Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with D&C reporter Meaghan McDermott’s comments regarding the article.
The Rochester Nation of Islam Study Group, The People’s Agenda, and the Race And Education Action And Change Work Group of Facing Race=Embracing Equity, held a press conference Oct. 26, in response to an article written in the Democrat and Chronicle, which the Nation of Islam said misrepresented the group.
The Sept. 21 article, “White supremacist fliers dropped in Pittsford driveways,” written by Meaghan McDermott and Steve Orr, mentioned a citing by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that tracks extremist organizations across the country, that listed the Nation of Islam as the only hate group in Rochester.
During the event, Nation of Islam Student Minister Kenneth Muhammed gave the following rebuttal, in part, to the article:
“So, what evidence did they present in the article that proves the Nation of Islam is a hate group?” Muhammed asked. “And, we’re the only hate group listed in Rochester? Really? You mean to tell us that we are causing all of this redlining in Rochester? Did you all read Justin Murphy’s article in the Democrat and Chronicle that talks about redlining in Rochester since 1939? …Are we responsible for the one-third of the city of Rochester’s poverty? You mean to tell us that we’re the only hate group in Rochester, but we’re not keeping black folks down? We’re not keeping black folks confined to certain areas in Rochester, and you mean to tell me we’re the only hate group?”
Muhammed said it was important to respond to the article, since there had likely been a large number of people who’d probably read the piece.
“We just felt that it was important that we did respond to the article, only because the article made reference to the Nation of Islam in Rochester as the only hate group,” he stated. “So, we believed that it was important to offer our position on that subject.”
Local community activist Howard Eagle also said it was important for Muhammed to counter the SPLC designation the article mentioned.
“In order to counter ongoing, race-based lies, and thinly disguised attacks against the honorable, Minister Louis Farrakhan, and the Nation of Islam, an immediate, and clear response to the thoroughly-baseless, false allegation on the part of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the shabby, possibly “yellow” journalism by Democrat and Chronicle reporters, was vitally important,” Eagle said in an emailed statement. “We know, without any doubt, that thousands upon thousands of white, Democrat and Chronicle readers in particular, now believe, if they didn’t already, that the Nation of Islam is a “hate group” — because their trusted hometown newspaper, and the apparently racist, Southern Poverty Law Center have ‘confirmed’ it.”
Visit https://vimeo.com/189395451 to view video of Eagle speaking during the event, or click on the image below.
(Updated, Oct. 31, 5:15 p.m.): McDermott has responded with the following comments regarding the matter:
“To provide context about the national proliferation of hate groups, my article about white supremacist literature being distributed in Pittsford cited the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Map. That map tracks more than 892 groups the organization characterizes as “hate groups” around the nation. The SPLC is a non-profit group “dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.” The organization has a long history of advocating for civil rights, a history of winning landmark civil-rights lawsuits. The group has a 40-year reputation as a credible source for information about hate speech, hate groups and violence.
My story focused on a newly-formed white supremacist group here in the Rochester area, and made it clear there are many white hate groups at work around the country. The story did not single out the local Nation of Islam as being designated by the SPLC as a hate group: it also cited the regional presence of other SLPC-designated organizations including a white nationalist group in Lockport, a radical traditional Catholic group in Allegany County, and the state-wide presence of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement.”