You Say Ásátru, I Say Shoresh
In these days of political correctness and multiculturalism, the surprising thing is that there was so little controversy when the board of School District 205 awarded a $40,000 contract to revisionist historian Michael Hoffman, author of They Were White and They Were Slaves: The Untold History of the Enslavement of Whites in Early America and Judaism Discovered: A Study of the Anti-Biblical Religion of Racism, Self-Worship, Superstition and Deceit.
Hoffman, who had once attacked that same board for firing a white principal who had changed the failing grades of white students, began volunteering his time last fall to mentor disadvantaged white students at a new charter school in the district. The superintendent was so impressed by his efforts that she drew up a contract for Hoffman’s services that was slightly less than $10,000. (Any expenditure over $10,000 has to come before the board.)
Now that Hoffman was being paid, he could expand his program, which he called Ásátru, an Old Icelandic word that means (roughly) “those true to one’s ancestors.” District officials were so pleased by the results that they decided to offer Hoffman the $40,000 contract. Some critics raised objections that Ásátru is really a religious program in disguise, and even one with some rather unpleasant racial elements. Still, board president David Kelley, a former state chairman of the Libertarian Party of Illinois and its 1994 gubernatorial candidate, told the Rockford Register Star that the program is “a cost-effective attempt to reach students who might otherwise turn to crime.”
A minor problem arose when it was revealed that Hoffman’s Ásátru, Inc., was not incorporated with the state of Illinois. While the district insisted that Hoffman would need to file for incorporation, the school-board attorney told the Register Star that “the board won’t have to wait for the state to approve the company’s application.”
And indeed, just a week later, the board voted unanimously to approve the contract, which runs from March 10 until June 30. Later this year, the board will consider expanding the program to a second school in the district.
If all of this seems a bit hard to believe, that’s because I’ve changed a few of the details. There is no Ásátru, Inc.; Michael Hoffman does not have a contract with District 205 (nor should he); and he hasn’t been mentoring white students and protesting the firing of a white principal.
In its essence, however, the story is true. On March 9, the school board voted unanimously to award a $40,000 contract to Shoresh, Inc. (Shoresh, the company’s website notes, means “rooted”). The company’s founder, Yahcolyah Muhammad, once demanded that the very same school board “Show respect for the black community and not remove our leaders,” when the board fired Kenneth Jackson, the principal of Jefferson High School, for changing the failing grades of black students. Muhammad later volunteered his time to mentor black students at the district’s Leadership and Learning Academy, which he parlayed into his paying gig.
And while Muhammad has never written any books, he is the founder and director of curriculum and instruction at Muhammad University of Islam, an organization associated with the Nation of Islam. Minister Yahcolyah is a fairly popular speaker at Nation of Islam events and runs an Islamic study group that brings other Nation of Islam luminaries to speak at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
One of those speakers, Ashashed Muhammad (no relation to Yahcolyah), came to the NIU campus on August 29, 2009, to hawk his book, The Synagogue of Satan, the Nation of Islam’s equivalent of Hoffman’s Judaism Discovered. (The Foreword to The Synagogue of Satan was written by Malik Zulu Shabazz, the national chairman of the New Black Panther Party.) Minister Yahcolyah’s website for the Islamic study group includes a book list featuring such titles as Our Saviour Has Arrived by Elijah Muhammad (“Messenger of ALLAH”), The Isis Papers by Dr. Frances Cress Welsing (“This work is dedicated to the global system of white supremacy”), and the Nation of Islam’s old chestnut, The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews.
While the Register Star reported on March 1 that Minister Yahcolyah’s bio on the Shoresh website noted his role at the Muhammad University of Rockford, that line is now missing. I wonder why. It’s not as if school-district officials or school-board members, or even the Register Star or any of the other Rockford media that covered the vote, saw any problem with Minister Yahcolyah’s apparent racism and antisemitism.
In the fall, if Minister Yahcolyah finds that running programs at two schools is too much work, perhaps he can hire Michael Hoffman to help him out. Stranger things have happened—like the approval of this contract.
This article first appeared in the June 2010 issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.