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Million Man March

12 Oct
Published yesterday at Breitbart.

“Thousands pack D.C. for the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March” read USA Today’s coverage of yesterday’s Million Man March organized, like the 1995 march it commemorated, by Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam.  That I think was accurate – thousands, and nowhere near a million, came.  (Readers may be fooled by some media using aerial photos from the 1995 March, which had a larger crowd.  Note this Washington Post story were the Capitol is not scaffolded –  currently the Capitol has scaffolding.  Casual readers may not realize they are looking at 1995 photos.)

Perhaps to make the crowd seem bigger, the heavily organized and herded attendees were stretched in a long, medium wide, column way down the national Mall, and not allowed to fill it out from side to side.  As a result giant TV monitors and speakers were needed, set up every few blocks between the various parts of the Smithsonian and various art galleries, for those so far away they could not see the stage under the Capitol..  The sound system was bad, with most of the speakers reverberating with echoes that made it difficult to tell what the speakers were saying.

Perhaps that’s why the crowd seemed bored.  All the things that African American politicians and speakers typically do better than others were absent: no rhyme, no rhapsody, no singing, no call and response.  Outside of the speakers on stage the only sound was that of entrepreneurs hawking their wares: commemorative T shirts and arm bands; colorful, somewhat attractive artwork suitable for a home shrine to Farrakhan; and buttons bearing the silhouette of the African continent.  The only other sound was that of the many, mainly whites, also using the mall, tourists asking for directions, often with assorted foreign accents, and D.C.yuppie bureaucrats and lawyers, using the Mall for its real daily use as a running track for lobbyists and bureaucrats.  Since it was the first day where temperatures had dipped into the 50s, the runners were wearing sweat shirts from various Ivy League and other elite universities.  The Million Man Marchers themselves were not a downwardly mobile crowd, who though young, hipsterish and often dread-locked, wore garb that did not bespeak a life of poverty and struggle – T-shirts with slogans like Straight Out of Howard, in reference to D.C.’s historically black college, Howard University, were popular.  None of these mainly white interlopers seemed to have gotten the message that the Million Man March would be happening.  Indeed D.C. yuppies were having their own festival, Taste of D.C., right beside the back end of the Marchers on Pennsylvania Avenue and a suburban Virginia county chapter of the National Organization for Women had a simultaneous rally for equality 25 miles away.

What little music I heard wasn’t good, and it wasn’t exactly Stevie Wonder or Chaka Khan.  Much of the first couple of hours consisted of people promising the crowd that Farrakhan would eventually arrive and speak to them, and many of the early speakers and singers were Hispanic, including one woman with long blond hair promising “Black and Brown Unity.”  (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution headlined its coverage “The Million Man March’s understated inclusivity“.)  It was a slightly odd theme in a year where illegal immigration and its impact on both the government services and the entry level jobs many African Americans depend on has become a hot topic.  Perhaps the unity was instead supposed to be about the other themes some speakers raised, like police brutality against minorities, summarized by one speaker as opposition to the “Blue Klux Klan.”  One wonders if a purely race based, divisive, approach, led by someone with the resume of Louis Farrakhan, is the most likely way to  achieve criminal justice reform.

Ironically, the event, like most such events, required an enormous police presence to manage.  The Nation of Islam volunteers, men in either dark suits and bow ties, or in uniforms reminiscent of a 1950s movie usher, complete with red epaulets and embroidery, were politely keeping streets and sidewalks clear and giving directions, supplementing the police.  These volunteers, unlike the bored crowd, were in hog heaven, on a beautiful sunny day where they belonged and had a purpose.  The crowd, a few of whom wore Afrocentric T-shirts and buttons or sported banners from socialist parties, didn’t seem to be mainly Nation of Islam adherents.  I suspect they wanted some more substantial fare about how more African Americans – with rising unemployment and plummeting net worths – could belong and have a purpose in the American economy, beyond wearing a funny suit and volunteering to do crowed control.  I don’t think they got those answers,  Ben Carson wasn’t there.