Jessie Jackson/Al Sharpton

I have heard black and white people giver their opinions on Sharpton and Jackson.  I read this Drop the Race Card on James Collier’s blog Acting White Blog.  I listen to Al Sharpton’s radio show and don’t agree with everything he has done or said, but he has fought for the rights of black people.  But there is still a disconnect in the black community and in main stream America; some feel that he is nothing more than a loud mouth preacher, others argue that they are embarrassments.   So here is what I ask of you out there:

What is the role of Al Shaprton and Jessie Jackson?  Are they helping or hindering race relations in this country? 

7 Responses

  1. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson both ran for the presidency of the United States. They are both ordained ministers. They both hosted television and radio shows. They each have a history that makes them worthy of being heard in 2007.

    However, they are not our “Black Leaders”. The only reason that each is in the news today is because white media outlets gave them a microphone during the week of the Imus issue. In fact, Sharpton was thrust more into the limelight because Imus mistakenly thought that he (Sharpton) was our “Black leader” … and therefore appearing on his radio show would appease the Black community. Imus was wrong. The white media is wrong.

    I don’t trip on answering the next question –> Well, if not Sharpton or Jackson … then who is the “Black Leader”? The Hispanic community isn’t obligated to answer that question. I doubt if we will see a “South Korean Leader” rise up in response to the Virginia Tech shooter. The whole concept of identifying a so-called “Black Leader” is a trick bag that we shouldn’t step into.

    Personally, I give props to both Sharpton and Jackson. If the media were sticking microphones in our face … we would talk with them as well.

    peace, Villager

  2. Native Son..I honestly don’t think Mr. Jackson and Sharpton are currently helping race relations, and I think they should not feel they speak for the collective interests of the entire black community. In this recent Imus incident, I feel the racial divide has been widened even further.

    If they were indeed working for the interests of blacks, where is there outrage against the black on black violence in our community? The substance abuse? The out of wedlock births? Granted they are quick to respond to external threats and insults, but why are they not calling out the self destructive behavior amongst us? Why did it take Cosby to do what they SHOULD have done if they were indeed activists?

    Sometimes I think the two are only after their own self interests, but again, I may be incorrect. I hope I am

    I have met Mr. Jackson in person, and he is a very congenial and affable person. People of all colors and backgrounds gravitate to him. The man is well spoken and intelligent, but frankly it’s misdirected. I have nothing personal against him or Sharpton. I just wish they would direct their anger and frustration to where it’s needed the most.

  3. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are ACTIVISTS. I have never heard either of them make any claim to the leadership mantle that people tend to want to place on them. They both have long and distinguished histories of working tirelessly to benefit Blacks in America and around the world. They are somewhat unique in that their approach has often been to address specific incidents that are symptomatic of the larger societal problems they call to change. They are both, as mentioned earlier, highly educated, extremely articulate, passionate, and Human, with all the failings that designation denotes in all of us.

    They have both developed organizations to support their activist activities, and it could be said that they are the “Leaders” of these particular organizations. They often are instrumental in ORGANIZING their particular brand of activism, which often involves tactics designed to increase public awareness of the issues or incidents that they champion. Both Rev’s Jackson and Sharpton make themselves available to assist people who often have nowhere else to turn when they feel they have been unfairly or unjustly treated.

    By virtue of their unwavering commitment to racial equality, their relentless pursuit of those who would withhold that equality, and their willingness to devote their lives to their cause and beliefs, they have created networks and platforms from which they can effectively pursue their agenda. They have achieved a celebrity status, albeit in a country where celebrity status is bestowed on any fool who can manage to marry well or is willing to embarrass themselves routinely on camera for public consumption. This celebrity status tends shine light on any controversial or potentially negative aspect of Al and Jesse, as that type of media attention does to most who find themselves caught in the glare. It also makes them visible focus for media outlets looking for celebrity statements to drive their ratings. They could get a Black opinion from the first Black person they ran into, but how many of us would tune in to see what some anonymous Black person has to say about anything?

    What part of Al or Jesse’s resume could possible explain the way some people choose to vilify these two exceptional men? Oh yeah, Jesse had an affair and a child outside of his marriage and publicly condemns Jewish people who, in his opinion, have contributed to oppressive conditions facing Black people. Al has championed a couple of causes that many feel were not worthy or perhaps even deliberately contrived, and has also spoken unfavorable about Jewish people and others. I would guess that people who take these human failings and condemn all the work of these two men are also people who have let completely spotless lives.

    There are also many people who accuse Al and Jesse of acting for purely personal, profit-motivated, greedy reasons. I personally do not claim the ability to look into someone’s heart and determine what motivates them. And it is true that Al and Jesse devised ways to insure their financial security as a result of their activism. There are plenty of people I could condemn for what they do to make money. As far as I am concerned, anybody willing to put themselves in the line of fire on race issues like Al and Jesse, in spite of the murderous history of this country towards Black men who dared to speak out against the status quo, deserves all the money he can get.

    Poor Gil must not have access to any real information. That would be the only reasonable explanation for a statement like “where is there outrage against the black on black violence in our community? The substance abuse? The out of wedlock births?” Gil you may not have heard about it, but both of these gentlemen created organizations that do a great deal to work on these and many of the other social ills that plague poor Black communities. Of course the media sources that you use may not spend a lot of time reporting on these activities so you would not have been informed of it. In fact Al and Jesse have both been quite outspoken in calling out the self destructive activities and attitudes in our communities for decades. But they only make the news when they are calling out white people. That’s the only time white people (and house negroes) notice them.

