The Education of Professor Griff

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The experience, Professor Griff said, was enlightening. "I saw things I wasn't aware of even after talking to my Jewish friends in New York," he admitted. "It was my first time experiencing anything like that. Black kids don't know these things. I study, and I didn't know about some of these things, so the black kids without education definitely don't know about

"I had mixed emotions - both sad and angry," Griff continued. "It made me think! If that happens to them, if six million people can have that happen to them, imagine the 250 million blacks. It could happen to them, too. I mentioned to Sam that I bet a lot of Jewish people don't come here, because I know that if I was Jewish, I couldn't take seeing this. And he told me that, yes, that for some Jews it was too painful."

The following day Griff reflected further on his encounter with Sam, the Holocaust Memorial, and his own notorious words of a year ago. "I'm just sad about the whole incident," he said in reference to the Washington Times interview. "I'm not even going to go back and single out the quotes I made. That's nothing compared to what I saw yesterday. Now I'm more angry about the whole shebang, to be honest with you. If I knew what I know now, I never would have uttered those words. I would have stayed away from whole subject."

But how would he reconcile his new historical perspective with his allegiance to the Nation of Islam? Suppose Louis Farrakhan himself called after reading these words and insisted that Griff had been taken in by some clever Jewish trick? "I don't think that would ever happen," said Griff. "He wouldn't say that. Now, someone in the Nation would probably say that, and I would ask them to prove it. The thing is, this wickedness is not sanctioned on either side. The difference in religions is up to each individual. The Nation was built on truth and righteousness, and it doesn't mock human suffering. So I can empathize with Jews and sympathize with blacks at the same time.

"One thing about me is I'm not that kind of hollow person," he continued. "You can't figure me out in one or two conversations. I'm no politician and I'm no Chuck D. I don't talk in circles, I talk directly. If you think I was joking or kidding or putting up a front when I went to the memorial with the gentleman, well, we'll see. My views change with time, and my views about this have changed. This could be a process of me maturing."

As the two men were departing the Holocaust Memorial, Rogatinsky looked into Griff's clear brown eyes and said, "I'd like to be your friend." Griff recalled his answer: "I told him I'd love that. That we could try to do this together. That's not about trying to clear the way for me to make safe records, no. But he and I are young and sincere. I have a lot of energy and I'm ready and raring to go. You have to remember that a lot of prophets and messengers of God didn't even know what their mission was until it was revealed to them by God when these people were at a late age."

And then Samuel Rogatinsky and Richard Griffin shook hands.

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Greg Baker