. I remember being shocked and scared of all the black fists in the air. You touched on that disconnect of the white middle class with black urban poverty. I taught later in a Head Start classroom. Looking at the statistics of male/black Cville high school graduates, I'm afraid we have a long way still to go.

  2. peace and blessings as a member of the Nation of Islam under the leadership of Minister Louis Farrakhan reading your blog I smiled it made me remember when I was in high school man my friends were in the library checking out books and the a librarian heard me was Jesus is Black and she looked at me and said you make me nervous. I was shocked because I said what I felt I didn't know she was a racist I spent 4years around her and never knew that. At that time being a Muslim was not even on my thinking but look at me now. I am happy to be a Muslim I was a Christian and my father is a Minister in the church. I don't hate white people and Minister Farrakhan don't teach hate but I know White people and you all's history and I see you all never change have you read Martin Luther King Jr's letter from a Birmingham jail. It's good reading and did you know that he said it might be better for us to separate from white people in order for us to have Justice Freedom and Equality!!!