The Plank

Sharpton On The Shoulders Of Giants


Today's Washington Post fronts
a story about the continuing "relevance" of the Reverend Al Sharpton to
the political scene. The decrease in influence implied via this public
rebuttal is given little limelight. Rather, Sharpton, who continues to
gleefully man the red phone connecting the MSM to American blacks at
large, gets credit for involvement in a litany of ‘race cases' that
have made headlines in 2007:

Even by his own frenetic standards, the Rev. Al Sharpton has had a busy 12 months.Late
last year was the police shooting in Queens of Sean Bell, an unarmed
black man leaving a bachelor party, and Sharpton organized the
protests. There was the spring controversy over racially insensitive
remarks by shock jock Don Imus, with Sharpton leading the calls for
Imus's firing. 

The piece remains mysteriously
congratulatory, given the low batting average Sharpton boasts on
peaceful, lasting resolution of such conflicts. Imus is back on the
air, and the Sean Bell case can be judged a victory for NYPD
bureaucracy (while black-on-black crime in New York continues
unabated). In fact, Sharpton the hero comes off as a bit of a
dilettante, moving to greener pastures as the sun sets on last month's
racial unrest.But WaPo writer Keith Richburg's
journalistic hand-job is just another part of Sharpton's "strategic"
self-promotion--which includes withholding his primary endorsement
until just before the South Carolina vote, and is absolutely dependent
upon the notion that he is the lone authority on black America. In
shameful service of this narrative, Richburg incorrectly IDs Sharpton's
role in the September Jena protests:

Sharpton put
together a march in Jena, La., in support of six black teenagers jailed
in the beating of a white student, and he held a protest rally outside
the Justice Department in Washington to demand more prosecution of hate

Not true. As I wrote
in October, Sharpton's heavy paw, it seems, is no longer on the pulse
of black America. Credit for the organization of the September 20
protest must be given to internet-based groups, whose shoulders
Sharpton now uses as a personal soapbox. Howard Witt of the Chicago Tribune reported that Sharpton knew nothing of Jena until sites like the Color of Change, which brought thousands of potential marchers into the fray, made it impossible to miss. So what the hell gives? I really hate to join Michelle Malkin in the blind and feckless politics of rage, but the continued willingness of the Post to print shoddily reported innuendo provokes it. WaPo ombudsman Deborah Howell has acknowledged the November front-page goof on Barack Obama; I eagerly await retraction of today's glaring error.


On a less incensed note, and to the point to which the article offers Sharpton's retort: There is
no place for Al Sharpton in a "Barack Obama world"; and the seeds of a
new black activism were planted well before Obama (pretty race-neutral
in rhetoric) entered the scene. The young and smart black activists I
know intuit that Sharpton's one-size-fits-all paradigm will not advance
their well-being, nor enhance their agency in political processes. It's
not enough to raise the "black" profile with
Bill O'Reilly; the proof is in the pudding. The
local accumulation of political capital has proven a far more efficient
way to enfranchise blacks, be it through urban justice corps, word of
mouth, or the work of underexposed 60s-era fighters like Rep. John
Lewis and Julian Bond. The squadron of young black politicians such as
Adrian Fenty, Deval Patrick, Kwame Kilpatrick, Harold Ford, Jr. or Cory
Booker also proves the point; they along with activists like Van Jones
(a founder of Color of Change) and Majora Carter now cross color lines
to address American problems; and the pudding is looking better all the time.--Dayo Olopade

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