Showing posts with label al sharpton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label al sharpton. Show all posts

7/11/2008

The Jesse Jackson Gaffe in Context

Jesse Jackson stepped in it again this week by criticizing Barack Obama during what he thought was a private conversation. He was a guest on a Fox News political program and was talking with another Black guest when he was off the air. However, his microphone was still on and the remarks were caught on tape. Jackson was complaining about Obama's support for faith-based initiatives and accused him of "talking down to Black people." In an unfortunate moment of bravado, he then told the other guest that he "wanted to cut Obama's nuts off." Jackson has since apologized for his "crude remarks," but the damage had already been done, and not to Barack Obama. This story proved to be a bit too sensitive for male journalists to cover, as this humorous compilation reveals. (Hat tip: TV Newser)

What is happening regarding Black leaders of yesteryear like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton is nothing new, but the media have been slow to catch on. I first mentioned how Barack Obama represented a changing of the guard more than a year ago in regards to Al Sharpton:

What does Sharpton do when his role within the Black political community and the Black community in general is diminished? What does Sharpton do when he does not have to be kowtowed to in order to deliver the crucial Black vote for Democratic candidates? What does Sharpton do when he has such a long history of civil rights activism and is treated like a gadfly only to watch a first term senator come out of nowhere and be so unbelievably well received?

What does any animal do when it feels threatened? It lashes out. And that's why Sharpton is worried.
Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are the media-anointed spokesmen for the Black community. However, many Blacks don't believe Jackson and Sharpton speak for them. Blacks are not a monolithic voting bloc at all. They overwhelmingly vote for Democrats, but often have conservative values. These values include self-reliance and personal responsibility.

Jackson and Sharpton run contrary to this philosophy. While the history and effects of institutionalized racism and discrimination in America can never be forgotten, a growing number of Blacks are tired of simply blaming White injustices for the ills in their communities. Citing racism as the reason why you dropped out of school, discrimination as the reason why your child is a drug addict, and the lack of reparations as the reason why your neighborhood is riddled with gang violence doesn't hold water. Blacks want to improve their communities and realize that even though they don't have control over government policy (except at the ballot box), they do have control over themselves.

Many Blacks, including national figures such as Colin Powell and Bill Cosby, have spoken out about the need for Black men to be more involved in their children's lives and for Black children to stay in school. These people have been criticized by the Jackson wing of the Black community for "acting White" or having "a lack of pride in their Blackness," but this resistance is getting weaker and weaker. Even though it may be a tough message for some people to hear, it is a message of truth that cannot be disputed. Barack Obama is only the latest leader to remind Blacks that there comes a time when you simply have to stop blaming others for the mistakes you make.

The political consequences of Jackson's remarks are obvious. Obama benefits anytime he is criticized by people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Jackson and Sharpton are seen by many Whites and Republicans as radical Black leftists. Falling out of favor with them makes Obama look reasonable by comparison and works against the caricature of him as an angry race-baiting liberal closet Black Muslim. By extension, that helps put more distance between him and the likes of Louis Farrakhan and Jeremiah Wright, thus further increasing his appeal among Whites. It also makes Obama look more moderate because Jackson is seen as one of the figureheads of the liberal fringe. Jackson's complaints do not reveal any real danger on Obama's left flank because these Black voters are going to vote for him in November anyway.

Jackson's stature within the Black community is diminished. He did nothing to help his cause with his macho talk during what he thought was a private moment. Blacks who have grown tired of the same old arguments are only going to be more drawn to Obama's message of taking responsibility rather than simply complaining about still not receiving their forty acres and a mule. Older Blacks may be more receptive to Jackson's message, but there is a growing generation gap that consists of younger Blacks whose lives were not shaped by the civil rights movement and desegregation and older Blacks who still remember what it was like to have to drink from "colored-only" water fountains and endure blatant racism as they walked down the street. Racism obviously still exists and is a serious problem, but this new generation of Blacks, starting with Obama's generation, is less inclined to buy into the traditional arguments about race relations that have been debated for decades without arriving at a meaningful consensus.

Obama's candidacy has advantaged this nation by forcing people of all races to reassess race. He is forcing people not just to merely consider the prevalence or perpetrators of racism in today's society, but also how we can discuss it intelligently and arrive at new solutions. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton don't offer any of this, and that is why their relevancy is restricted to journalists who are too lazy to search for new Black voices who offer new messages and new ideas.

5/10/2007

Not Sharp, Sharpton (again)

Al Sharpton has stepped into it again, this time with Mitt Romney.

Democrats would be wise to marginalize Sharpton or at the very least contain him so that his words are taken to represent only himself, rather than the entire Democratic Party.

In addition to starting yet another unneeded controversy that only further tarnishes what's left of Sharpton's image, his remarks accomplished five things:

1. They allowed Mitt Romney to take the high road after "having his faith attacked", which gives him a few cycles of good press.

2. They allowed Romney to respond in such a way that he, "the Mormon," appeared reasonable.

3. They gave Mitt Romney free publicity, which is exactly what he needs in order to get his name recognition up. If Romney is contrasted with Sharpton, Romney will win every time in the eyes of the average voter. So his campaign team has to be thanking Sharpton.

4. They allowed Romney another opportunity to deftly handle "the Mormon thing." He did a good job of addressing this in the first Republican debate last week, and now he had a second opportunity to do the exact same thing. Voters who are a bit reluctant about supporting "a Mormon" may now view him as being a bit more reasonable than they first thought.

5. They gave Republicans and conservatives more fodder to use against Democrats who may be challenged to repudiate these remarks in the future.

Now granted, most voters probably aren't paying attention to Mitt Romney and have written Al Sharpton off long ago. But I can't help but wonder if somewhere, someone is watching all this unfold and thinks, "An enemy of Al Sharpton is a friend of mine" or "maybe that Mormon guy isn't all that bad."

While bigotry against anyone of any faith (and heck, bigotry in general) is something I strongly disagree with, it is this bigotry that threatens to sink the campaign of perhaps the most telegenic and most formidable Republican candidate out there, at least based on his performance in the first debate. In my mind, Sharpton's antics only helped remove some of these barriers, thus damaging the Democrats' chances of victory in 2008.

Democrats are afraid of freezing Sharpton out because they feel he carries so much sway within the Black community and can single-handedly depress Black turnout in elections, which they heavily rely on. But I honestly wonder just how credible he is among Blacks because I'm sure many Blacks are sick of him and just wish for him to go away.

As a Black man, I can tell you that I personally wish he would just stop embarrassing himself, and embarrassing "us" by default.

4/11/2007

Nappy heads, empty heads, and getting ahead...

How many times have I heard this story?

Some guy makes a boneheaded, culturally insensitive remark and then gets blasted and hammered by everyone under the sun. The aforementioned bonehead then issues apologies expressing various degrees of contrition, which are usually related to how much heat that person's superiors are taking. Journalists then invite the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton onto their news programs for "analysis" and "the Black perspective," thus further muddying the waters and spewing so much nonsense that the original bonehead comes across a bit more rationally and everyone then forgets why we called him a bonehead in the first place.

Sound familiar?

MSNBC personality Don Imus obviously stepped in it with his recent remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team. Even if he was trying to be funny, it came across really crass. Even if the guy doesn't have a racist bone in his body, it would be very hard to deny the fact that he's a jerk. I don't need to say anymore about that though because one could easily find this type of reaction on any cable news program or traditional syndicated column. And besides, that's not the point of this post.

My beef is with Al Sharpton. Because I am still moving boxes and receiving deliveries, I have the temporary luxury of being able to keep the television on all day. So I had the pleasure of catching Rev. Sharpton on CNN in the afternoon and MSNBC in the evening. It appears that he gave an interview with Matt Lauer on the Today Show in the morning as well. And in each interview, he came across as some rabid, infallible, fire-breathing windbag with a permanent chip on his shoulder. He bristled at some of the more stinging (but entirely valid) questions posed to him, such as "Have you not been guilty of making similar inflammatory remarks?" or "Do you believe everyone should have a chance at redemption?" Instead, he opted to repeat his litany of complaints about Imus' "numerous incidents of racism" and demanded that he be fired.

Granted, Rev. Sharpton has a right to his opinion. And I agree with a lot of what he says. However, the way he comes across is so off-putting that it prevents people from actually being able to take in his message. He is so antagonizing that he puts people on the defensive and causes them to focus more on him than on what he actually says. It burns me up to see these journalists refer to Sharpton as a "leading Black community leader" or a "voice of the Black community." I really wish journalists weren't so lazy when it came to trying to get the "Black perspective." Sharpton and Jackson are too media-hungry and too misguided. Firebreathers like Sharpton allow a totally legitimate issue and gripe to become a shoutfest between the noisemakers on the fringes of the political spectrum while alienating everyone else in between. The Rutgers coach and the team members themselves have handled themselves with far more maturity, class, and dignity than any of these "leaders" such as Sharpton.

