When H&M created a brochure that featured a young black child in a T-shirt that displayed an image of a monkey with the words, “cutest little monkey in the jungle,” the reaction was severe. As it should have been. The word monkey has been used repeatedly to demean, insult, oppress and deny. Anyone that doesn’t get why there is enormous sensitivity around this issue is choosing not to. The brochure was not just tone deaf, it was offensive.
Words have long been used as a tool of oppression and control. Women know this well; as do any minority. Hitler was a master at this and used words to systematically distance the Jewish population of Europe further and further from the general populace, until they were no longer considered human. When they were perceived as rodents, it followed fairly “logically” that they should be treated as one would treat a pest of that nature.
They would need to be exterminated.
Just like termites.
Louis Farrakhan words don’t hurt me. When he says that he is not an “anti-Semite” but rather an “Anti-termite” it doesn’t make me feel one iota insect-like. It does not demean me, it doesn’t shake me in my belief of myself as a person or as a Jew. It is school yard stupidity of the most unimpressive kind.
It does not, however, mean that he should be allowed to get away with it.
On the contrary.
Louis Farrakhan’s words don’t hurt me. What causes me pain was the laughter of the audience when he made the glib comment. He seemed proud of himself for the delivery of his witticism. And those in attendance, sensing his smugness, sycophantically giggled along with him. It was playground stuff.
Farrakhan’s words matter naught. What matters is that this is not his first antisemitic utterance and will unlikely be his last. He is a fixated and obsessed anti-Semite and will most likely continue to behave as he does. What matters is that he is likely to continue to get away with normalizing this dangerous rhetoric.
Louis Farrakhan has ingratiated himself with the liberal elite in the United States. Both Obama and the Clintons have been photographed alongside him. And whereas they publicly denounce his attitude towards Jews, the fact that they continue to be seen with him is that which empowers him. Without his social circle, all Farrakhan would be is just another racist preacher selling hate on the corner of Nowhere and Irrelevant.
The world is filled with Farrakhans. They are a dime to a dozen. It is his political and social power that makes him relevant. And it is to that power that he is addicted.
Much like Hitler was.
The Anti-Defamation League has since called on Twitter to remove Louis Farrakhan from the social network after he posted the video that compared Jews to termites. Twitter responded that he was not in violation of any of their rules. And seemed to mutter something about their new policy not having gone into effect. Their approach is no different to the audience who giggled when Farrakhan vomited his hate over them.
Plainly put, Twitter’s response was appalling.
Anyone who has experienced racism understands the danger of words. What began with images of Jews as rats in Germany, ended with them being gassed in concentration camps in Poland. What began with a description of Africans as “Monkeys” ended with decades of slavery and of oppression.
Farrakhan needs to be stopped. He needs to be denied his drug of choice: social acceptance. And he needs to be dis-empowered by the social media platforms who promote him. Anyone who supports and or condones his behavior, either directly or even tacitly needs to be treated the same way.
When Farrakhan says that he is not an anti-semite, he is an anti-termite, his words might be childish and stupid. But that doesn’t mean that someone is not going to get hurt.