by Minister Louis Farrakhan
(The following text is excerpted from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s address at the 1995 Million Man March on Washington, which drew some two million Black men to the steps of Congress and the National Mall. To order this incredible address in its entirety on CD, DVD or MP3, call 1-866-602-1230 or visit store.finalcall.com.)
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. We thank Him for His prophets, and the scriptures which they brought. We thank Him for Moses and the Torah. We thank Him for Jesus and the Gospel. We thank Him for Muhammad and the Qur’an. Peace be upon these worthy servants of Allah.
We’re standing at the steps of the United States Capitol. I’m looking at the Washington Monument and beyond it to the Lincoln Memorial and beyond that to the Jefferson Memorial. Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of these United States and he was the man who allegedly freed us.
Abraham Lincoln saw in his day, what President Clinton sees in this day. He saw the great divide between Black and White. Abraham Lincoln and Bill Clinton see what the Kerner Commission saw 30 years ago when they said that this nation was moving toward two Americas–one Black, one White, separate and unequal. And the Kerner Commission revisited their findings 25 years later and saw that America was worse today than it was in the time of Martin Luther King, Jr. There are still two Americas, one Black, one White, separate and unequal.
Abraham Lincoln, when he saw this great divide, he pondered a solution of separation. Abraham Lincoln said he never was in favor of our being jurors or having equal status with the Whites of this nation. Abraham Lincoln said that if there were to be a superior or inferior, he would rather the superior position be assigned to the White race.
In the middle of this Mall is the Washington Monument, 555 feet high. But if we put a 1 in front of that 555 feet, we get 1555, the year that our first fathers landed on the shores of Jamestown, Virginia as slaves. In the background is the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorial, each one of these monuments is 19 feet high. Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth president. Thomas Jefferson, the third president, and 16 and 3 make 19 again. What is so significant about this number 19? Why are we standing on the Capitol steps today?
That number—when you have a nine, you have a womb that is pregnant, and when you have a one standing by the nine, it means that there’s something secret that has to be unfolded. Right here on this Mall where we are standing, according to books written on Washington, D.C., slaves used to be brought right here on this Mall in chains to be sold up and down the eastern seaboard. Right along this Mall, going over to the White House, our fathers were sold into slavery. But, George Washington, the first president of the United States, said he feared that before too many years passed over his head, this slave would prove to become a most troublesome species of property. Thomas Jefferson said he trembled for this country when he reflected that God was just and that His justice could not sleep forever.
Minister Louis Farrakhan touched upon the Ferguson unrest during his keynote address of ‘Justice or Else’ Million Man March 20th Anniversary program on The National Mall Saturday afternoon. Photo by Lawrence Bryant
The Message and the Messenger
Now, why have you come today? You came not at the call of Louis Farrakhan, but you have gathered here at the call of God. For it is only the call of Almighty God, no matter through whom that call came, that could generate this kind of outpouring. God called us here to this place, at this time, for a very specific reason.
This is a very pregnant moment. Pregnant with the possibility of tremendous change in our status in America and in the world. Although the call was made through me, many have tried to distance the beauty of this idea from the person through whom the idea and the call was made. Some have done it mistakenly. And others have done it in a malicious and vicious manner.
There is no human being through whom God brings an idea that history doesn’t marry the idea with that human being no matter what defect was in that human being’s character.
You can’t separate (Isaac) Newton from the law that Newton discovered, nor can you separate (Albert) Einstein from the Theory of Relativity. It would be silly to try to separate Moses from the Torah or Jesus from the Gospel, or Muhammad from the Qur’an.
Well you say, “Farrakhan, you ain’t no Moses, you ain’t no Jesus, and you’re not no Muhammad. You have a defect in your character.” Well, that certainly may be so. However, according to the way the Bible reads, there is no prophet of God written of in the Bible that did not have a defect in his character. But, I have never heard any member of the faith of Judaism separate David from the Psalms, because of what happened in David’s life. And you never separated Solomon from the building of the Temple because they say he had a thousand concubines. So today, whether you like it or not, God brought the idea through me and he didn’t bring it through me because my heart was dark with hatred and anti-Semitism; He didn’t bring it through me because my heart was dark and I’m filled with hatred for White people and for the human family of the planet. If my heart were that dark, how is the message so bright, the message so clear, the response so magnificent?
And so, we stand here today at this historic moment. We are standing in the place of those who could not make it here today. We are standing on the blood of our ancestors. We are standing on the blood of those who died in the Middle Passage, who died in the fields and swamps of America, who died hanging from trees in the South, who died in the cells of their jailers, who died on the highways and who died in the fratricidal conflict that rages within our communities. We are standing on the sacrifice of the lives of those heroes, our great men and women that we today may accept the responsibility that life imposes upon each traveler who comes this way. We must accept the responsibility that God has put upon us, not only to be good husbands and fathers and builders of our community, but God is now calling upon the despised and the rejected to become the cornerstone and the builders of a new world. Our brief subject today is taken from the American Constitution in these words: Toward a more perfect union, toward a more perfect union.
