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Commentary

My Farrakhan Obsession

Florence Hamlish Levinson, author of the brand new and pretty darn good[1]Looking for Farrakhan (Ivan R. Dee, 305 pp.; $25), is perplexed. "How," she asks, given her subject's obvious intelligence, shrewdness, and force of character, "could it have happened that he was seduced by some of the most hare-brained theories of his or any time, theories that allegedly explain most of the ideas we live with?" That's a good question, though Levinson never gets to the bottom of it. Farrakhan refused to speak with her as she prepared her book, as did most of his associates (the few who did speak with her were unhelpful). Even most of those who know Farrakhan but have no current connections to him declined to be interviewed. Hence Levinson's title, and hence the feeling one has at the end of her book that, for all her trying, she never really got close to "finding" him at all—which is a shame. For there are a few of us who, for some strange reason, are almost obsessed with this guy.

Louis Farrakhan (formerly Louis Eugene Walcott, Louis X, and Abdul Farrakhan) and I have a few things in common. We both grew up in lower-class black neighborhoods; we both ran track and excelled at it; we both aspired to be professional musicians; and we both have spent chunks of our lives in the Episcopal church. (It didn't occur to Levinson that Farrakhan's early involvement in an Episcopal church might have something to do with his conversion to the bizarre theology of the Nation of Islam. I went to the Episcopal church for the first time as an adult, after having Christian orthodoxy thoroughly instilled in me by the Southern Baptists. I am thus opposed to children being raised in the Episcopal church. Just look at what happened to Farrakhan.)

Of course, Farrakhan and I are dissimilar in many ways as well. For one thing, I like white folks (which makes sense, since I am one); he considers them "devils." He plays the violin, and quite well; I play the bass guitar. He goes ...

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