Jehron Muhammad: Campaign against Muslim U.S. Rep. Ellison a double standard
America's first Muslim congressmen, Keith Ellison, D-Minn., should be a shoo-in to become America's first Muslim DNC chair with former Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean taking himself out of the race.
Ellison has received backing from the Democrats biggest stars including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and the new Senate Minority leader, Chuck Schumer. The other major candidate to lead the DNC is Labor Secretary Tom Perez.
But in this Donald Trump-induced political atmosphere, all bets are off. To say Ellison's nomination is being challenged is an understatement. The smear campaign to negate his candidacy, which was initially mostly centered around Ellison's past Nation of Islam involvement and Minister Louis Farrakhan's support, has morphed into claims that Ellison is an anti-Semite and is no friend of Israel.
Instead of fighting back and accusing his opponents of trying to derail his campaign, Ellison has given in and apologized for his past Nation of Islam relationships. In an op-ed he accuses Farrakhan of "sowing hatred and division, including anti-Semitism, homophobia and a chauvinistic model of manhood."
Let me digress. Black politicians are often forced to denounce Farrakhan in a political litmus test to get legitimacy with the electorate, according to a commentary penned by Russell Simmons. This is a litmus test that Jesse Jackson endured during his first bid for president. Obama faced the same test in 2008.
This "oral examination often administered to black political candidates," as columnist Colbert I. King, wrote in the Washington Post, was administered by presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, during Obama's bid for the Democratic nomination back in 2008.
Farrakhan, during a recent speech about the 2016 presidential race at Nation of Islam headquarters, Mosque Maryam in Chicago, said that repudiating him is sometimes "the litmus test to" help black politicians climb the political ladder.
Farrakhan said during the speech that then senate candidate Barack Obama, who he supported said, "He visited me … and we backed him with money and with the help of the F.O.I. to get him elected."
Farrakhan goes on to say, later when Obama threw his hat into the presidential ring, he "spoke kind words about my brother." But, Farrakhan said Obama had to denounce him. Obama was then in a political battle with Hilary Clinton.
Farrakhan said Obama didn't want to, but Hillary forced him to. He said Obama gave in and said, "All right, all right. I renounce Farrakhan; I don't want his support." Farrakhan said, "I supported him anyway. And some of the followers were a little angry with me, because he had dissed me. But it's not "personal." What's "the bigger picture?" Farrakhan said. "What's in the best interest of our people?"
The use of Ellison's Nation of Islam past, to derail his campaign for DNC chair, apparently has not been successful to date. Still, the fact that Ellison's recent "editorial is only the latest in one long string of apology tours," wrote Ricky Riley in the Atlanta Black Star, suggests a different standard for a black Muslim politician, seeking to climb the political ladder.
For example, former Philadelphia mayor, Pennsylvania governor, and former DNC chair, Ed Rendell was never vilified, nor was his candidacy challenged, for verbally supporting the Million Man March and publicly praising the work of Philadelphia's Nation of Islam. Nor did he have to apologize for sitting next to Farrakhan during a public event at Tindley Temple United Methodist Church in Philly where Farrakhan was the featured speaker.