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.


Ferguson: In An Imperfect World

By Sal Bommarito

In a perfect world, there would be no racial tension and our police force would never use excess force. But, our world is far from perfect.


In recent days, two young black men died tragically while being arrested. These incidents unleashed a wave of protest from the African American community that is convinced that police treat them abusively. Social activists around the country have declared war on police departments, however, all of the facts in these situations have not yet been revealed.


A 2012 Department of Justice study of juvenile delinquency indicates that black youths commit more crimes per capita than white youths by a wide margin. This is not new information. Yet, activists turn away from the realities and duress of urban life and their impact on black behavior. Rather, they chose to focus on police abuses, not the societal issues that cause some black youths to misbehave. Whenever a tragedy involving a black child and a white cop occurs, the rebel-rousers are on the scene. They do not give equal time to the reasons for discontent and violence.


There is no excuse for aggressive police action unless violence is inevitable. Protests that include arson, looting and shooting by out of control crowds are not the type of responses that will help the African American community in their efforts to improve their lives.


High crime areas generally are rife with broken homes, poverty, unemployment, poor education and boredom. Perhaps, African American spokespeople should focus more on these social and economic realities rather than on one off incidents that involve the police, as sad as each one of them is.


Police departments make poor decisions that infuriate the African American community and should be taken to task. Stop and frisk decreases crime, but the civil liberties implications of this tactic are overwhelming, and so stop and frisk has been watered down or halted in most places, a major victory for African Americans in their minds.


Police departments should not be 90% white in cities and towns that are 90% black. And, every police officer should be trained in the use of appropriate force and the rights of suspects. When behavior is in violation of the rules, police officials should pay a price. Training has been increased in place like New York City, another victory for African Americans.


Unfortunately, provocateurs created a dangerous environment in Ferguson. Across the nation, a large number of citizens (African Americans) believe that they are at odds with a group (the police) that is supposed to protect them. Every day, honest cops risk their lives and do a great job all things considered. The least accusers should do is to give investigators a chance to collect all the facts before demanding someone’s head on a stick.


None of involved parties distinguished themselves in the Ferguson tragedy. The Governor of Missouri rushed to judgment, while the Lieutenant Governor criticized his boss (they belong to different political parties). The police suited up for an all out war and used tear gas and rubber bullets, reminiscent of 1960s overreaction by police. The media aired confrontations between the police and the rioting crowds regularly on TV and in the newspapers. Some protesters looted stores and set fires in their own neighborhood.


In a perfect world, local, state and federal investigators would collect information rapidly and inform the public of their findings soon after.


In a perfect world, the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson would stay away from Ferguson; their presence and rhetoric often times incite the disgruntled to act violently.


In a perfect world, the media would limit the coverage of violence and not make editorial comments, which inspire rioting.


In a perfect world, every American would be treated fairly including African Americans and police officers.


In a perfect world, we would no longer have racial tension in America.