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I know you know this already, but our country is full of problematic people – bigots, racists, xenophobes, Islamophobes, homophobes, misogynists, anti-Semites, and so much more. We have body-shamers, liars, cheaters, scammers, and people who are just downright mean or hateful.

Eventually, somebody you know and love is going to be problematic. It could be in your presence. It could be a public debacle. Or maybe you just hear about it, but eventually you are going to experience the unique crisis of having somebody you are in a relationship with say or do something that’s flat out wrong.

And until you’ve been in that position, it’s hard to say how you’ll respond.

What I know is that we live in a time where problematic people, particularly men who’ve sexually assaulted or harassed others, and anyone who is found to be a bigot of any kind – those people are being called out. Social media and the ease of publishing now makes calling out such people far easier than it was just ten years ago. And the election of Donald Trump – after it was widely known that he was a man of low character and integrity who was accused of sexually assaulting or harassing over a dozen different women – his election caused a ripple effect that many are calling “a reckoning.” Problematic men, who’ve long since gotten away with various offenses, are being forced to answer for said offenses.

So, I have a friend. Her name is Tamika Mallory. She’s not a problematic man. She’s a wonderful woman, a loving mother, and a world class leader.

Tamika is one of the lead organizers of the Women’s March. Before you ever heard of Tamika or the march she helped organize, she fought for civil rights here in New York for nearly two decades. Years before the Black Lives Matter Movement was even an idea, she and I were once featured side by side in an issue of Jet Magazine for our civil rights work.

And now, she is under fire because people are questioning how she, woke civil rights leader that she is, could have a particularly problematic friend – Minister Louis Farrakhan.

On Twitter, and elsewhere, I’ve come to the defense of my friend. She has come to my defense many times. And this won’t be the last, I am sure, for either of us.

I want to attempt to unpack something that I think looks simple, but just isn’t nearly as simple on the inside as it looks from the outside.

Here’s what it looks like from the outside.

Minister Louis Farrakhan appears to have a lifelong problem with Jews. I don’t even think he would deny it. To his credit, he speaks exactly what’s on his mind and tells his audience precisely how he thinks and feels about a whole host of issues. Frequently, his Jewish critiques go off the rails and venture into what 99% of Jews define as anti-Semitism.

Tamika has attended many of Farrakhan’s events and even been recognized by him publicly at some of those events. She has emceed events where he was the primary speaker. She has posted her support of him on social media.

And too many people, particularly to Jews, but also too many others calling out anti-Semitism wherever they find it, they just don’t understand how somebody as amazing as Tamika could associate with someone as problematic as Minister Louis Farrakhan.

All of that makes sense to me. It does. But I am not outside of that bubble looking in. I’m on the inside. I’ve put my life on the line this past year fighting against anti-Semitism and publicly searching for Neo-Nazi’s who assaulted people in Charlottesville. I’ve worked directly with the Anti-Defamation League (the leading group fighting against anti-Semitism) on projects and I’ve worked directly with Tamika.

I know Tamika is not anti-Semitic. She has fought against anti-Semitism for years. She works alongside amazing Jewish leaders on a daily basis as primary partners on essential projects.

But now I must circle back to where I started this conversation.

When your friends are problematic, not only can it be difficult to call them out for it, it can be hard to even see it.

You see – when somebody we like, or love, or admire is accused of doing something disturbing, it appears we are willing to play Jedi mind tricks to forget about it.

What the Me Too Movement is really all about is ending those mind tricks and holding problematic men accountable for their abuses.

I absolutely, unequivocally support this, but I must admit that it is far easier to hold someone you don’t know or don’t like accountable in some kind of way than it is the person you know.

And that’s not OK.

I understand why many of us see Farrakhan as a fearless friend – I do. But sometimes your friends are problematic and if ignoring that does somebody else harm – we have to check ourselves – and that’s not easy.

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17 thoughts on “Shaun King: Explaining Minister Louis Farrakhan & Tamika Mallory

  1. 1. Farrakhan is an anti-Semite. There is no ambiguity or nuance there. He’s a bigot.

    2. Mallory is also an anti-Semite. She has made disgusting public comments about the Jewish connection to Israel that are so historically inaccurate and defamatory, they could only have come from the mouth of an anti-Semite.

    3. You reference your work with the ADL. Mallory recently condemned the ADL when it was set to participate in the Starbucks diversity training program. Yet another example of her anti-Semitism.