When you use the word “more” with “perfect,” you’re saying that what you call is perfect for that stage of development, but not yet complete. When Jefferson said, toward a more perfect union, he was admitting that the union was not perfect, that it was not finished, that work had to be done. We are gathered here today not to bash somebody else; we’re not gathered here to say all of the evils of this nation. But we are gathered here to collect ourselves for a responsibility that God is placing on our shoulders to move this nation toward a more perfect union.
When you look at the word “toward,” it means in the direction of; in furtherance or partial fulfillment of; with the view to obtaining or having; shortly before; coming soon; eminent; going on in progress. Well, that’s right. We’re in progress toward a perfect union. “Union” means bringing elements or components into unity, it is something formed by uniting two or more things; it is a number of persons, states; etc., which are joined or associated together for some common purpose. We’re not here to tear down America. America is tearing itself down. We are here to rebuild the wasted cities.
Evolution toward God
What we have in the word toward is motion. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught us that motion is the first law of the universe. This motion, which takes us from one point to another, shows that we are evolving, and we are a part of a universe that is ever evolving. We are on an evolutionary course that will bring us to perfection or completion of the process toward a perfect union with God.
In the word “toward,” there is a law and that law is everything that is created is in harmony with the law of evolution, change. Nothing is standing still, it is either moving toward perfection or moving toward disintegration, or under certain circumstances doing both things at the same time. Well, if we are in motion, and we are, motion toward perfection and we are, there can be no motion toward perfection without the Lord who created the law of evolution and is the master of the changes. Our first motion then must be toward the God, who created the law of the evolution of our being. And if our motion toward him is right and proper, then our motion toward a perfect union with each other and with government and with the peoples of the world will be perfected.
Day of Atonement
The day of atonement is established by God to help us achieve a closer tie with the source of wisdom, knowledge, understanding and power. For it is only through a closer union or tie with Him, who created us all, with Him who has power over all things that we can draw power, knowledge, wisdom and understanding from Him, that we may be enabled to change the realities of our life. A perfect union with God is the idea at the base of atonement.
Atonement demands of us eight steps. In fact, atonement is the fifth step in an eight stage process. But the first stage is the most difficult of all because when we are wrong, and we are not aware of it, someone has to point out the wrong. The most difficult thing is when somebody points it out, do we accept it? Do we reject it, do we hate the person who pointed out our wrong?
Whoever is entrusted with the task of pointing out wrong, depending on the nature of the circumstances, is not always loved. In fact, more than likely, that person is going to be hated and misunderstood. Such persons are generally hated because no one wants to be shown as being wrong, particularly when you’re dealing with governments, with principalities, with powers, with rulers, with administrations. When you’re dealing with forces which have become entrenched in their evil, intractable and unyielding their power, it produces an arrogance that produces a blindness. Out of that evil state of mind, they will do all manner of evil to the person who points out their wrong, even though you’re doing good for them by pointing out where America went wrong.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was probably one of the most patriotic Americans. He was more patriotic than George Washington, more patriotic than Thomas Jefferson, more patriotic than many of the presidents because he had the courage to point out what was wrong in the society. And because he pointed out what was wrong, he was evil spoken of, vilified, maligned, hated and eventually murdered. Brother Malcolm had that same road to travel. He pointed out what was wrong in the society and he had to suffer for pointing out what was wrong and he ultimately died on the altar for pointing out what was wrong in the society and he had to suffer for pointing out what was wrong, and he ultimately died on the altar for pointing out what was wrong inside the nation.
Well, pointing out fault, pointing out our wrongs is the first stage. The second stage is to acknowledge. To acknowledge means to admit the existence, the reality or the truth of some reality. It is to recognize as being valid or having force and power. It is to express thanks, appreciation, or gratitude. So in this context, the word acknowledgement means to be in a state of recognition of the truth of the fact that we have been wrong.
The third stage is that after you know you’re wrong and you acknowledge it to yourself, who else knows it except you confess it. To free the soul or the essence of man from its burden, one must acknowledge one’s wrong, but then one must confess. The Holy Qur’an says it like this: I’ve been greatly unjust to myself, and I confess my faults. So grant me protection against all my faults, for none grants protection against faults but Thee.” It is only through confession that we can be granted protection from the consequences of our faults, for every deed has a consequence and we can never be granted protection against the faults that we refuse to acknowledge or that we are unwilling to confess. So, who should you confess to? First, you confess to God. Every one of us that are here today, that knows that we have done wrong, we have to go to God and speak to Him in the privacy of our rooms and confess. He already knows, but when you confess, you’re relieving your soul of the burden that it bears.
