Uncommon Ground: Recent Hatefests

Recent Hatefests

The Council’s incessant reliance on verbal indictments of whites and Jews was evident most recently at two BAHC-sponsored forums, held on June 30, and July 28, 1994. The first event, titled, “The Conspiracy to Commit Murder: the Attempted Assassination of Brother Dr. Khalid Abdul Muhammad,” was an unabashed effort by BAHC to transform the May 29 shooting of Khalid Muhammad in Riverside, California, into a grand conspiracy masterminded by Jewish groups and the government in an effort to destroy the Black community. A report in the New York City weekly The Village Voice noted that in his introductory remarks Eric Muhammad told the crowd, “White folks can’t do anything different than what they’ve always done. All their plans are readable.”

The discussion was then taken over by Steve Cokely, a Chicago-based conspiracy theorist who has blamed Jewish doctors for the spread of AIDS among African-American youth. According to The Village Voice, Cokely launched into a variety of conspiracy theories, beginning with the claim that a few months before the shooting, gunman James Edward Bess received the sum of $25,000 “out of the sky.” “The brother was set up for murder,” Cokely continued. “The ADL set him up for murder. The New York Times promoted and established a time frame under which the murder would go on, but the National Security Council approved the murder.” Referring to these three groups, as well as to media reports that had described Bess as a disgruntled former NOI minister, Cokely then argued that “they came up with a motive when the man was still unconscious,” apparently so that they could cover up their own guilt. Then, attempting to lend Muhammad’s shooting even greater importance, Cokely drew parallels between its aftermath and events that followed John F. Kennedy’s assassination. “Now the boy [James Bess] slept for two days from the ass-whippin’ he took,” Cokely said. “And what you need to know is the police left him [lying on the ground] for 10, 12, 15 minutes waiting for him to be killed to death, no more than Ruby had to shoot Oswald.”

On July 28, two months after Khalid Muhammad was shot in the foot, BAHC marked Murhammad’s return to the speaking circuit with a rally at the Friendship Baptist Church in Brooklyn. Khalid Muhammad’s speech at the event would be his first stop on a 47-city tour to be sponsored by BAHC. But hours before Muhammad took the stage, speaker after speaker rose to the podium to decry the apparent assassination attempt, and to blame whites for the fact that it occurred. According to the Forward, Alton Maddox, introduced to the crowd of over 400 as “Brother Attorney,” tried to channel the anger of the audience into financial gain. “No one here professes to be a lover of white folks,” he announce. “So if you got anything with a picture of a white man on it, leave it here.” All contributions solicited, Maddox explained, would be used to pay Muhammad’s medical bills. Maddox appealed to the audience for close to two hours, urging listeners to dump cash, checks, and even food stamps into wicker baskets being circulated around the room.

In his own presentation at the rally, Khalid Muhammad employed his fiery, take-no-prisoners oratorical style to similarly paint himself as a victim of a white supremacist conspiracy. An account of the speech in the Brooklyn-based daily, the Daily Challenge, explained that Muhammad, speaking as though these conspirators were in front of him, shouted,

“You made a big mistake keeping me alive today, I’m bolder than before because I’ve tasted the bullet.” Continuing his racist harangue, Muhammad raved, “I don’t want your stringy-haired, blond-head, pale-skinned, straight-up-but-straight-down, no-frills-no-thrills, Miss-six-o’clock, subject-to-the-itch, white-cave bitch!”

The relentless scapegoating and hatemongering carried out at these meetings have proven to be the norm at BAHC events. Indeed, a cursory glance at the individuals and rhetorical themes promoted by the organization suggests that while BAHC lacks the recognition, influence, and sheer numbers enjoyed by Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, there is nevertheless a striking similarity between the agendas of these two groups.

A closer inspection, however, of the messages of these two organizations, as well as of the style in which these messages are imparted, also provides some contrasts. Much of the racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric promoted by NOI draws heavily on the 60-year-old quasi-theological teachings of its former leader, Elijah Muhammad, which describe Blacks as the original man, fashioned in God’s image, and whites as “blue-eyed devils” created in the laboratory of an evil scientist. And while racism and anti-Semitism have remained central to NOI teachings, the group’s teachings also contain heavy doses of Islamic doctrine. In the case of BAHC, however, the militant, hateful rhetoric spouted at gatherings represents the bulk of its dogma. And, in contrast to Farrakhan adherents, who are compelled to follow a strict code of social and dietary law, little is demanded of BAHC members. The group appears to be vociferous in its expression of unvarnished racism and anti-Semitism. This is made especially apparent by the revered status the Council has accorded hatemonger Khalid Muhammad.