    Sorry to have to break the news to you, but your friend is an anti-Semite.

  2. Dave on said:

    Shaun, I appreciate almost everything you do. However, this response was inadequate. I understand that you are defending one of your friends, but I sincerely hope that you had a more serious conversation with her about this in private. Louis Farrakhan is an Anti-Semite – full stop. Of the many abhorrent things he has said about Jews, Farrakhan calls the Jewish people the enemy of black people and progress. He floats conspiracy theories about Jews. I know that Farrakhan has done objectively good deeds in his life, but that does not excuse his Anti-Semitic behaviour. The stuff he says about Jews is no different from the stuff that the Alt-Right says. I hope that you can see the hypocrisy in this. Anti-Semitic hate crimes are up roughly 70% since the election of Trump. Jews around the world are beginning to fear for their lives, as they did in the years before and during World War II. Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. I hope you read this Shaun, because I admire you and what you do.

  3. Patrick Stevens on said:

    Shaun King just showed us what it means to be a scared apologist!The truth is not problematic and nor Is the Honorable Minister Farrakhan. True fighters for Blacken and women keep their eyes on people like you because we know you’ll fold under pressure just like you did with this.

  4. Patrick Stevens on said:

    Shaun King just showed us what it means to be a scared apologist!The truth is not problematic and nor Is the Honorable Minister Farrakhan. True fighters for Blacken and women keep their eyes on people like you because we know you’ll fold under pressure just like you did with this.

  5. Tamika is free to admire and be a friend with a man who has done things she thinks help people. Sometimes people have problematic friends. However if she can’t clearly, loudly, definitively, disassociate herself from his transphobia, misogyny, homophobia, wacko anti-Semitism — the guy says Jews turn blacks gay with marijuana (!) — she most certainly should not be the leader of an allegedly intersectional movement. This is a moment where she can either grow and define herself in a way that will increase her leadership ability or it’s time to move on.

  6. Mrknowitall on said:

    Dear black people: don’t forget Screwy Louie Farrakhan had Malcolm X murdered. “A little black history for you”.

      • Mr Gary on said:

        Mr knowitall dont know his ads from donut. People, use your heads and quit listening to lies by those that didn’t like Malcolm or Farrakhan. Malcolm taught Farrakhan and in those days guess who the dal branded as the No1 anti-semite? Yes, MalcolmX.Malcolm spoke nothing but truth and they called it “hate speech”. Knownothing, I mean knowitall, read the FBI files on Malcolm X and without shame you will see how they set Malcolm up for murder and the plan was to blame NOI.

  7. I don’t agree with everything the Minister says, but a lot of things he says make since. Why should Tamika disassociate herself from the Minister? The President alines himself with Racist on a daily basis and defends them PROUDLY!!!!

    • We should criticize the President for aligning himself with racists as LOUD as we can as often as possible. Likewise we should call Tamika out to answer for her actions. If she, like Trump, can’t disassociate herself, she should be criticized. Trump is no defense… unless you want to be like him.

  8. leadjustone on said:

    I read Tamika’s response on twitter, and she did a beautiful job of explaining why she attended the NOI Savior’s Day celebration. I agree with her and I respect Minister Farrakhan, but if she chooses not to disavow her association, she might as well resign from the Me Too, Women’s March, and anything else that has a national spotlight. The powers that be will not accept anything other than complete repudiation of anything even remotely connected to the NOI. Even though she says she is the same person she was as the day before she attended Savior’s Day, it doesn’t matter. He may be called a race baiter, but those who hate the minister are absolutely rabid in their hatred of him. I wish Tamika well.

    • Honey on said:

      She did a terrible job though. Over and over. She’s still doing a terrible job, one that has never once involved anything indicating she disagrees with Farrakhan’s views on Jews and LGBT people.

  9. October on said:

    Whatever happened to the NOI businesses that were in the black neighborhoods? They were showing us that taking care of self is very important. Now, I don’t agree with everything Farrakhan says, nor anyone else, but can agree on some of the things he says. Just wish the question of his involvement with Malcolm X’s murder, was not a issue.

  10. Excellent piece, Shaun. What makes Tamika’s position especially problematic is that she is a leader of WOMEN who aligns herself with a hyper-masculine, patriarchal, authoritarian religious fanatic (Farrakhan.) To defend intersectionality AND its antithesis – Farrakhan – requires an impossible balancing act.

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