Ta-Nehisi Coates in Sunday’s DMN on the relevance of Al Sharpton


Speaking of Points, Mr. Ta-Nehisi Coates writes a scathing piece titled Why Al Sharpton has become irrelevant that appeared in Sunday's Dallas Morning News.  Coates takes issue with the view that Mr. Sharpton represents the opinions of Black America, questioning his credibility and his record in the process.  

Here are a few excerpts from Mr. Coates opinion piece. 

  • In more modern times, black leaders could point to real events to show their worthiness. Louis Farrakhan resurrected the Nation of Islam. During his presidential run in 1988, the Rev. Jesse Jackson won five primaries in which almost all blacks voted for him.  Mr. Sharpton's résumé isn't even in the same pile. His list of misses includes backing Tawana Brawley's fraudulent accusations of rape and his shilling on TV for predatory lenders. His 2004 campaign was a farcical remix of Mr. Jackson's. 

  • This "black Jesus" paradigm has become even more useful in the era of the 24-hour news cycle. It allows a struggle – indeed, millions of people – to be boiled down to a single, preferably colorful, person.

  • And for cable networks, Mr. Sharpton is the gift that keeps on giving. He provides an easily disposable villain, a simple out for his most loyal constituency: white racists. For those who already doubted the humanity of black folks, the bombastic Mr. Sharpton is a perfect confirmation.

Coates piece also recently appeared in The Washington Post.  The Time Magazine contributor makes a pretty good case, though I'm wondering where the zeal with which he's going after Rev. Sharpton comes from.

I've had a number of comments and e-mails, even prior to Jena, from black readers who are frustrated by Sharpton.  Considered an opportunist by some and a camera hog by others, Rev. Sharpton takes criticism from both sides.

Though Sharpton hasn't achieved the success of Rev. Jesse Jackson or the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, I admire him for fighting the good fight.  But the question has become whether the fights Sharpton and his National Action Network have recently picked are the ones that need to be fought. 

I think the Washington D. C. March on Hate Crimes put together by Rev. Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, and others will speak to the point that Mr. Coates makes in his column.  I'm sure they expect no less than a Jena type turnout, though it will take more than that to make a dent in D.C.

Black American hasn't elected a leader to my knowledge, but when there's a question about how black folks feel (IMUS comes to mind), Sharpton has become the media's go to guy.  I'd like to see Rev. Sharpton give an opportunity to some of the younger members of the National Action Network.  At the release of Mychal Bell in Jena, any number of pastors or leaders could have made remarks regarding where the case stood.

In my opinion this is not the time to have this discussion, yet I acknowledge that the time is drawing near.  The frustration in some of the comments I've seen from younger African-Americans show that this particular phenomenon could be reaching a tipping point.  Check back with me in a couple of weeks.

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