Lay off of Sharpton…What are YOU doing?

Al Sharpton

Elliot Millner, J.D.

Because of his prominent position as the de facto spokesperson for the Jackson family since Micheal Jackson’s death, a new round of Sharpton-bashing has ensued.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many, MANY valid criticisms that can be made regarding Rev. Al, and I will acknowledge that I have made many myself. Sharpton has done many things that I strongly disagree with. However, things have gotten completely out of hand regarding the manner in which some people attack this man. As someone who considers himself somewhat active, I tend to be quick to defend those Black people who are actually out working in some manner to do things(as they see it) that will benefit the community and society as a whole. Even if I don’t agree with their methods, or even significant parts of their message, they get a certain amount of respect for simply putting themselves out there.

As I’ve stated in previous post, I’m all for constructive criticism, as it is a necessary tool for growth individually and collectively. However, many of the derogatory things being said about Sharpton are far from constructive, and most irritating to me, are being said by people sitting on their couches eating Cheetos and watching TMZ, who are not making the slightest attempt to do anything that is of any value to anyone or anything other than themselves.

Does Sharpton love the spotlight? I don’t know him personally, but he definitely doesn’t seem camera-shy. Is he a self-promoter? Seems like it, and what public-figure isn’t? Does he consider how an event will benefit him before he decides to take up its cause? Maybe. But you know what? He still does it, and that’s kind of the point. Regardless of what benefit he may get from taking up a particular cause, he still does it. Even after being stabbed, he still does it. Even after spending time in jail, he still does it. Even after being criticized by many Black folks, a lot of whom know absolutely nothing about the things he has done or is doing outside of what they see on FoxNews or CNN, he still does it.

You think Sharpton couldn’t just be a “pulpit-pimp” and make lots of money and still get a lot of attention(Sharpton could out “Jakes” Jakes anyday) from the media? Of course he could. Sharpton has been working in the Black community since he was a teenager, and it is just plain ignorant how many Black people disregard all of his work because they don’t like some of the things he’s said or done, or don’t like his hair, or his “attention-whoring”,etc.

Sharpton has been the main voice, OUR main voice, on many issues that the mainstream media would’ve otherwise swept under the rug. Go back and look at the events that Sharpton has helped draw attention to, and ask yourself “If not him, then who”? The treatment of Sharpton by many Black people reminds me of how a lot of people view attorneys. They are blood-suckers, professional liars, opportunists, ambulance-chasers, swindlers, etc…until you need one. Sharpton doesn’t go anywhere uninvited. Sadly, many of us are repeating the foolish mistake of allowing others to tell us who our friends should be and what we should think of our own people. The same think happened with Paul Robeson, MLK(yes, even him), Malcolm X, Farrakhan, and the list could go on. The most vocal critics of Sharpton are those who want to ignore the continued existence of racism and other forms of discrimination and inequality in America.

Sharpton has never proclaimed himself “the spokesperson of Black people” as many unenlightened folks have suggested. If anything keeps Sharpton “in business”, it’s the apathy of those who have benefited the most from the works of people like him, and Jesse Jackson, and Minister Farrakhan, among others. Regardless of what those who have swallowed the “racism is dead” pill may think, there is and will continue to be a need for people like Al Sharpton, regardless of his imperfections. Some of us may not realize that until he is no longer here.


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