On Hurricane Katrina, Farrakhan Is Right

Published November 16, 2005

The leader of the Nation of Islam, Minister Louis Farrakhan, is not usually viewed as having mainstream views within the black community. But his opinion on the meaning of Hurricane Katrina to the black community is as good as or better than any found in the mainstream press.

Speaking recently to a crowd of about a thousand people, including evacuees from New Orleans, at Bethel AME church on the south side of Chicago, Minister Farrakhan said, “just as Democrats and Republicans came together after September 11, 2001, black Americans of all religions must join forces to help hurricane victims. Katrina is our reason.”

Few people who are not black realize that 9/11 was largely a white thing. Television coverage of the tragedy in New York reinforced that most of the victims and most of the heros were white. In New Orleans, the ratios were reversed.

Minister Farrakhan went on to say, “the suffering of Katrina victims has brought black people together in a way that hasn’t been seen in a long time.” He asked the question, “How much do blacks love one another? It’s not enough to send a dollar, some clothes or food because those are things many of us can part from. What’s required is that we open our doors and let our family come in.”

This isn’t the rhetoric of victimhood we heard so much of from spokespersons for the civil rights movement following Katrina. Nor does it contain echos of the entitlement mentality that implies that people can be helped simply by giving them things or even money.

Minister Farrakhan is correctly calling on the black community to pull together and help its own by providing the kind of personal help and support that family members provide to one another. This is a smart and positive message that goes way beyond “playing the race card.”

We should always give credit where it is due. On the meaning of Katrina to the black community and on what needs to be done in the hurricane’s aftermath, Minister Farrakhan is way ahead of the crowd. On these matters, leaders in both the black and white communities would do well to listen to him.

Lee H. Walker ([email protected]) is president of The New Coalition for Economic and Social Change.

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Lee H. Walker Chicago, Illinois 312/377-4000 (day) [email protected]