It should come as no surprise to those who've heard me speak, whether in a blistering screed decrying our soulless corporatocracy to the oppressed masses, or in a fascinating diatribe on the impending fascistic theocracy to some poor slob I've cornered at a party when all he wanted was directions to the guacamole, that I'm what one might call a Progressive. Not to say I want to chase Richard Perle down a street in Fallujah into the waiting arms of some of those who've suffered from his imperialistic miscalculations -- at least not right now, as I have a sore foot -- but when it comes to the whole US (you know, us) vs. THEM (and they know who they are!) thing, I'm on the side of US. Power to the people.
But, just between US, there is something I'd like to say. It seems like it has become too easy, and too common, for US to talk about who we hate -- and I don't mean just among the hateable THEM. For myself I've always tried to be clear on my feelings when it comes to, say, the stupid, stinking bastards who think profit is a noble motive even when it leads to suffering if Hell doesn't exist I hope it's invented so those bloodworms can burn forever.
And it's gotten too easy to focus on Bush, whose popularity is hovering somewhere around that of getting sand in your eye. And even the Cannibalistic Demons for a New Hellish Century have withdrawn support from Cheney, saying he's given eating the hearts of newborns a bad name.
No, it's not the attacks on THEM that bother me. It's our attacks on US that are wacky! Are we so secure in our power already that our highest priority has switched to purges already? Did I miss an election? Expensive haircuts, verbal gaffes, too soft/too hard/too Black/not White enough (okay, that hasn't come up... yet), it seems that the last thing anyone wants to say is that they don't hate someone on our side, lest the big "SAP" sticker gets stuck to one's forehead.
So, given that, and in the spirit of true Progressivism I have something to say: I don't hate Al Sharpton.
Put down the knife, and listen.
Why do people hate this guy so much?
Put down that knife!
What has he done, anyway? Well, I of course, have a theory:
Racism in America is a constant. If you are a person of color it is something that affects you, your opportunities, your safety everyday. Every single day. Liberals know this, but they would prefer not to have it brought up everyday.
And Al Sharpton brings it up everyday.
This makes many people feel kinda bad. The White liberals are faced with their ever-present skin privilege -- something they'd like to have but not have brought up, and many Black liberals just wish he wasn't such a loudmouth, and a sartorial embarrassment. Sharpton won't let Americans forget the constant racial injustice, and for that he's hated. I mean, it's not like he's one of those guys from Exxon who still haven't paid for the Valdez spill. Betcha don't even know their names, and they're criminals waking free, pockets bulging with blood money! But Al, slick haired and chubby cheeked, pointing out racism, gets even Liberals to toss Free Speech and demand he shut the Hell up!
"Oh, I just wish Black people had a better spokesperson." some well-meaning latte-sucker sighs. Hey, who said Al Sharpton was our spokesperson? Do White people have a spokesperson? Someone who represents all of you? (If so, I want to know where they live, cuz me and my boys have some points we'd like to go over with them.)
We don't have a spokesperson. There are a bunch of Black people with a bunch of opinions. Given, we pretty much have a consensus on the "Stop Treating Us like Second Class Citizens/Congenital Idiots/ Singing, Dancing, Sex Maniacs" position, but besides that we don't have a person who sums it all up for us. So just stop saying that.
And it's clearly not what he says -- literally. Hey, Don Imus is a racist! Remember when that Black woman got assigned to report on D.C. and Imus said it was great that her station was letting the Cleaning Woman cover the White House? (See, she's Black, so she's a maid! Hilarious) The Williams Sisters should be covered by National Geographic? (They're Black, so a wildlife magazine should report on them! Now that's comedy!) So after the Nappy Headed Ho's incident Al points out that Free Speech does not mean your employer has no responsibility regarding what you say on the job. And while lots of people were pointing out that Imus has a soft side, and has personally breast-fed orphaned baby chipmunks in the Adirondacks, Sharpton was saying that even with chapped nipples he was still a racist. And he was right.
In the Central Park Jogger case Sharpton insisted the young men convicted were railroaded into their confessions. And he was right! There were exonerated years later, not in small part to his keeping the case going. So Sharpton gets vilified.
1999, Amadou Diallo gets killed by the NYPD -- guilty of Walking While Black, but Sharpton keeps the case going, until the family wins a wrongful death suit against the city. Despicable.
