[Hutchinson] America Loves to Hate Sharpton | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Hutchinson] America Loves to Hate Sharpton

The FBI warned Al Sharpton that an unspecified, dangerous substance may have been mailed to his National Action Network office in New York. The only thing really remarkable about the warning was that it came from the FBI. For months, Sharpton has bitterly complained that he has been receiving a steady stream of hate mail and death threats, and has repeatedly told local law enforcement and the FBI about the threats. He questioned just how seriously they took them. This time the FBI apparently took the substance threat serious enough to warn him.

That Sharpton should be under attack is hardly a surprise. If it's a police shooting, a protest over housing discrimination, a Jena Six march, the charge to dump Don Imus or a fist shake at the Bush administration, the bet is that Sharpton will be in the thick of the action. When Sharpton toppled Jesse Jackson from the top spot as black America's main man, the notoriety—and the hostility—that that title carries with it insured that he'd take the heat for whatever went right or wrong when blacks took to the streets in protest. Sharpton's ubiquitous visibility on the protest front and willingness to go virtually anywhere as the visible face and voice of angry black America makes him a universal punching bag.

But that doesn't totally explain the deep and almost clinical loathing that the mere mention of Sharpton's name stirs among far too many whites and a fair number of blacks. There are bigger reasons why the fascination/hatred for Sharpton exists. He shakes, rattles and ignites the goblin of racial denial in many whites. Sharpton is a breathing, walking reminder that race still matters; it matters a lot in America. He is a slap in the face to the legions that duck, dodge, deflect and flat out deny that there's still a lot of racial hurt inflicted on blacks. Sharpton shatters their comforting delusion that racial hate is a dusty antique of a bygone past, a figment of the overwrought, paranoid imagination of many blacks, or better still that blacks themselves—with their alleged incessant penchant for playing the race card—are the only bigots left in America.

The flap over Imus or Dog the Bounty Hunter was a textbook example of that. The instant they copped to their racial sins, the predictable happened. Legions of whites unleashed a torrent of self-righteous, angry and near-paranoid rants on Internet chat rooms, on the comment section of news blogs and in e-mails to this writer, hysterically defending Imus and Dog. They cussed Sharpton—always Sharpton—even though he had nothing to do with Dog or Imus opening their traps and blurting out their racist digs.

Sharpton got the now-familiar taunts—race baiter, hustler, clown, buffoon and racial pimp. For an instant, one would have thought that Sharpton had called whites the 'C' word, and the Duke Lacrosse players nappy-headed honkies.

But then again if there wasn't a Sharpton, he'd have to be invented, or someone like him. That's because blacks are eternally straitjacketed with the tiresome monolith of race burden. Think how ludicrous it sounds to say, "the white leader," "the Latino leader," "the Asian Leader." But that's not the case with blacks; whites demand a one-size-fits-all black leader—THE "black leader."

There's a method to this absurdity. When the mantle of black leadership is wrapped tightly around one man, the presumption is that he or she speaks for all blacks. Jackson was the whipping boy, pre-Sharpton's muscling him off the top perch. In the 1980s, when Jackson talked about forming the Rainbow Coalition, blacks were attacked as radicals. When he talked about building an independent black political organization, blacks were attacked as separatists. When he talked about boycotting corporations and baseball leagues with racially discriminatory hiring and promotion practices, blacks were attacked as disruptive. When he called New York "hymietown," blacks were attacked as anti-Semitic. When he talked about leading a national crusade to save affirmative action, blacks were attacked as wanting quotas and special preferences for the unqualified.

It's the same with Sharpton. While he took much heat for the Tawana Brawley rape controversy, for the burning of a Jewish-owned store in Harlem after picketing that he endorsed, and his then-penchant for shoot-from-the-lip inflammatory statements, so did all blacks. They were forced to publicly defend him from the attacks while privately grousing that he made them look like idiots. Like clockwork—even though the Brawley case happened nearly two decades ago—whenever there's a Sharpton sighting on an issue, it's instantly thrown up in his face.

When the FBI notified him of the dangerous substance threat, Sharpton quickly sent out an alert to his regional offices. Whether the dangerous substance threat was real, or more likely a prank, it won't change one thing. Sharpton will continue to be the man that millions love to hate.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is "The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics" (Middle Passage Press, 2007, $19.95).

Previous Comments

ID
75778
Comment

You the man, Al. Keep doing your good works! Don't worry about Kamikaze, Banner and all the others who hate the player instead of the game.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2007-12-27T08:52:33-06:00
ID
75779
Comment

Oh yeah, Al, in case you read this, don't do anything to go to jail. You would have to be nuts to even spit on the streets knowing all eyes are on you just waiting for something to go wrong.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2007-12-27T09:01:54-06:00
ID
75780
Comment

I gotta leave town for the rest of the day. However, I got an email concerning my lack of hate for Sharpton. As I have said countless times, Sharpton was wrong in the Twana Brawley case. So were the lawyers assisting him who eventually got disbarred. Sharpton was forced to pay a judgment for his deeds in this case, and according to Johhnie Cochran, Cosby and Cochran paid the judgment for him, and Al learned a lesson. I don't blame Al for trying to assist Twana, I simply blame him for not coming clean when he knew she was likely lying.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2007-12-27T09:33:49-06:00
ID
75781
Comment

Don't worry Ray, you are not the only person without hate for Sharpton. If the folks who express hate towards him only knew his story, prehaps their feelings would be different. There were a lot of folks who tucked their tails when the going got tough in the war against Black folks. Al stood by Dr. King and others who on any given day could have been killed. So, before you hate Al, read the history or listen to someone who was there. I was talking to some legal folks who were close to the Twana Brawley case. It is my understanding that a lot of money changed hands. Isn't it strange that she was not charged?

Author
justjess
Date
2007-12-27T10:58:23-06:00

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