As a Black man, listening to Sharpton embarrasses me. It makes me so angry to read letters to the editor in my local newspaper talking dismissively about Black attitudes because they feel their thinking is in line with Sharptons'. Now, I must state that I respect Sharpton's commitment to civil rights, and I appreciate his struggles for equality and justice. Unfortunately, because I come from a later generation, I am not sure I could ever fully appreciate his sacrifices. But man, I really wish this guy would just shut up sometimes.

Al Sharpton, please go away.

One other interesting angle to this story is the responses to it by the 2008 presidential candidates. Almost all of them have been a bit slow on commenting on this, presumably because they didn't want to get involved with this live grenade. After all, who wants to be seen as "a bigot sympathizer" or "someone who is on the same page as Al Sharpton?" Could you imagine the negative campaign ads that would result? But I must admit that this bit of calculation and delay was a bit disappointing. I can understand their possible reasons for their delayed responses, but I would have appreciated a bit more leadership from the candidates regarding this issue. McCain and Giuliani seem to be following the "redemption" and "everybody deserves a second chance" routes. Surely some contradictory quotes involving Bill Clinton will surface on YouTube shortly. And the outrage some of the Democrats are expressing seems a bit phony as well because if Imus's comments were so "over the top" or so "out of line," why didn't they call a spade a spade as soon as it happened?

Anyways, at least the nation is talking about issues of race and gender and hip hop and gangster rap. We should thank Imus for that because these discussions are long overdue. Hopefully a discussion about Sharpton's relevance to the Black community will ensue as well.

Enough is enough--of all of this nonsense.

3/15/2007

The Essence of Obama, Part II: Changing of the Guard

There is a brilliant commentary by Kathleen Parker that just came out and talks about the latest installment of the Barack Obama-Al Sharpton lovefest.

In one of my earliest posts on The 7-10, I talked about the stupidity of the questions swirling around Obama concerning whether "he was Black enough" and why so many Blacks are conflicted about his candidacy. Kathleen Parker's commentary digs a little deeper and finds the root of the problem:

Al Sharpton's desperation is showing. His recent attacks on presidential candidate Barack Obama and his threat to withhold his support have exposed the trick behind Sharpton's magic act. His audience is leaving the tent, and Sharpton is scrambling for relevancy.
(In other words, there's a changing of the guard in the Black community that doesn't sit too well with some people.)

Well, yeah. I could have told her that a long time ago. Here's what I wrote in The 7-10 on February 26:
While the Revs. Jackson and Sharpton are owed a great deal of gratitude for their sacrifices and struggles during the civil rights movements of yesteryear, their rhetoric makes it seem like little has been made in the way of progress. And as long as they continue to be seen as occupying center stage in the Black community, it makes it harder for the newer generation of Black politicians (Obama, Harold Ford Jr., Deval Patrick, Chakah Fatah, etc.) who have greater cross-racial appeal to be viewed as credibly as a traditional Black politician that runs primarily on blasting the vestiges of slavery and discrimination.
In the weeks between this post and now, Obama has made great strides among Black voters, which has Hillary's camp (and therefore Sharpton's camp) in a panic.

(Kathleen Parker should have consulted with me because what's happening now is not surprising to me at all. Maybe I should get a job as a syndicated columnist or as a commentator for the Washington Post?)

Anyway, despite his lack of experience, I must respect the fact that Obama has seriously redefined what it means to be a presidential candidate. It's like Barack Obama is the Nintendo Wii of politics. The energy and enthusiasm surrounding his campaign is quite infectuous, and his ability to draw new voters into the process is something I have never seen before. I recently read a news clipping about how 500 people showed up just to organize one of his rallies. Read that again. 500 people to organize (not attend) a Barack Obama campaign rally. Unbelievable.