Confess the fault
The hardest part is to go to the person or persons whom your fault has ill-affected and confess to them. That’s hard, but if we want a perfect union, we have to confess the fault.
Well, what happens after confession? There must be repentance (fourth stage). When you repent, you feel remorse or contrition or shame for the past conduct which was and is wrong and sinful. It means to feel contrition or self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do. And, it is the experiencing of such regret for past conduct that involves the changing of our mind toward that sin. Until we repent and feel sick, sorry over what we have done, we can never, never, change our mind toward that thing; and if you don’t repent, you’ll do it over and over and over again.
Atonement (fifth stage) means satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury. It means to make amends; it means penance, expiation, compensation and recompense made or done for an injury or wrong. Atonement means we must be willing to do something in expiation of our sins. We can’t just have a good time today, and say we made history in Washington; we got to resolve today that we’re going back home to do something about what’s going on in our lives and in our families and in our communities.
If we make atonement it leads to the 6th stage which is forgiveness. Many of us want forgiveness, but we don’t want to go through the process that leads to it. When we say we forgive, we forgive from our lips, but we have never pardoned in the heart, so, the injury still remains. God is always ready to forgive us for our failures. Forgiveness means to grant pardon for, or remission of, an offense or sin; it is to absolve, to clear, to exonerate and to liberate. We are not liberated from the evil effect of our own sin until we can ask God for forgiveness and then forgive others. This is why in the Lord’s Prayer, we say, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It means to cease to feel offense and resentment against another for the harm done by an offender. It means to wipe the slate clean. And that leads to the seventh stage.
The seventh stage that leads to the perfect union with God is reconciliation and restoration. After forgiveness we are going to be restored. To what? To our original position. To restore, to reconcile means to become friendly, peaceable again; to put hostile persons into a state of agreement or harmony, to make compatible or to compose or settle what it was that made for division. It means to resolve differences. It can mean to establish or re-establish a close relationship between previously hostile persons. So restoration means the act of returning something to an original or unimpaired condition.
A balm in Gilead
When you’re back to an unimpaired position, you have reached the eighth stage which is perfect union. And when we go through all these steps, there is no difference between us that we can’t heal. There’s a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul, there is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. We are a wounded people but we’re being healed. But President Clinton, America is also wounded. And there’s hostility now in the great divide between the people. Socially, the fabric of America is being torn apart and it’s Black against Black, Black against White, White against White, White against Black, Yellow against Brown, Brown against Yellow. We are being torn apart and we can’t gloss it over with nice speeches, my dear, Mr. President. Sir, with all due respect, that was a great speech you made today. And you praised the marchers and they’re worthy of praise; you honored the marchers and they are worthy of honor. But of course, you spoke ill, indirectly of me, as a purveyor of malice and hatred. I must hasten to tell you, Mr. President, that I’m not a malicious person, and I’m not filled with malice, but I must tell you that I come in the tradition of the doctor who has to point out, with truth, what’s wrong. And the pain is that power has made America arrogant.
Power and wealth have made America spiritually blind, and the power and the arrogance of America makes you refuse to hear a child of your slaves pointing out the wrong in your society. But, I think if you could clear the scales from your eyes, Sir, and give ear to what we say, perhaps, just perhaps, from the children of slaves might come a solution to this Pharaoh and this Egypt as it was with Joseph when they had to get him out of prison and wash him up and clean him up because Pharaoh had some troubling dreams that he didn’t have answers to.
The eighth stage is perfect union with God. And in the Koran, it reads. “Oh, soul that is at rest, well pleased with thy lord and well pleasing.” Freedom can’t come from White folks. Freedom can’t come from staying here and petitioning this great government. We’re here to make a statement to the great government, but not to beg them. Freedom cannot come from anyone but the God who can liberate the soul from the burden of sin. This is why Jesus said, “come unto me,” not some who are heavy laden, “but all that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
These eight steps take place in a process called time. And whenever a nation is involved in sin to the point that God intends to judge and destroy that nation, He always sends someone to make that nation or people know their sins, to reflect on it, to acknowledge, to confess, to repent and to atone that they might find forgiveness with God.
Mind of White Supremacy
I want to close this lecture with a special message to our President and to the Congress. There is a great divide, but the real evil in America is not White flesh, or Black flesh. The real evil in America is the idea that undergirds the foundation of the Western world. And that idea is called White supremacy. You (Whites) don’t even know why you behave the way you behave. White supremacy is the enemy of both White people and Black people because the idea of White supremacy means you should rule because you’re White. That makes you sick, and you produce a sick society and a sick world. The Founding Fathers meant well, but they said, “toward a more perfect union.” So, Mr. Clinton, we must do away with the mindset of the Founding Fathers. You don’t have to repudiate them like you’ve asked my brothers to do me. You don’t have to say they were malicious, hate filled people. But you must evolve out of their mindset. Their minds were limited to those six European nations out of which this country was founded.
