Déjà Vu

The new Farrakhan sounds a lot like the old -- anti-Semitic

The crowd rumbles with anger. Farrakhan's got them in the palm of his hand.

"The same year they set up the IRS, they set up the FBI," he says. "And the same year they set up...." He pauses, then speaks slowly. "...the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith." He looks ahead. "It could be coincidence," he says, smiling sheepishly, and tucks his $100 in his pocket.

No one voices any indignation here for what Farrakhan is saying -- not former Dallas City Council member Diane Ragsdale, who's here tonight, not the church's pastor, Tyler Carter, who's also in attendance. (And on the previous night, at a town-hall meeting organized by a local chapter of the Nation of Islam, Councilman Leo Chaney voiced his support for Farrakhan's upcoming march.)

Same Farrakhan for the new millennium
Alyssa Banta
Same Farrakhan for the new millennium

"Come on, brother," shouts a man, amid the unbridled applause.

"They brought us here to destroy us," Farrakhan says, speaking of other whites now. "For 300 years we were not allowed to marry. The slave master would go into our women and produce children my color," he says, contemptuously rubbing his brown face.

"We were like animals," he shouts and turns to his right, to look at me. "So you white people don't understand why we are the way we are," he screams. "So my Arab Muslim brothers, you don't know why we are the way we are.

"You don't know what's happened to us."

The crowd jumps to its feet, cheering. Just as quickly, the four guards sitting at the edge of the stage stand up and look ahead, stone-faced.

"When we were free, we wanted to marry," he says, over the cries of a child in the audience. "The enemy saw our rise, so now crack cocaine -- the devil -- is right up in our house," says Farrakhan, repeating his oft-recited conspiracy theory that the CIA planted the drug in black America.

"Since you've been robbed of a creative mind," he continues, "you find pleasure in your bodies."

He wipes the sweat from his face with a white handkerchief. He's not letting "the enemy" off the hook.

"The enemy...create(d) a virus that destroys the immune system, transmitted by sex."

"Preach," they shout.

"They're running the radio stations," screams Farrakhan, "the newspapers, and they dumb you down in the schools." He looks around. "I'm just telling you what's going on."

The woman behind me, her head covered by a white cloth, nods. Her eyes never wander from him; she's transfixed.

"We have to reconstruct family life...I would like to remarry 10,000 couples," says Farrakhan, outlining one of his goals for the Million Family March.

"When you hear me speak, I never speak condemning of somebody else's faith," he says, clearly conditioning this audience to view his rant against whites and Jews as the truth and nothing less. "Don't let anyone tell you I condemn Judaism.

"They lie," he says, indignantly. "They lie."

"Here's what I condemn. I condemn the taking of Palestinian land," he says, voicing the sort of anti-Israel rhetoric that other black civil rights groups, among them the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee of the 1960s, once expressed.

"I'm not anti-Semitic. I'm not that," he says, shaking his head in denial.

"I want to see black intellectuals free," he shouts. The crowd roars its approval.

"I want to see them not controlled by members of the Jewish community."

"Preach on."

"Am I lying?" he asks them.

"No, sir!" they fire back.

It's close to midnight, and the crowds are leaving."I thought it was tremendous, spectacular," says a 32-year-old, a local producer of R&B records standing outside the church with two other young men. "I believe he was on point on all of his issues."

Even what Farrakhan said about Jews?

"The type of leader that I've known Minister Farrakhan to be is one who does not charge without having the full facts," he says, declining to give his name because I may be "one of those agents" Farrakhan spoke of.

"I've never had an encounter with Jews, negative or positive," interjects Bryant Johnson, 32, who has worked in data entry. But he takes Farrakhan at his word. "That means there's a percentage of people that are rich that control the environment."

"The history speaks for itself," says the third man, who says he's an actor.

"The Minister speaks from experience," says this 25-year-old dressed in a suit. "His words are just."

"Let me ask you this question," says the producer. "Given the history of white people in America, Jews in America...if you had been the object of ridicule, discrimination, then what would your disposition be?

"I'm living from paycheck to paycheck," he adds. "Not because I'm lazy, not because I'm dumb, but because I'm a black man in a white man's world.

"The whole international banking conspiracy -- are you versed on this? Are you aware?" he asks.

I plead ignorance, just to see what he'll say. He snickers.

"That's what we're saying," says the actor. "So many things are happening, and you have no idea."

"I knew that you were Jewish when you came up to me," says the producer.

"I knew by your nose," adds the actor.

"You probably have friends...who take off on Saturdays and Sundays and become part of a militia," says the producer, chiming in. He sounds earnest, as if he believes every word.

"Write this down, sister," he says, and speaks about a book, The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, which he says was written by a Jew. (It's actually a piece of pseudo-scholarship put out by Farrakhan's "Historical Research Department" that purports to prove how Jews took the lead in capturing Africans and transporting them to America.)

"You know what it is?" he concludes. "You're really not used to talking to educated, well-versed brothers."

And there is not a hint of irony in his voice.

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