CHARLOTTE, N.C. — City Councilmember LaWana Mayfield responded publicly on Wednesday to the controversy surrounding her refusals to condemn Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT comments.
In an interview with Creative Loafing, the city’s alternative newsweekly, Mayfield said it was not her place to judge.
“It’s God’s place to judge people,” she told writer Joanne Spataro. “The great thing about the United States is everyone has an opinion, and I represent an extremely diverse community. It is not my place to place judgment on anyone. I’m not God, and I don’t intend to be.”
Mayfield said she does not like to focus on differences. “We need to be individual thinkers, so I’m going to look at the good people have done and I’m going to look at where we can build something together as opposed to focusing on our differences,” she said.
The city’s first and only openly LGBT elected official, Mayfield also questioned the hate group classification given to Nation of Islam by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a Montgomery, Ala.-based hate watch and civil rights organization.
“For me, the hate group designation has as much merit as those of us in the community who think all Muslims are terrorists,” Mayfield said. “It’s that type of intolerance that encourages ‘us versus them,’ as opposed to encouraging communities to work together.”
Mayfield attended an Oct. 13 speech by Louis Farrakhan at Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church. While there, Mayfield sent a message to her followers on Twitter stating that Farrakhan was “doing God’s will.” Over the past several weeks, qnotes has asked Mayfield to condemn Farrakhan’s comments. Others, including Mecklenburg Commission Chair Harold Cogdell and Vilma Leake, also attended the speech and similarly declined to condemn the hate group leader’s comments.
Farrakhan is the longtime leader of Nation of Islam, heralded by many for empowerment within the African-American community though his history of anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT comments has landed him and his organization on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate-based organizations. Farrakhan has said Jews are “Satanic” and their places of worship are “Synagogues of Satan.” He has said the Star of David the “mark of the beast.” He has also called LGBT people “beasts” and said modern U.S. acceptance of LGBT equality will lead to this nation’s destruction, citing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Farrakhan’s events in Charlotte came just one month before two other hate groups rallied here. Last Saturday, a national neo-Nazi group and a North Carolina gathering of the Ku Klux Klan staged a rally in Uptown Charlotte. As many as 250 counter-protesters attended to challenge the groups’ rhetoric. Mayfield did not attend the event with the counter-protesters, though her colleague, District 5 Councilmember John Autry was there. Some community members have questioned the lack of response to the rally from local LGBT leaders and organizations.