If your memories of Al Sharpton were formed twenty years ago, watch this….

Like many people who witnessed Rev. Sharpton’s disgraceful behavior in the Tawana Brawley case and some other scandals, I was never a huge fan. But this very nice sermon in Ferguson shows another side of things. It also underscores why so many people have been drawn to him for a long time. We all contain multitudes…. (h/t Steve Chapman for the video.)

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

4 thoughts on “If your memories of Al Sharpton were formed twenty years ago, watch this….”

  1. I would say more if your memories of him were formed outside of NYC. He has been a constant and, for the most part positive, presence in the city calling for justice for the last 40 years. He has been at the forefront of the racial justice movement in NYC not just mugging for the camera but actually being there for the families and communities involved. He has certainly made mistakes, particularly when trying to comment on issues outside of the city where his community ties aren't as strong but has also acknowledged them. His position is that he still believes Tawana Brawley's story but that the issues which led it to being dismissed were institutional and structural rather than personal and he shouldn't have attacked any one individual for them. Given the evidence we're still seeing today (i.e. the police "reports" on the Brown murder) it is hard to argue that this isn't at least a legitimate perspective to hold.

    The much more disturbing positions he's taken have to do with community issues between the black and orthodox Jewish communities in the Bronx and Brooklyn. It would take far more time than a single blog comment to go into all the back-story on those except to say no one's hands are clean and if you can be measured by the quality of your enemies he is doing pretty well there. Again there are problems with rhetoric and the tone of what he has said but he has admitted that and apologized.

    1. Yours strikes me as an excessively charitable appreciation of Sharpton's life as racial entrepreneur. I don't see see how it would be possible for any rational man to remain a believer in Tawana Brawley at this point. This seems particularly true of Sharpton since he was in a position to speak with her and ask her questions, so it seems likely that he knew the truth all along but didn't care. It's certainly the case that he knew perfectly well that there was no basis for the accusations against the specific individuals whose lives he destroyed, a fact amply demonstrated during the lawsuits and the GJ investigation.

      Then, of course, there's his role in the Crown Heights riots and the arson of Freddie's Fashion Mart ("We will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business") that resulted in the murder of at least seven people. Sharpton seems to have been perfectly happy to pour copious amounts of gasoline anywhere that would increase his profile, so long as he wouldn't have to leave his fingerprints on the matches.

      My own personal favorite during a long and, evidently highly lucrative career as a "racial arsonist" was his support for the Dunbar Village rapists—a gang of animals who raped and brutalized a woman and then amused themselves by forcing her to perform oral sex on her twelve-year-old son, who was also beaten and doused with household chemicals. It was astonishing even by Sharpton's standards. He lowered his profile on this "important case for civil rights" only when he decided that his association with this gang of rapists was tarnishing the Sharpton brand. Yet again, marketing was everything and principle nothing.

      Sharpton's exploitation of racial grievances for fame and fortune has been unrelenting. He seems never to have cared about hurting other people during his rise to fame and fortune. There are a vast number of people who have participated honorably in the struggle for civil rights and who are continuing to speak out for racial justice. I would urge that they be featured on liberal blogs instead of this awful person who has so much blood on his hands.

  2. It was a nice speech but so what? Some things are a permanent stain on one's character. I've never seen any indication that Al Sharpton feels anything like remorse. The lives he's destroyed and the communities he's damaged are a byproduct of his relentless self promotion, just as road kill is the inevitable consequence of the automobile.

    The "new" Al Sharpton is the same heartless chancer dressed up in a new suit of clothes to better suit today's suckers. He shouldn't have been rewarded with fame and fortune in his second act. Some memories are too painful, just as some evil is unforgivable.

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