Ousmane Zongo (killed/ NYPD), Sean Bell (killed/ NYPD), Abner Louima (beaten, sodomized/ NYPD), jailed for protesting the bombing of Vieques by the U.S. Navy (NYPD on vacation)... These are just some of the hot potatoes Rev. Al has been involved with. Is there some Progressive who's on the other side on these? And if some Black folks in New York feel they're not getting justice regarding their state sponsored ass-whippings , they can go to Al. He might get them some publicity.
"What about Tawana Brawley?" shouts the bruiser in the balcony. Let's see:
On November 28, 1987, Tawana Brawley, a 15-year-old black girl, was found smeared with feces, lying in a garbage bag, her clothing torn and burned and with various slurs and epithets written on her body in charcoal. Brawley claimed she had been assaulted and raped by six white men, some of them police officers.
The county did not believe her, and found that the police would never have done such a thing -- after all it's not like she was sodomized with a plunger.
So the family turns to Sharpton. What would you have done? Turn them down?
Bad call on his part, but that's life. It appeared to be true (she still says it is.) "He played the race card!" Hey, Black girl says she was raped by a bunch of White cops, and the county won't even investigate. Come on, you wouldn't think maybe race had a little to do with it?
"He's a media hound!" Of course he's a media hound! He's a preacher and a politician! Would it be more acceptable if he did his diatribes on, say, a website? a blogging website -- maybe with a little picture of his head? Is that the only place people get to have biased broadsides?
"Ah, what about Mitt Romney? Saying Christians shouldn't vote for him!" Yep, and if Al Sharpton thinks that Mitt might be a Right Wing nutjob who would happily stampede this country back into the 19th century, and that his ultra conservative, pro-business, usta-think-darkskinned-people-were-cursed Church is a danger to our Democracy, he should find a more sensitive way to say it.
Yes, Mitt was freely a member of a church that taught that all People of Color were cursed by God -- until 1978. And did Mitt fight against this injustice? No, he raised his family in it, But if Sharpton shows he might be a little put out by that -- let the Progressive Barbs begin!
But I don't hate Sharpton. This is from his 2004 Democratic Convention speech:
"The promise of America provides that those who work in our health care system can afford to be hospitalized in the very beds they clean up every day.
The promise of America is that government does not seek to regulate your behavior in the bedroom, but to guarantee your right to provide food in the kitchen.
The issue of government is not to determine who may sleep together in the bedroom, it's to help those that might not be eating in the kitchen.
The promise of America that we stand for human rights, whether it's fighting against slavery in the Sudan, AIDS in Lesotho; and police misconduct in this country.
The promise of America is one immigration policy for all who seek to enter our shores, whether they come from Mexico, Haiti or Canada, there must be one set of rules for everybody.
We cannot welcome those to come and then try and act as though any culture will not be respected or treated inferior. We cannot look at the Latino community and preach one language. No one gave them an English test before they sent them to Iraq to fight for America.
The promise of America is that every citizen vote is counted and protected, and election schemes do not decide the election.
It, to me, is a glaring contradiction that we would fight, and rightfully so, to get the right to vote for the people in the capital of Iraq in Baghdad, but still don't give the federal right to vote for the people in the capital of the United States, in Washington, D.C."
Great speech. I know Black people who were literally jumping up and down, cheering him. How many people take that podium and actually say something? Kucinich did a good job, but it took the Black guy with the Prince Valiant hairdo to get Jon Stewart to say "This is the only guy making sense." Of course, on MSNBC I remember a panel of White guys speaking for all Blacks when they said that we didn't know what Sharpton was talking about. What?
Now I'm not saying I love Al. If I woke up tomorrow morning and Al was president I'd probably... well, I'd... okay, I have no idea what I'd do, because that would require the entire universe to be different.
All I'm saying is we should stop being so hard on our own, and especially on the flashy guy who, with his Patty Duke bob (okay, the hair bothers me) and his brash Big Apple ways, the guy who's kept the fight for racial justice on the front burner. At least he's doing something -- and if that something discomforts the comfortable, and aids the abandoned, cut him some slack.
And if you don't like his style, get your own damn megaphone and show us all how it's done.