Black Israelites Say Whites Are Possessed by the Devil
In case you missed it, neo-Nazis were supposed to take New York City, and much of America, by storm on March 15. It was all part of a scheme hatched on the white-supremacist chat rooms of Stormfront. They called for a national “white man’s March.” Unsurprisingly, the planned nationwide protest ended up being a complete dud. I know, because I spent the day scouring Manhattan looking for fascists.
They were no shows at Grand Army Plaza near Central Park, where they had planned to congregate. Nor were they on hand in Queens, where they had advertised a barbecue party that day in front of the outlet strip mall on Jamaica Avenue, which is heavily trafficked by African Americans and West Indians. The only other white person around on Jamaica Avenue that afternoon, besides myself, was a dude handing out yoga-studio flyers. Instead of hitting the streets, many of this country’s racist white folks rang in “white man’s March” by lazily posting photos of themselves holding white-pride banners on the internet.
But that’s not to say I didn’t find racists on March 15; they just weren’t white. In Queens, I came upon a group of about a dozen individuals lined up in a row, wearing purple robes with faux-gold edging in front of the Jamaica Center shopping complex.
If you live in a major American city, you may have encountered a variation of the scene I witnessed: men who look like they’ve wandered off the set of an all–African American production of Jesus Christ Superstar, soapboxing on the street corner to puzzled passersby. While the first rule of advertising is to keep it short, with these guys the message travels a long, windy route through the Book of Deuteronomy and other texts before arriving at the takeaway: Black people are the real Jews, and white people are possessed by Satan.
When I asked the strange group of men who was in charge, I was directed toward a robed gentleman who said, “People call us the Black Israelites. But that’s not right. We are the Israelites.”
Their garments read “Israelites United in Christ” in a font that looked as if it had been borrowed from a poster for Disney’s Aladdin. There on the street, one fellow read from a Bible, overseen keenly by a preacher who would interrupt him periodically and interpret the text. The gist of the message from what I could gather was, “Down with the white man’s science.”