Do you think Al Sharpton could ever generate such an outpouring of support? That's where the rub comes from. Figures like Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were able to stay relevant for so long because they were seen as the face of Black America and could be relied on to deliver the Black vote to candidates that relied on their support to survive politically. So politicians had to play nice with the likes of Sharpton so as to not offend them and risk depressing Black turnout. What makes Obama so threatening is that he doesn't need to defer to Sharpton to generate the Black vote. Simply put, Obama is eclipsing Sharpton in terms of effectiveness, message, and appeal. The race card still has some effect, but Obama is able to play this card in such a way that he can talk about race without talking about race. He can demonstrate to all voters that he is cognizant of his identity while not being solely defined or restricted by it. Sharpton, on the other hand, continues to beat the same old drums of racism, slavery, affirmative action, and racial profiling. Don't get me wrong, those are all important issues. But I think voters in general have soured on his firebrand approach to talking about these issues and find Obama's message far more enticing.

What does Sharpton do when his role within the Black political community and the Black community in general is diminished? What does Sharpton do when he does not have to be kowtowed to in order to deliver the crucial Black vote for Democratic candidates? What does Sharpton do when he has such a long history of civil rights activism and is treated like a gadfly only to watch a first term senator come out of nowhere and be so unbelievably well received?

What does any animal do when it feels threatened? It lashes out.

And that's why Sharpton is worried.

2/28/2007

Letter to the editor: Re: Al Sharpton and Strom Thurmond

Although The 7-10 generally focuses on national politics, I thought I would include a letter I wrote to the editor of the largest newspaper in South Carolina--The State. This is in reference to the recent story about Al Sharpton finding that his ancestor's slavemaster shares an ancestor with Strom Thurmond.

South Carolina is one of the most conservative states in America. While there are some pockets of progressivism, this state is generally ruby red. (And no, I'm not saying conservative political views translates into racism.) Unfortunately, race relations in this state are not so hot, as is recently evidenced by a few recent letters to the editor that were dismissive of the story and questioned its news value. Here's one example, written by a Mr. John Feaster of Columbia:

Someone please tell me why it is newsworthy who the Rev. Al Sharpton may or may not be related to from more than 100 years ago.

Is he jockeying to get a place in line for any leftover estate?

I obviously could not let this ignorant statement go unchallenged. So I quickly drafted my own letter and sent it to the editor a few minutes ago. I don't know if it will be published there, but I won't let that stop me from posting it here. Take a look at the letter and judge for yourself:

The Rev. Al Sharpton recently found out that his ancestor's slavemaster shares an ancestor with the late Sen. Strom Thurmond. And now there have been letters to the editor dismissing the story, asking why this is relevant after more than 150 years, and even questioning Sharpton's motives.

These critics are providing a perfect example of why Blacks have such a high level of mistrust of Whites in South Carolina and throughout the South. Fair or not, there's a perception out there that White people just don't care about Blacks. But Blacks aren't allowed to be dismissive of Whites.

For example, regarding the Confederate flag in front of the statehouse, whenever someone writes a letter expressing a wish that the flag be taken down and placed in a museum, many angry rebuttals soon follow telling the flag opponent that "that flag represents our Southern heritage" and "should be honored." The fact that most Blacks do not respect the Confederacy seems to be a non-issue to them. How dare these Blacks try and minimize our (White) history?

Finding out that one of the most famous civil rights leaders in America (and one of the biggest nemeses of the conservative right) is related to one of the most famous South Carolinians ever who once espoused what the Black leader now fights against is quite newsworthy. It's an amazing coincidence. Many Blacks are unable to trace their family history because of poor records and the fact that so many families were broken up during that terrible time, so this is particularly interesting news to the Black community. But now many Whites are adopting a "who cares?" attitude.

The Confederate flag is a big deal to many White South Carolinians. Slavery is a big deal to many Black South Carolinians. Why is it okay for Whites to minimize Black history regarding tracing their ancestry, but it's not okay for Blacks to minimize White history regarding the Confederate flag? And are any Whites willing to take a stand against the other Whites who are so openly dismissive of this issue? Or is it possible that these critics speak for the majority?

-Anthony Palmer
Columbia

I really hope they publish this, although I fear it may be a bit too long. It just burns me up to see something so ignorant come out of the mouth of a supposed adult. There are people like this all over the nation, not just in the South. But if my words can reach just one person and get that person to think and reexamine his ideas about this subject, then I will have succeeded. It's obvious that nobody else has much to say about this.

Copyright 2007-2008 by Anthony Palmer. This material may not be republished or redistributed in any manner without the expressed written permission of the author, nor may this material be cited elsewhere without proper attribution. All rights reserved. The 7-10 is syndicated by Newstex.