Al Sharpton: Messiah Or Self-Promoter?

By Sal Bommarito

Recent incidents resulting in the deaths of young African American men are a reminder that police tactics need to be constantly reevaluated to ensure that the civil rights of suspects are respected. Additionally, these events have elevated racial issues to the highest level- consider the active involvement of President Obama and Attorney General Holder. We must change things to allay the concerns of the black community.


But African Americans have a responsibility, especially their leaders. For one thing, change is best made peacefully with a minimal amount of animosity. Poverty, unemployment, disenfranchisement and unhappiness in urban centers greatly influence the behavior of city dwellers, which are predominately black. The federal government should work diligently to rectify these conditions.


The death of one man is a dreadful tragedy. It has not been difficult to appreciate the extent to which this occurrence has affected the black community. We have been witnessing it non-stop for several weeks in the media, which has been prodded by the likes of the Reverend Al Sharpton. People like Sharpton are the religious versions of ambulance chasers. He hears of a white on black incident and rushes to the scene and to offer his services assuming the worst. Given his clout, the Reverend, and his people, would be better served spending more time addressing the issues mentioned above, which would help all blacks.


Sharpton is a self-promoter. He is often retained when an African American has been wronged by a white person or by the establishment. Click here to see a list of projects Sharpton has worked on over the years. Some of these situations were legitimate and some were not. In all of his adventures, he was able to embed himself into a tragedy and serve as the mouthpiece for the victims. But, are Sharpton’s actions empathetic, or just an opportunity to get in front of the media and build his reputation?


There are better alternatives for a troubled black family than retaining Sharpton. Some will say that the establishment abhors the man, so he must be doing a good job. Not necessarily. Sharpton certainly knows how to stir the pot, but are his black clients better off after he moves on to the next crisis? We know his celebrity is on the rise; he now has a program on MSNBC where he regularly interviews people he represents- a clear conflict in the minds of many journalists.


Sharpton is “working both sides of the street, and it’s paying off for him”- from the conservative Fox Network. In other words, “[you] can’t be a player and cover the game at the same time.”


To his credit, the Reverend lectured the black community about some of its social problems in his eulogy of Brown. But, he saved his most animated and inflammatory comments for the police and the establishment.


A lot of negotiation and soul-searching must take place before African Americans receive what they rightly deserve. But, these talks need to take place between men and women of peace and great wisdom, people like Dr. King and President Kennedy. It is understandable why the current negotiators have not been making progress in recent months.


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