But African American leaders should also be vocal about the fact that Jews were, by and large, the only group to side with black people in opposition to Ronald Reagan and George Bush in the 1980s and continue to back liberal programs of which they are the major beneficiaries. Moreover, if black people ignore racism in their own community, how can they expect others to fight its inevitable resurgence in the larger American polity should economic conditions worsen? Many Americans, caught up in the ethos of selfishness that continues to dominate this society, are only too happy to find excuses to lower their own taxes by voting against candidates who support social programs for the poor. It has often been Jews who have been in the vanguard of groups reminding their fellow citizens of their moral responsibility toward the oppressed. While many of us will continue to play this role out of commitment to Torah values, there are many more, torn between idealism and self-interest, who are increasingly resistant to a social-justice agenda when they perceive that the most oppressed are spitting in their faces.
Farrakhan may be marginal at the moment, but the NAACP invitation has given him new avenues of entrance to more respectable communities. Taking the hint from its national office, the Fresno chapter of the NAACP sponsored a major rally at the Fresno Convention Center at which Farrakhan was the featured speaker, and Arsenio Hall hosted him on national television. The more his voice is legitimized, the more his poison will seem acceptable.