Minister Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam, spoke from a podium draped in the red, black and green of the Pan-African flag, a symbol of black pride.
It was the week after Donald Trump won the presidency. The result had delighted a new generation of white supremacists, and Farrakhan was analyzing the political landscape.
In a speech before the State of the Black World Conference in New Jersey, he warned, “The white man is going to push. He’s putting in place the very thing that will limit the freedom of others.” Then he pointed to the crowd, smiled and said, “That’s what you needed,” as motivation to finally separate from whites.
“My message to Mr. Trump: Push it real good,” Farrakhan said, building to a roar that drew applause and cheers. “Push it so good that black people say, ‘I’m outta here. I can’t take it no more.'”
After a presidential campaign that emboldened white identity politics, the Nation of Islam, a black separatist religious movement, is positioning itself as newly relevant.
Some watchdogs who monitor Farrakhan say his latest appeal is a desperate grasp at significance for a group far from its heyday. However, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremism, has found black separatism growing alongside white supremacy, creating a more favorable environment for the Nation’s teachings.
“Racial nationalism of all kinds is on the rise,” said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Theresa X, an alcohol and drug counselor from Northern California, said after this “vicious” election, she hoped others, including her Mexican American relatives, would follow her into the Nation of Islam, which she joined in the 1980s. “I think they should,” she said in a phone interview. “They’re afraid.”
The Nation has been largely closed off to outsiders, making it impossible even for those who follow the movement closely to gauge its strength. Neither Farrakhan nor the head minister of the movement’s Mosque Maryam in Chicago, Ishmael Muhammad, responded to interview requests.