Sunday, January 25, 2009

Why Must Every New York Democrat Meet with Al Sharpton?

In newly minted junior senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand's first visit to the Big Apple since Governor Paterson's announcement that she will take over Madame Secretary of State Clinton's vacant Senate seat, her first stop was Al Sharpton's National Action Network. I understand the new senator's desire to win over black New Yorkers (her district upstate is only 2.7% black), but why Sharpton? Sure, a lot of people think he is a good leader for the black community, but has he won any political office?

Sharpton brings a lot of issues to the public's eye - issues that need to be discussed. But Sharpton as a messenger is not always seen as beneficial. One particular incident, and I've discussed this in the past, has completely illegitimized Sharpton as a public figure and he would better serve his community if he allowed someone else to be the face of NAN and he mentored this person behind the scenes. I do not see this happening because Sharpton (in my humble opinion) likes being the center of attention. That one particular incident I was referring to above is the Tawana Brawley fiasco. Sharpton's refusal to admit that he got took and his further refusal to apologize to those whose lives he put in turmoil shows his disregard for common sense and the rare, but necessary, human characteristic of knowing when you're wrong and admitting it. Sharpton is human and he makes mistakes, but his denial of them shows his dangerous hubris.

So given Sharpton's hard-headedness, why must every New York Democrat sit down with this guy? When Caroline Kennedy appeared to be the frontrunner (at least in the media's eyes) for Clinton's seat, she had to sit down with Sharpton at Sylvia's. Yeah, because eating at a soul food restaurant with a black reverend shows that you have credibility with black folks. Is this just bossism in the 21st century? You want black votes/support, you go to Harlem for an afternoon and sit down with their Tweed? I refuse to believe that a) the ability to sit down with Sharpton for a meal in Harlem gives you an epiphanic look into the lives of black people or that b) said black people buy into the fact that sitting down with Sharpton makes a politician credible in the black community.

So again, I pose this question: why must every New York Democrat meet with Al Sharpton? He is not the Moses of the black community, nor is he even an elected official. Gillibrand met with elected Queens officials post-Sharpton, and I'm not griping about that because these are folks who have been elected by constituents and who are colleagues of Gillibrand's because of their public servant status. Sharpton would have so much more credibility if he had not made the Brawley blunder. So while some of what Sharpton does these days is good, it is all overshadowed by his overbearing pride and refusal to admit mistakes. Peace.

Photos - Al Sharpton (Wikipedia)

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