But you have Asians here, how are you going to handle that? You’ve got children of Africa here, how are you going to handle that? You have Arabs here; you have Hispanics here. I know you call them illegal aliens, but you took Texas from them by flooding Texas with people that have your mindset. And now they (Mexicans) are coming back across the border to what is Northern Mexico—Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California. They don’t see themselves as illegal aliens. I think they might see you as an illegal alien. You have to be careful how you talk to people. You have to be careful how you deal with people.
The Native American is suffering today. He’s suffering almost complete extinction. Now he has learned about bingo. You taught him. He learned about blackjack. You taught him. He learned about playing roulette. You taught him. Now, he’s making a lot of money and you’re upset with him because he’s adopted your ways. What makes you like this? You’re like this because you’re not well. You’re not well and in the light of today’s global village, you can never harmonize with the Asians. You can’t harmonize with the islanders of the Pacific. You can’t harmonize with the dark people of the world who outnumber you eleven to one, if you’re going to stay in the mind of White supremacy. White supremacy has to die in order for humanity to live.
Come out of her, my people
White supremacy has poisoned the bloodstream of religion, education, politics, jurisprudence, economics, social ethics and morality. There is no way that we can integrate into White supremacy and hold our dignity as human beings because if we integrate into that, we become subservient to that; and to become subservient to that is to make the slavemaster comfortable with his slave. So we have to come out of her, my people. Come out of a system and a world that is built on the wrong idea, an idea that never can create a perfect union with God. The false idea of White supremacy prevents anyone from becoming one with God. White people have to come out of that idea, which has poisoned them into a false attitude of superiority based on the color of their skin.
The doctrine of White supremacy disallows Whites to grow to their full potential. It forces White people to see themselves as the law or above the law. And that’s why Mark Furhman could say that he is like a god. He thinks like that. But that idea is pervasive in police departments across the country. And it’s getting worse and not better because White supremacy is being challenged. I say to all of us who are leaders, all of us who are preachers, we must not shrink from the responsibility of pointing out wrong, so that we can be comfortable and keep White people comfortable in their alienation from God. White folks are having heart attacks today because their world is coming down. And if you look at the Asians, the Asians have the fastest growing economies in the world.
The Asians are not seen bashing White people. He just relocates the top banks from Wall Street to Tokyo. He doesn’t say, “I’m better than the White man.” He just starts building his world and building his economy and challenging White supremacy.
And, so America, if your conscience is afflicted because God is lashing you, don’t just start with the Constitution. Mr. President, start with the evil of slavery because that’s the root of the problem. And you can’t solve the problem, Mr. President, unless we expose the root, for when you expose the root to the light, then the root will die, the tree will die, and something new can come to birth. To the Whites of this nation, except you be born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God. But can I return back into my mother’s womb for the second time? No, you can’t do that. But this old mind of White supremacy has to die in order that a new mind might come to birth. Black man, you can’t see the kingdom of God unless we be born again. Must I enter back into my mother’s womb for a second time? No, you can’t do that Black man, but the mind of Black inferiority is repulsive to God and any mind of Black supremacy is repulsive to God. The only mind that God will accept is a mind stayed on him and on righteousness.
Join an organization
So, my beloved brothers and sisters, here’s what we would like you to do. We must belong to some organization that is working for and in the interest of the uplift and the liberation of our people. Go back, join the NAACP if you want to, join the Urban league, join the All African People’s Revolutionary Party, join Us, join the Nation of Islam, join PUSH, join the Congress of Racial Equality, join the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. We must become a totally organized people and the only way we can do that is to become a part of some organization that is working for the uplift of our people. We must keep the Local Organizing Committees that made this event possible, we must keep them together. Go back and join the Local Organizing Committee. And then all of us, as leaders, must stay together and make the National African American Leadership Summit inclusive of all of us.
I know that the NAACP did not officially endorse this march, neither did the Urban League, but so what? So what? Many of their members are here anyway. I know that Dr. Henry Lyons, of the National Baptist Association USA did not endorse the march, nor did the Reverend Dr. B.W. Smith, nor did Bishop Chandler Owens, but so what? These are our brothers and we’re not going to stop reaching out for them simply because we feel there was a misunderstanding. We still want to talk to our brothers because we cannot let artificial barriers divide us. Remember the letter of Willie Lynch and let’s not let Willie Lynch lynch our new spirit and our new attitude and our new mind. We must continue to reach out for those that have condemned this and make them to see that this was not evil: it was not intended for evil; it was intended for good.