By Jane Eisner
Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, is an unrepentant bigot. His hatred of, and disdain for, Jews, gay men and lesbians, trans people and white people in general is consistent and unwavering. It forms the basis of his prophecy and his politics, which he will shamelessly preach to anyone who will listen.
Farrakhan is also the aging, fading leader of a black nationalist sect that reached its peak of power two decades ago and has steadily diminished ever since. The Nation of Islam, credited with doing good work in blighted neighborhoods no one else would touch, is now largely irrelevant. Farrakhan is a figment of the past, more the crazy beloved uncle than a force for much of anything.
Well, which is it?
Is he a real and present danger to American democracy in general and to Jews in particular? Is he, as the Anti-Defamation League pronounced a few years ago, the leading anti-Semite in America? Should he be denounced and exiled from all polite company?
Or should his supporters — including those who lead the Women’s March — be forgiven for their lingering affection and admiration for a man whose exhortations of self-improvement and responsibility are far more consequential than his spasms of hate-filled rhetoric?
This 85-year-old throwback, who has been on his deathbed more than once, is like a Phoenix of our racial politics, rising up again and again, making mischief, never really going away but never causing real harm, either.