When the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan spoke to the National Dental Association in Chicago, the room for its annual civil rights luncheon was packed. Among the top professionals in Black America, some had thriving private practices, others worked for government or corporations. Many were second and perhaps third generation dentists.
They applauded the Minister and presented him with two awards as part of a glowing and heartfelt tribute to his work. Minister Farrakhan was humble, poignant and passionate. He delivered a critical message: Despite professional achievements and a well-earned “good life,” no man or woman can rise above the condition of his or her people. A life of ease devoted to creature comforts is not the way life was meant to be lived, Min. Farrakhan explained. The Holy Qur’an, the Muslim book of scripture, warns against living the “easy” life when struggle is ordained and the highest form of struggle is to free a slave.
Freeing a slave today means confronting institutions, policies and practices that destroy Black people. It means harnessing all the tools we have, especially economic strength, to put power behind demands for justice.
Min. Farrakhan noted that Dr. Martin Luther King referred to Black America’s consumer power the night before he was assassinated in 1968, which is estimated at $1.1 trillion to $1.3 trillion today. Dr. King said “redistribute the pain” through economic withdrawal, or boycotting businesses that refuse to deal fairly with Blacks, the Minister noted. That strategy must be employed today as we demand “Justice Or Else!” at the 20th anniversary gathering of the Million Man March, Oct. 10 in Washington, D.C., the Minister continued.
“Or Else! means that you are committed to do something to bring about the justice you seek. The ultimate of that, of course, is to give your life, but that’s not what we are asking. God is sufficient. He did say vengeance is mine. He did say, God is not mocked, whatsoever a man soweth, the same shall he also reap. This is reaping time now. People in power never thought they would see the day that they would have to pay for the evil they have poured on us and on human beings around the earth,” Min Farrakhan noted.
Economic withdrawal in 2015 must include a refusal to spend a dime on Christmas shopping, which exploits the love of Jesus and puts Santa Claus, pagan customs and unholy activity at the center of a day supposedly marking the birth of a righteous servant of God, he noted.
Dr. King wanted to boycott Christmas but didn’t think the movement had enough power to be successful, Min. Farrakhan said.
“Black people are the biggest spenders on Christmas than any ethnic group in America. So suppose we withdrew just for the Christmas season?” he asked.
“Why don’t we this Christmas bring Jesus front and center, don’t spend your money, keep it in your pocket, gather your family and express your heart to your loved ones,” he said. Showing love for one day can help generate a “new spirit in the ’hood. We can turn things around,” he said.
The luncheon was a fitting place for the Minister to call Black dentists to join Justice Or Else! It was inaugurated by Dr. C.O. Simpkins in 1966, who led protests to end institutionalized racism, segregation, and police brutality, the NDA says. “In 1962, three years prior to Dr. Simpkins’s initiation of the NDA Civil Rights Luncheon, the first of Dr. Simpkins’s homes, which was under construction, was bombed. That same year, while he was in Washington, D.C., discussing the Civil Rights Movement with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, a second home was bombed. With policyholders canceling insurance on his home, auto, and office, Dr. Simpkins was forced into exile,” according to NDA.
The Black middle class enjoys a tenuous existence—just like the rest of Black America.
The Center for American Progress, in a 2014 report titled “The Middle-Class Squeeze,” observed, “Families of color have fallen further behind white families in building wealth: A survey that tracked white and African American families between 1984 and 2009 found that the wealth gap between them nearly tripled, from $85,000 to $236,500,” the report added.
Black children are more likely than any other children born into the middle class to drop out of it: “Downward intergenerational social mobility from the middle to the bottom is much more common among Black Americans. Seven out of ten black Americans born into the middle quintile fall into one of the two quintiles below as adults. In some ways, this is an even more depressing fact than the poor rates of upward mobility. Even black Americans who make it to the middle class are likely to see their kids fall down the ladder,” observed the Brookings Institute in a January paper titled “Five Bleak Facts on Black Opportunity.”
“Even among white and black families with similar incomes, white families are much more likely to live in good neighborhoods—with high-quality schools, day-care options, parks, playgrounds and transportation option,” added the New York Times several weeks ago. This isn’t to mention police stops that lead former NBC-TV host and sportscaster Bryant Gumble to share his son’s troubling experiences with Charlie Rose. “My son has been arrested for Walking While Black,” he told the White interviewer during a PBS show broadcast Aug. 6. “You can’t buy your way out of this one. You can’t educate your way out of this one. … This has nothing to do with the victims. This has everything to do with the culture of demeaning a person of color. There is no justification for a society where my son has a far greater chance of being stopped, held, killed, than your son, simply because he is Black.”
Justice Or Else!—regardless of color and class.