(George Curry Media) – A friend of mine said something to me last week that has kept me thinking: “Why do you think the media lets Donald Trump say anything he wants, but has basically censored Minister Louis Farrakhan? Why do you think it’s okay for Trump to say hateful, racist, sexist things, and it’s not okay for Farrakhan?”
In the eyes of their followers, both Trump and Farrakhan “tell it like it is.” Each man has a penchant for forcefully speaking to the hearts and spirits of people who are mostly ignored, groups that feel marginalized and forgotten – and they are angry about it.
Farrakhan and Trump are angry, and make no bones about it. But Trump largely gets a pass.
An exception is Dana Milbank who wrote in The Washington Post, “Let’s not mince words: Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist.”
Another rarity is Paul Walderman, who also wrote in The Washington Post, “The problem is that the media doesn’t know how to handle this kind of blatant race-baiting from a leading politician. And just to be clear, it is race-baiting, and nothing else.”
Those two examples are the exception rather than the rule.
For example, the conservative Washington Times wrote, “The controversial Nation of Islam leader famously labeled President Obama a ‘murderer’ over the death of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
“Last summer, Mr. Farrakhan made headlines when he called for an army of 10,000 to ‘rise up and kill those who kill us.’
“In October, the Nation of Islam hosted the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., with the chilling theme ‘Justice or Else.’”
Yet, there was no reference in the article to Trump’s racist past.
Trump’s latest boast about being able to go in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York City and shoot someone and still not lose supporters has not garnered a full-blown challenge. Anchors have been giggling and have been shaking their heads, but they have not been willing to really confront him. It is troubling to watch and hear.
Trump has been disparaging in his remarks against women, Mexicans in general, and illegal Mexican immigrants in particular. He has questioned whether former prisoner of war John McCain is, in fact, a war hero. He has proposed to ban all Muslims from entering this country. He talked disparagingly about fellow GOP presidential rival Carly Fiorina, saying, “Look at that face!” He likened Dr. Ben Carson, also in the GOP race, to a child molester.
None of what Trump has said, in person, in front of cameras, or via Twitter has been enough for the media to turn away from him.
Farrakhan, on the other hand, has been routinely reprimanded by the U.S. media. The head of the Nation of Islam has been unabashed about his disgust with White supremacy and Jewish people. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Farrakhan “… is an anti-Semite who routinely accuses Jews of manipulating the U.S. government and controlling the levers of world power. Farrakhan blames Jews for the slave trade, plantation slavery, Jim Crow, sharecropping and general black oppression.”
Clearly, Farrakhan’s words and beliefs are anti-Semitic, and he clearly hates White supremacy. But are his words and beliefs any more toxic than Trump’s? Is Farrakhan’s dislike of racist White people and Jews any worse than Trump’s dislike of Mexicans and Muslims? Is Trump’s virtual silence on issues that affect Black people in this nation any less an indication of racial hatred against Black people than Farrakhan’s open dislike of Jewish and racist White people?
Aren’t both men xenophobic? Is xenophobia coming from a White man less toxic than xenophobia coming from a Black man? Is the fact that Trump is a wealthy White man, a celebrity, who brings ratings up for any media operation the reason he is basically given a free pass? Or, is it something deeper?
The support of Trump has shown the widening underbelly of America, an underbelly that is racist at its core. Evangelicals – who know the difference between Second Corinthians and “2 Corinthians” – and fellow conservatives have been largely silent as he has bellowed his racist and sexist rants.
Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page wrote, “The crowds at events for both men are excited to be there. Their presence is in itself a statement that their followers want to send the world about their frustration with the status quo.”
The status quo protects Trump’s bigotry while calling out Farrakhan at every turn. That’s not making America great again.
Rev. Susan K Smith is an award-winning author and essayist who writes much on the intersectionality of race, religion and politics. She can be reached at rev.netsuekim@sbcglobal.