People laughed at Rev. Al Sharpton when he announced his bid to become president several years ago. But today is a new day, and it’s safe to say that Sharpton is the one laughing. No he didn’t become president of the United States. But today one has to be blind not to see just how he has positioned himself at the feet of Barack Obama as one piece puts it: Sharpton is Obama’s link to the streets. Yes, Barack Obama, just like every successful hip hop label before him has put together a street team via Al Sharpton and his National Action Network. A street team, son; a damn street team with Al Sharpton as the man!
The zeitgeist that is post-racial America could not have created any stranger bed fellows, folks. It actually begs the question: will, and can this pairing actually work for Black America? More specifically, did Sharpton sell out to achieve political power, or did he buy in to what Obama is selling as an approach? That last question is essentially the center piece of concern and the arousal of skepticism. One only has to read a recent Washington Post article by Krissah Thompson, titled: Activist Al Sharpton takes on new role as administration ally, if interested in beginning to connect the dots. An interesting and revealing piece which states this about the Obama-Sharpton relationship:
“The relationship solidified in 2008, according to Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe. Sharpton, who ran a long-shot campaign for president in 2004, had planned to go to the Iowa caucuses, but Obama sent a message urging him to stay away or risk “injecting race into the campaign,” Plouffe wrote in his book “The Audacity to Win.”
The relationship continued after the election. At Obama’s celebratory signing of the health-care bill, Sharpton was given a spot in the front row.
Last year, at a large holiday party the first couple threw feting their liberal supporters, Obama singled out Sharpton in his remarks, saying, “I know if I’m doing it right, Reverend Sharpton will be right here to let me know,” according to Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree, a friend of the Obamas, who was in attendance.” (Source)And what did Sharpton get in return other than an invitation to the White House to talk about a not so black agenda for Black America? Well for starters, he had a letter sent to him from Obama, praising his National Action Network, that was read at the beginning of the last day of his annual conference – ironically, it was the only portion of his convention that was aired live in the media on TVOne . Professor Charles Ogletree, well known friend of Obama, and law professor at Harvard, had this to say to the Associated Press while in attendance at Sharpton’s conference:
“Al Sharpton has become the lightning rod in moving Obama’s agenda forward,” Ogletree told the AP, describing Sharpton as a conduit between the disadvantaged and powerful leaders. “And he has access to both the streets and the suites, to make sure that the people who are voiceless, faceless and powerless finally have some say.” (Source)I find it ironic that Sharpton was picked as the guy to move Obama’s agenda forward in the black community. Especially when Obama, and then Sharpton, upon meeting the president at the White House, have both expressed the president’s inability to produce a race-specific agenda. Or as Sharpton told the Associated Press, to do so “would only organize the right against him.” Well, that being the case, why then announce Sharpton of all people in the eyes of those on the right-wing as “the guy”. Didn’t we learn anything from the Van Jones debacle as promoted by Glenn Beck? Hello! Reverend Jeremiah Wright anyone? Hell, the republicans already raised hell and asked Michael Steele to withdraw from speaking at the National Action Network Conference this year. Steele ignored them, and attended the event anyway; somehow I can’t help but to think that they got Sharpton confused for Louis Farrakhan; you know all Negroes look alike, right?
Black America without a doubt has embraced Obama as the second coming of a pre-vitaligo Michael Jackson (oh you thought I was gonna say Jesus?). But as far as Al Sharpton? There are many among us who have been more than a bit suspicious of his motives as he appears to be a bit self-aggrandizing. Me personally, I see him as necessary on the battlefield that is social and racial justice; something that he is obviously proven as an activist and agitator. However, this time around, considering his recent highly publicized spat with Tavis Smiley for the jug of the Obama Kool Aid? I really don’t know what to think.
Hell, Sharpton even went as far as to criticize Smiley’s “We Count! The Black Agenda is the American Agenda” by saying, “They keep saying, ‘Let’s hold Obama’s feet to the fire,’ but did they do that with Bush or Bill Clinton? When were they marching? Let’s hold to the same standard.” Sharpton also went on to say, “There is no tension between black leaders of organizations. Tavis Smiley is a commentator. He does not have a constituency. We can’t mix apples and oranges.” Which is hard to believe considering all the shots he took at Tavis before and after he held his summit. Only to tun around and try to “out-do” the very summit he criticized using it as an opportunity to showcase his White House connections as he sat at the right arm of Congressman Jim Clyburn.
I have to say that much of what I saw on the live airing at the conference yesterday, was a careful and well crafted attempt to distance himself from the likes of the Tavis Smiley’s of America; and anyone else in so-called black leadership.. Plainly speaking, his conference deliberately took care so as to not make the president or the White House accountable, as he focused on what we can be doing on our own to affect change. Which is fine and good when it comes to motivating the troops with a from the ground up approach. But how exactly does one do that to affect change in the political process if one fails to hold our elected officials accountable from the top down?
Clearly it can be said that Sharpton has won the battle with Tavis Smiley for the seat at Obama’s feet. The question is, however, can he advance a black agenda that is in our interest? Or is this the same old same opportunistic advancement of personal interest shrouded in the same politics and bullshit that has dominated our landscape? Above all, when the next black person gets shot fifty times by over zealous cops in any-town US of A, who are we gonna call, Al Sharpton, or Barack Obama? I leave it up to you to answer that one.