Rev. Al Sharpton’s Meeting with “Civil Rights Leaders” – Can It Be Taken Seriously?
(ThyBlackMan.com) read recently that Rev. Al Sharpton and other individuals in the civil rights community are gathering this week to discuss a black agenda. I haven’t spoken to Rev. Al Sharpton for over a year now, after it became clear that he and I do not see President Barack Obama in the same light. I am a supporter of President Obama who also believes that we must diligently observe the choices of his administration, and I personally feel that Sharpton has been a bit too close to the administration for comfort.
I don’t profess to know the nature of the relationship between Al Sharpton and President Obama. But I can say that as we observe the actions of the Obama Administration, which is run by a bunch of white guys who have a poor track record of paying attention to African American issues, we must also be watchful of the black faces that have been corralled by the Obama Administration to keep black people under control: They want your votes, but they clearly do NOT want your problems.
Rev. Al Sharpton, along with NAACP President Ben Jealous, has a serious credibility issue that both he and Jealous must confront. Al Sharpton’s deep alignment with President Obama has unfortunately created a situation in which the black agenda is not sent from the people to the president. Instead, the Obama agenda is typically sent from the president to the people.
Black people show up and say, “We’d like for you to speak on racial inequality in unemployment and the massive damage being done by the prison industrial complex,” and Al Sharpton is put on the front porch of the White House to say, “Black people must fight the Republicans to avoid the fiscal cliff.” There’s nothing more frustrating than to show up to a restaurant asking for a steak dinner, only to be served a peanut butter sandwich instead.
Jealous must deal with the fact that millions of black Americans don’t feel that the NAACP is in alignment with their interests. The organization jumped right behind President Obama’s gay marriage endorsement and didn’t so much as ask its membership what it wanted to do. Recently, the group even decided to challenge the ban on large sugary soft drinks in New York City, even though African Americans suffer the worst obesity problems in America. Were the NAACP not receiving money from soft drink manufacturers, I find it difficult to believe that they would have fought such a ban…this is hardly a civil rights issue anyway.
The final point that comes to mind as Rev. Al Sharpton gathers with his colleagues to discuss their vision for black America is that the meeting severely lacks relevance and authenticity when it seeks to keep dissenting voices away from the table. Others who should be invited to this meeting include: Rev. Jesse Jackson, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, Dr. Wilmer Leon, and others (perhaps even Louis Farrakhan) who have interests that might be more aligned with the people than with their own quest for bureaucratic cronyism. You can’t claim to seek honest opinions and then only listen to people who tell you what you want to hear.
Right now, over a third of all black men in Alabama do not have the right to vote, which is part of a national trend of marginalization. Black men are six times more likely to go to prison than white men, and the War on Drugs has destroyed the black family in America. Additionally, black unemployment is double that of whites, and black teenagers are dying in the streets on a daily basis. The last thing we need right now are a group of “leaders” who are so excited about being invited to the White House that they are willing to leave 40 million black people in the dog house. If you surrender your respect by fitting neatly into a politician’s pocket, I must be the first to say that you are no leader of mine.
The president can be conditionally supported, but his administration must also be unconditionally CONFRONTED. Those who aren’t willing to do this are nothing more than self-appointed, politically neutered figureheads. If we are to be taken seriously, then we must become serious about our community and equally serious about the enforcement of an agenda that seeks to help our people overcome the holocaust of mass incarceration that has occurred over the last 40 years. The tail must stop wagging the dog and power must be restored to the people.
Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins