Imagine a white preacher from the South.
Let us suppose this white, Southern preacher utters words full of racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Mormon and homophobic venom.
Let us suppose that the hateful words uttered by this white, Southern preacher incited violence which resulted in the deaths of innocent people.
Let us further suppose that this white, Southern preacher bore false witness and accused a man of raping a girl and that this man successfully sued the white, Southern preacher for slander only to refuse to recompense his victim.
Today, this white preacher from the South would be a despised figure. He would not be welcome in polite society. He would be regarded as a hatemonger with neither credibility nor legitimacy. He would be persona non grata. He would be shunned.
But it is today and Reverend Al Sharpton has uttered words full of racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Mormon and homophobic venom. Sharpton's words have incited violence that resulting in the deaths of innocent people. Sharpton did slander an Assistant District Attorney for committing rape and was successfully sued but got others to pay that debt. And yet if a preacher is black instead of white and is based in Harlem instead of Hattiesburg, that preacher isn't shunned but rather showered with praise and power. Consider what Jeff Jacoby wrote about Sharpton in the Boston Globe:
If Sharpton were a white skinhead, he would be a political leper, spurned everywhere but the fringe. But far from being spurned, he is shown much deference. Democrats embrace him. Politicians court him. And journalists report on his comings and goings while politely sidestepping his career as a hatemongering racial hustler.
Now consider that Jacoby wrote these words in January 2003.
Nearly a decade later little has changed and in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, Sharpton's power might very arguably be at or near its zenith despite the dubious and incendiary nature of his statements regarding the case.
Here is what Sharpton said during a rally in support of Martin in Sanford, Florida on March 22, 2012:
Don't let them trick you. They gonna send provocateurs in talkin' bad. They are workin' for the other side. The Trayvon side, we gonna win this and we not givin' them no way out.
Well, who exactly are they? Who are the provocateurs and what have they said? Who does Sharpton consider to be the other side? A little over a week later, Sharpton spoke about moving "to the next level if Zimmerman isn't arrested." These are not the words of a man appealing for calm and reason.
Nor are the words he chose in an article he wrote shortly before the Sanford rally. Sharpton began article titled, "Why race matters in the Trayvon Martin tragedy," by invoking the 1955 murder of Emmett Till stating he was "openly and viciously murdered because of the sentiments of bigoted individuals who believed they had the right to carry out their own brand of injustice." Sharpton went on to argue:
In a society that still views young men of color as threatening, dangerous and suspicious without cause, these self-defense laws in Florida and elsewhere give free range for anyone to openly kill those that they may not like or those that make them feel uncomfortable because of their own inherent prejudices. And the race/ethnicity of Zimmerman or any citizen in this type of scenario doesn't matter, because at the end of the day, it is the race of the victim -- Trayvon -- that does matter. It is his race and his demographic that is consistently depicted as the threat and negatively portrayed in popular culture.
But what about Sharpton's inherent prejudices? Sharpton assumes Trayvon Martin was killed on account of his race. The trouble with Sharpton's assumption is, as it turns out, George Zimmerman had been critical of the Sanford Police for not arresting the son of its officers for assaulting a homeless, black man back in December 2010. Who amongst the killers of Emmett Till would have come to the defense of a black man much less been publicly critical of police in Mississippi? Under a different set of circumstances, Sharpton might have hailed Zimmerman a hero. Whatever the facts that led to the death of Trayvon Martin, Reverend Sharpton is not concerned with them. He is concerned only with his power and prestige.
Sharpton's prestige has certainly been enhanced by the presence of Attorney General Eric Holder at his National Action Network Convention last week. Yet the prestige bestowed upon Sharpton is hardly confined to the left of the political spectrum. One of the sponsors of the National Action Network Convention was News Corporation, the parent company of the Fox News Channel. As noted by Sharpton himself, "They bash me on Fox News. But they sponsor my conference." No doubt Sharpton is laughing all the way to the bank. And why wouldn't he? Sharpton has never had to face the consequences of his actions and chances are he never will.
With George Zimmerman arrested and charged with second degree murder, things have calmed down for the time being. But sooner or later there will be a trial and the heat will be back on with Reverend Sharpton accompanied by gasoline tankers and lighter fluid. If Zimmerman's trial results in anything less than a guilty verdict accompanied by a life sentence, an explosion is sure to follow. Of course, there is a possibility that this case might not proceed to trial because of Florida's Stand Your Ground law. If that happens the combustion might very well be even greater. Should an explosion of violence come to pass, then those in polite society would bear part of the blame. After all, it is those in polite society that supplied Sharpton with the gasoline tankers and the lighter fluid in the first place.