Al Sharpton, a Pentecostal minister, has been a political and civil rights activist since 1971 when, from Brooklyn College, he began the National Youth Movement. In 1978 he became the first black man to run for a seat in the New York State Senate. He has had made a career, if you want to call it that, out of putting himself on the front lines in battles for the rights of lower-to-middle class African Americans.
That sounds great. So why does he bug me?
First of all, ideally, you would think that somebody trying to do the things he does would be for racial harmony, against racial divide, and incorporate that into his struggles. However, this is not the case. On the contrary, Al Sharpton often incites racial divide and destroys racial harmony with his antics. He stages misguided and ill-researched protests, engages in character assassinations, and butts his nose into situations that have nothing to do with racial struggles and only furthers his own political agenda.
Case in point: New York
In the 1990's, nearly every time there was a police shooting and a black person was killed, Al was there to insist the unfortunate incidents were all racially motivated. In 1999 Mayor Rudolph Giuliani attempted to meet the mother of Amadou Diallo, a Guinean street vendor killed by four street crime officers. Mr. Sharpton got Mrs. Diallo away from the Mayor and made sure he never got to speak to her. Political differences with Giuliani motivated Sharpton to pressure black churches to retract invitations to the Mayor, further distancing the black community from the white, something he actually accused Mr. Giuliani of doing.
Case in point: St. Louis
Here we come to the main reason I did this write-up. It seems that in the past few years St. Louis has become Al Sharpton's favorite place to hang out. He has staged a few protests against the Missouri Department of Transportation, MoDOT, for allegedly not doing enough to hire minority contractors to work on the highways. The defense is always simply that there are not enough minority-owned contractors to choose from, and it's unfair to award them the contracts just because they're minority-owned. Any contractor, white or black owned, must win the bid to get the job, a concept Mr. Sharpton doesn't seem to comprehend. Mathematics also seems to be something Mr. Sharpton cannot comprehend, because if there are, say, 20 non-minority owned contractors bidding for a job and 1 minority owned contractor, it is more likely that one of the non-minority owned contractors will be the victor.
Anyway, in one of his biggest protests, in 1999, Al Sharpton and others actually sat down on one of the busiest interstates in St. Louis, I-70, during rush hour. He is lucky that he or anybody he was protesting with did not get hit and killed. Not only did he endanger his life, and other lives, for an imagined problem, he again demonstrated his knack for inciting racial divide.
In July 2003, Sharpton was back again to stage a protest during the 10th anniversary of our MetroLink light rail system. His beef that time was similar to his ire with the highway construction contracts, that not enough minority-owned contractors were getting work. But again the problem with hiring the minority-owned contractors was similar: there weren't enough of them and most of them didn't have workers with the proper training to work on the light rail system.
And now Al Sharpton is back in St. Louis this week, putting his two cents into an issue that really has nothing to do with any sort of racial inequity. However, I'm sure that he plans to rectify that. The issue is a proposed boycott of the first day of school in St. Louis because of contract problems with the teachers. This is an age old problem and seems to creep up every school year in probably every area in the country. However, in a move that perhaps makes sense only to Mr. Sharpton, he's coming back into town to probably take the issue and cry about some sort of racial disparity. If he does this, he will again be creating racial divide by putting race into an issue where it previously did not exist.
The only logical explanation I see for all of Al Sharpton's antics is that if he's not somewhere stirring up trouble, he has nothing to do. Instead of making a life out of seeking out real racial disparities and working for racial equality, as did the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he has decided to, most of the time, make a fool out of himself in the eyes of many white citizens and even some black ones. He also picks and chooses simple problems where all he needs to do is stage another protest or rally, where real racial problems in this country are much more complex and require more work to solve them.
I would appreciate it if nobody gets any funny ideas and falsely comes to the conclusion that I am in any way racist or prejudiced toward African Americans just because Al Sharpton bugs the hell out of me. I am for racial equality and racial harmony and I don't like Al Sharpton because he works against those ideals.