The Politics of Denunciation – Dred Feminist Rant #10 – March 9, 2018
I’m reading the current controversy surrounding Women’s March leader Tamika Mallory and Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam. Although I don’t know either of these people, I’m worried that a black woman is being punished for failing to denounce a black leader, odious as he is. There is something wrong with this pile-on that is focusing on Tamika. And I’m calling bullshit.
This post is not to argue about or defend Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism, misogyny, or homophobia. Those issues have been decided about him for decades in my opinion. I began asking questions about him with Malcolm’s murder, and my skepticism has only grown as he’s become more anti-Semitic, misogynist, and homophobic. His authoritarian tendencies are well-known. I believe he was probably paid by Libya to become stridently anti-Semitic, and when I was told by a former NOI member he did not allow his followers to study Chancellor Williams’ The Destruction of Black Civilization because it mentioned the enslavement of Africans by Arabs to singularly focus on the Jewish roles in the European enslavement, I was totally through with believing in his political integrity.
Having said that, I did not and do not denounce him. In fact, I don’t denounce anyone. I remember being called by the Anti-Defamation League when I monitored hate groups in the 1990s and was ordered to “denounce” black anti-Semites. This was part of an effort by some folks to magnify the specter of a “black threat” by Black Identity Extremists as now named by Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice. I recognized then how profitable it is for white folks to become alarmist about the perception of violence by black people in general, and black men particularly, as part of a white fragility narrative. This helps those who are supposed to be our allies raise money by stoking white supremacist fears of African Americans, while ignoring the fact that few black people actually commit hate crimes against white people, Jewish or gentile, particularly the mass murder attacks too frequent in our society. To falsely equate white terrorists with black anti-Semites while commanding black anti-fascists to denounce such black opportunists, who were mostly of the stupid variety anyway, seemed manipulative and not working in good faith against white supremacy.
I politely reminded them than I didn’t even denounce the KKK, but my goal is to build a human rights movement in which everyone is included, even very problematic people who I would definitely not want to hang out with. I think my “I’m Not Your Negro” moment angered them, but I felt secure as one of the few African American anti-fascist feminists who studied, organized, and taught about anti-Semitism on the left and the right, but who also refused to have my political behavior dictated to me by others.
Those who do not understand the complexity of the fight against white supremacy in the black community are also those who don’t really understand intersectionality. They are misusing it to demand that a black woman prioritize her gender over her race. And that ain’t gonna happen.
Why are Mallory’s critics punching down on her when Agent Orange 45 is meeting with Netanyahu and ignoring the situation of the Palestinians? Too much defense of Palestinians does involve anti-Semitism, just as too much defense of Israel involves racism, especially anti-black racism in the US, which barely needs help getting rekindled in this particular historical moment. The history of Black-Jewish relations is long and fraught with the complications of mutual support and need, yet it was only a very short time ago that anyone offering an analysis of these relations was automatically called an anti-Semite and severely punished.
Those of us building a human rights movement understand that misguided calling out tactics dividing our resistance to fascism are short-sighted and serve the interests of the oppressors. As I said, I’m calling bullshit.