    Who are we to define their role? They have done as they thought they should and if it were my place to pass judgment on them, they would not suffer for what they have tried to accomplish.

    Are they helping or hindering race relations? That depends on your view of what race relations should be. If you are the kind of person who believes that we are all racist to some extent and that color doesn’t matter anymore, then you probably look at Al and Jesse as Black versions of David Duke. If this is you, I feel sorry for you; ignorance in this case will not end blissfully.

    For those of us who understand that the white supremacy dynamic must be fought and de-constructed at it’s foundation and in all it’s permutations, Al and Jesse are soldiers in the struggle. I often do not agree with their tactics, their logic, their direction, or their rhetoric, but they will always have my support and appreciation because they are fighting the good fight.

  4. Exodus:

    They are activist. I don’t agree with everything they do or say, but that is want anyone.

  5. Exodus..I appreciate your thoughts, but I don’t consider myself “poor” just beacuse I don’t view things the way you do. I’m very glad to have a civil discussion, but there is no need to talk down to me. I’m entitled to my thoughts, and you yours.

    If there has been an outcry against the rap industry by these two men, It’s sure not loud enough, because the rappers are still cashing in. It’s one thing to be insulted by a white man, but when it’s done by our own, it is even more insulting. When they raise as much hell against the rap industry as they did Imus, I’ll cjange my tune. Until then…

    I’m the type I call it as I see it. Activist or not, these two gentlemen DO NOT speak for me, period.

  6. My wife always tells me to watch my mouth. I never listen. My intent in never to offend but to inform, possibly my tone detracts from that. My apologies for talking down to you Gil.

    What I should have said was that if you think that Al and Jesse haven’t been outspoken about the internal issues that face Black communities then you are misinformed. Just because you haven’t heard about it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. The fact that the problems still exist in spite of their individual efforts should in now way disparage the fact that they did speak out and try to effect some change.
    Cosby isn’t the first person to say black kids need to pull their pants up and stop cursing and fighting and acting like fools. And his statements got all kinds of press. It was probably the loudest (most publicized ) statement of its type in the last decade. Have you seen a lot of pants pulled up now that Bill has let us know what the problem really is? I haven’t.

    The reason that you heard about Cosby’s comments is due more to the fact that the media likes to portray Black folks as completely responsible for all the trouble that afflicts us in this society. Even better, enough black folks fell for that mis-impression that they were able to instigate an in-house fight between people who really had no difference of opinion. Even though I know that’s not what Bill Cosby thinks, rather it was just the focus of this particular initiative for him, the media continue to play it out like Cosby says it’s all Blacks folks own fault that they are doing so bad. That means all the shit White folks have put us through in this country can be glossed over, forgotten, and good white folks need feel no responsibility for conditions that they created that persist today.

    Your major problem with Al and Jesse appears to be you disagree with the focus of their activities. That”s fine, and I would probably agree with you in many instances about their targets and their tactics. But I would never get involved in denigrating the work they do to help Black people. How many people do you know who work to help Black people? That’s all they do, but the tone of your argument implies a level of disaffection with their activities that I find disturbing. Especially coming from an African American. Reminds me that the old divide and conquer tactic is still in effect.

  7. Again, Exodus..All due respect to you and I appologize if I was off base as well. Maybe I just had a long day and misinterpreted your statements the wrong way.

    As for Cosby…He may not be the first, but we have to admit that people took notice and a lot of us agreed with his statements even if they were delivered in a context that was somewhat off base. Did his celebrity staus have a dynamic impact with regards to the attention garnered? Maybe, maybe not. Were pants pulled up? Not a lot as you said, but if ONE pair were pulled up, one young black male or female decides the life of complacency and crime is not worth it, then that in itself is a victory. Maybe that young man or woman’s actions will have a domino effect on their peers. Yes, Cos’ aired our dirty laundry, becuse maybe no one else wanted to do it.

    No..I will agree that we are not to blame for all of society’s ills, but for that which we are, we need to face up, take accountability amogst ourselves and not blame external sources for those shortcomings. I’ll be the first to tell you that white folks have been and still to some extent do everything they can to make life difficult for people of color, but when I see our own people killing and disrespecting each other like no tommorrow, where do we direct our collective rage? We seem to do more harm to ourselves, and that’s very evident.

    Many of our black inventors, educators and other pioneers at the beginnig of this century and forward dealt with the daily degradation of life in the face of a segragated and hostile society, but through hard willed determination, succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Our people at the begining of this century were beaten for wanting an education, but today, you literally have to drag some of our kids to school. What would our forfathers, who bled and died so that we may have an equal chance think? If Martin and Malcom were here today, what would they think?

    ..I’m not goint to deny that Jesse has done some great things, especially in the civil rights era. I won’t even deny Mr. Sharpton has either. However, they have alsodone some things that have, in my opinon not helped race relations to improve. Yes, I’m African American, does that madate that I agree with their current activities or agenda? No, it does not, and I can assure you that there are many other blacks who don’t either.

    I don’t want our race to get to the point where people are saying “I’m a better black than you because I agree with this ideology, doctrine or I’m a conservative or liberal”. I honestly think, despite our politcal, religious and economic differences, we can still become a cohesive whole and still fight for the greater cause and good. I honestly think it’s not too late, but we all need to get the ball rolling NOW, or we will be left behind by other groups.

    I sincerely hope we can continue to share dialouge, and I will also visit your blog. I appreciate your post and I also hope I addressed your points in an effective, yet respectful manner.


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