This liberal-leaning Jew who has for years been involved in a variety of social justice causes has just gotten the awakening of his life. I have come face to face with the rage of an evil man.
He calls himself a leader of the black community. In front of hundreds of predominantly African American students at San Francisco State University last week, Khalid Muhammad, associated with the Nation of Islam, delivered a 90-minute speech entitled "Zionism is Racism." What ensued was a full-metal-jacket assault full of venom, hatred and lies directed primarily at Jews.
But not Jews exclusively. Muhammad hates almost everyone equally. Decrying homosexuals at San Fran-"sissy"-co State, he announced, "There was no homosexuality in Africa. Homosexuality and other freakishness were introduced by the white European devil."
The basest of his diatribes, however, he reserved for the Jews. He stood in front of a large swastika onstage and echoed the rallying cry of all other anti-Semites: that the Holocaust didn't happen. And if it did, it is irrelevant compared to the 600 million blacks who, he said, have been murdered in the last 6,000 years.
Imagine a Jewish community leader stating in a public forum that "the slave trade was not that bad," or that "blacks didn't really die and weren't mistreated." The Jewish community would be outraged.
Attacking Israel as the "criminal settler colony that has no right to exist," Muhammad said, "Jewish rabbis laid the foundation to the theory of black inferiority."
He spoke of the "Jew-devil," the "filthy Jew," "Jew bastards," the "pimp Jew," the "hook-nosed Jew," and on and on. To these epithets, the crowd at SFSU gave thunderous applause.
Huddled in my seat, I began to pray that this nightmare would end. Never before have I seen such a display of vitriol toward other people. I could only think that this kind of unrelenting bigotry reflected that of Nazi Germany.
The libel was identical, even if it was not lifted from the same evil.
How must Jewish students on this campus feel on a daily basis?
But Muhammad's performance was only just beginning. He moved on to speak of Jewish prostitutes, rabbis sucking blood from the penises of circumcised boys, the "Jew-controlled Congress" and the "Jewish-controlled Federal Reserve."
Even blacks were not immune from his wrath.
"Nelson Mandela is in the pockets of the filthy Jew," Muhammad declared, as is basketball superstar Michael Jordan and the "faggot-like" flamboyant basketball star Dennis Rodman. Former NAACP head Benjamin Chavis also came under fire as the crowd clapped and laughed at Muhammad's hateful jokes.
As I cowered deeper in my seat, I waited for what might come next. How far could this evil go? I expected the worst. At the crescendo of the speech, as he was finishing his attack on the film industry and its continual displays of blacks killing blacks, Muhammad said, "It is time for blacks to make revolutionary movies where blacks are killing white folks…
"Kill them so hard, slice their heads to bits right on the screen. Make it so lively that your popcorn feels it is getting soaked in blood off the screen!"
He then said he was physically attacked in Riverside, outside Los Angeles, but the police stood idly by. So he "deputized" the SFSU audience, turning them into his personal guard. He then pointed to the white cops in the auditorium and assigned different portions of the room to "get" each officer. My heart raced. I was sure an all-out riot was about to begin. And the crowd jeered louder.
But I stayed. I waited to discover whether there might be some good embedded in all this evil. Black colleagues and friends had told me that while the message is unpalatable, the work of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and company is having a positive impact among young blacks. I wanted to understand how that could be.
I am sad to report that Muhammad did not help me understand. There was no talk of focusing on education, of upholding morality, of fighting off drugs, of pursuing love. There was only talk of "pursuing the enemy" (Jews, gays, "Uncle Toms" and whites) and of using "violence if necessary." What end the violence would serve was not mentioned. But to me it was clear that this was about violence and hatred for its own sake.
Where this violence could lead, I am to frightened to imagine.
By the end of the speech, I too felt hatred and anger. I too wanted to lash out — at least, at this tyrannical force on the stage. But if I had done that, I would have allowed this evil force to win. Escalating vitriol only serves the purpose of evil.
It serves Khalid Muhammad's self-aggrandizing purpose. He does not empower people with hope, but rather with self-destructive rage. That is his formula.
Well-intentioned people need to expose bigots for what they are. The "Jew and white man" are not the "enemy" in this case. Let not Khalid Muhammad speak for the black community.
Would the speech have been any less chilling had the crowd not been so enthusiastic? Absolutely. The shocking thing was that no student groups or individuals were there to protest.
Let us together make sure that next time a speaker like Muhammad appears, he is not welcomed by several hundred fans but rather by 1,000 loud protesters — blacks and Jews, gays and straights.
Anything less, I fear, might crumple the progress our black and Jewish communities have made in working together for social justice and mutual understanding.