Striking a powerful blow in defense of Martin Luther King’s memory, Reverend Al Sharpton accused Glenn Beck – who held his “Restoring Honor” event in DC last Saturday, on the 47th anniversary of King’s immortal “I Have a Dream” speech – of engaging in “a blatant attempt to hijack” the civil rights movement “that changed America.” As one of the leading stewards of that movement over the past quarter-century, Sharpton is of course eminently qualified to determine who should – and who should not – be permitted to enter the fraternity of those who nobly defend the cause of civil rights.
Indeed, who could forget the unrivaled dignity with which Sharpton himself first took up the mantle of Dr. King’s legacy and became a renowned civil-rights gladiator in his own right? The year was 1987. Sharpton, demonstrating his unwavering commitment to stamping out racism, promoted — for the ultimate good of society, no doubt — the fiction that a black teenager named Tawana Brawley had been repeatedly raped and sodomized by six white kidnappers in upstate New York. A Sharpton aide named Perry McKinnon later revealed that Sharpton had privately acknowledged “early on” that he knew the Brawley allegations were obviously “bull—t,” but that he had chosen to pursue the matter anyway because he was “building a movement” around this “perfect issue” of “whites on blacks” – a key component of which would be to convince “all the deprived people … that all white people are bad.” Moreover, said McKinnon, Sharpton had predicted that the publicity surrounding the case would make him and his fellow defenders of Brawley “the biggest ni–ers in New York.” Was it at that point, pray tell, that the torch of civil rights leadership which Dr. King had once held, was officially passed into Reverend Sharpton’s capable hands?
If not, then perhaps it was in 1991 — when Sharpton really showed his mettle as a civil rights champion in the aftermath of a Brooklyn, New York car accident in which a Hasidic Jew accidentally killed a seven-year-old black child. At the boy’s funeral, Sharpton declared that this death was due not merely to a car accident, but rather to “the social accident of apartheid.” Thereafter he organized a series of massive demonstrations to protest the racial undertones of the killing. He even challenged local Jews—“diamond merchants,” he affectionately called them—to “pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house” to settle the score if they disagreed with his portrayal of the incident. Stirred in part by Sharpton’s soaring, inspirational oratory, hundreds of Crown Heights freedom-fighters took to the streets, pelting Jewish homes with rocks, setting vehicles on fire, and shouting “Jew! Jew!” As the riots continued for three days and nights, Sharpton, with his characteristic level-headedness, put everything in perspective: “We must not reprimand our children for outrage, when it is the outrage that was put in them by an oppressive system.”
In 1995, the great civil rights champion led his National Action Network in a noble boycott against Freddy’s Fashion Mart, a Jewish-owned business in Harlem, New York. The boycott started when Freddy’s owners had the temerity to announce that because they wanted to expand their own business, they would no longer sublet part of their store to a black-owned record shop. The street leader of the boycott, Morris Powell, was the head of Sharpton’s “Buy Black” Committee. He repeatedly referred to the Jewish proprietors of Freddy’s as “crackers” and “greedy Jew bastards.” All of this occurred under the watchful, approving eye of Sharpton, who vowed not to allow “some white interloper” to “expand his business” in Harlem, and who exhorted blacks to join “the struggle brother Powell and I are engaged in.” The subsequent picketing became increasingly violent in tone, until one of the protesters eventually shot four whites inside the store and then set the building on fire—killing seven employees. But as everyone knows, of course, any great crusade is bound to be marred by a few unintended casualties.
That same year, Sharpton again demonstrated that the reins of the civil rights movement were in the firm grasp of the most expert hands when he eloquently informed an audience at New Jersey’s Kean College: “White folks was in the caves while we [blacks] was building empires … We built pyramids before Donald Trump ever knew what architecture was … we taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.” One can only speculate as to how many of those in attendance may have wondered whether Sharpton had excerpted those electrifying passages from Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. In response to a few squeamish critics who later suggested that Sharpton’s reference to homosexuals may have bordered on the insensitive, the good Reverend condescended to inform the nervous ninnies that, lo and behold, the word “homos” was “not a homophobic term.”
Sharpton’s Kean College speech also featured his uplifting assertion that America’s founders consisted of “the worst criminals, the rejects they sent from Europe … to the colonies.” “So [if] some cracker,” Sharpton continued with his characteristic elocution, “come and tell you, ‘Well my mother and father blood go back to the Mayflower,’ you better hold you pocket. That ain’t nothing to be proud of, that means their forefathers was crooks.” As for those few jittery souls who recoiled at Sharpton’s use of the term “cracker,” the good Reverend was more than prepared to educate them: “Cracker,” Sharpton said instructively, was merely a “colloquial term used to describe a certain kind of bigot, who hates both blacks and Jews. It’s certainly not a racist term and certainly not an anti-Semitic term, because a cracker hates Jews and blacks.” Because such etymological subtleties generally escape the understanding of the average American imbecile, we evidently ought to be grateful that the civil rights movement is currently guided by an intellectual and moral giant like the Reverend Sharpton. How tragic it would be if a Johnny-come-lately like Glenn Beck – or any other “white interloper,” to borrow a term from the holy man’s lexicon – should be so brazen as to try to steer the movement off its current path of interminable racial grievance.
Beck devoted his DC gathering Saturday to the themes of Honor, Character, Faith, Hope, and Charity. How utterly presumptuous of him, or anyone else, to think that they could teach anything about those lofty traits to a civil rights leader as great as Al Sharpton. Lead on, gracious Reverend. Lead on.