He assured Malcolm's daughter that he "truly loved" her father and carried his picture after the murder, proving, presumably, that he hadn't wanted Malcolm dead. Then he tried to shift the blame for Malcolm's death to the FBI, saying, "This is bigger than the Nation of Islam."

While it's probably true that the Nation hypocritically colluded with the police and the FBI (Evanzz's book is based on government sources and is replete with dirty tales of such collusion), that's only because they all had an interest in seeing Malcolm silenced forever. When Farrakhan suggested on "60 Minutes" that the FBI killed Malcolm in fear of "a black Messiah emerging to unite African-Americans," Attallah Shabazz wasn't buying it. She pointed out that it was young black men who carried out the assassination and snapped, "My father was not killed from a grassy knoll." Farrakhan dropped that line of excuse.

In the end, Farrakhan is trying to have it both ways, like the lady who slyly cuts in front of you in line then turns to give you a big old smile. She can actually be rude; she just doesn't want to be thought of as rude. If Farrakhan was involved in Malcolm X's torment and murder, then he can actually be a ruthless murderer. He just doesn't want to be treated like a ruthless murderer. At best, he irresponsibly caused a murder, a murder that traumatized a family and robbed a people of a great leader. That's got to make it hard to sleep at night. Hopefully.

Now that Farrakhan is an old man battling cancer and the judgment of history, he obviously doesn't want to have to feel bad about himself, and he doesn't want to die unshriven. He's extending olive branches in every direction.

At best, he irresponsibly caused a murder that traumatized a family and robbed a people of a great leader. That's got to make it hard to sleep at night. Hopefully.

Malcolm's widow, Betty Shabazz, had long accused Farrakhan of playing a role in her husband's death. But in 1994, she publicly reconciled with Farrakhan when her daughter Qubilah was implicated in a murder plot against him. Farrakhan grandly forgave her, and the charges were dropped.

Aside from making amends to Malcolm's remaining family, Minister Farrakhan engineered a rapprochement with Wallace Deen Muhammad, Elijah's son, who had kept close ties with Malcolm and who led his deceased father's followers to Orthodox Islam while Farrakhan led his faction to the modern Nation of Islam. Farrakhan has also reached out to the Jewish community to undo his decades of virulent anti-Semitism; The Final Call (the Nation's current newspaper) is replete with photos of Farrakhan with the few fringe Jewish leaders who responded to his overtures and with explanations of how the media has distorted his words to make him look bad all these years. (The Final Call still argues that Malcolm was wrong in his charges against Elijah Muhammad.)

The success of the 1995 Million Man March among mainstream blacks--who made clear their desire for closer ties to other blacks as well as their lack of interest in Farrakhan--probably gave him a taste of the leader he might have been, the good he might have done, the respect he might have had if only...he'd been a completely and utterly different person. Apparently getting away with murder isn't all it's cracked up to be.

After their talk, Shabazz issued a statement saying, "I thank him for acknowledging his culpability, and I wish him peace." She's a more forgiving woman than I am.

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