Although you never get a second chance to make a first impression, you always have a chance to make a lasting impression.
As is the norm when I see the name Al Sharpton on any news story, I immediately prepare myself for what I assume will be a mouthful of ignorance underneath a shock of unruly, relaxed hair. The truth is, I’m not sure why because when you get down to it, Al Sharpton has often made sense with his words — he’s just made some questionable decisions that, over time, eroded his credibility to me, the least of which has been the snatched back coif at the top of his head. See, today’s Al Sharpton wears a proper suit but we been knowing him for a minute and he wasn’t always wearing those suits. Remember the brightly colored track suits or the big gold medallions (or God forbid, both?) Seems like eons ago, no?
So, cut to my breakfast table. Coffee in hand, I’m scrolling through the newswire and I see the following headline: Activist Al Sharpton takes on new role as administration ally. (click here) After my spit take and wiping down the screen, I click the link and while the page is downloading, I’m already laying out this post in my chinky little mindseye. The plan is tear Sharpton and this reporter a new one for even SUGGESTING an association between this hot mess and My Boo. My wonderful, beautiful, Presidential Boo.
Then as I read the following words, I was blinded by a flood of light from above. I looked up to see the heavens open. A chorus of angels descended signing a Hallelujah chorus in perfect harmony.
Black Americans, Sharpton said, “need to solve our own problems.”
In that moment, Sharpton made a lasting impression with me. Finally!! Finally!! Someone broke through the bondage of Tavis Smiley’s ignorance and spoke truth into the midst of My Boo’s presidency. And it’s about damn time. It’s always been true…but somebody had to say it.
Let me say in fairness, for all I know, Sharpton could have been saying this all along. I was not a follower of Sharpton because I’m not a huge fan of “ambulance-chasing” activism. I’d like for our activism to be more strategic and proactive in nature. We look like a bunch of yokels running around demanding apologies of everybody who calls us a name while meanwhile our black farmers starve to death, little Fuquon can’t read (and neither can big Fuquon…if we could find him,) another generation of welfare babies is released into the ether and Detroit is…well, Detroit. Quite frankly, somebody calling me a jiggaboo pales in comparison to all that. (Now the one exception I made was the Tea Partiers who shouted racial epithets at Black congressmen as they made their way into session to vote for healthcare reform because it is a shining example of the pure unadulterated racism that continues to cut at the underbelly of American society…and it was just tacky)
So, I’m conceding the point…I may have been wrong about Al Sharpton. With his most recent project, a forum in Harlem that included as speakers both conservatives and liberals, Sharpton’s broad agenda shared a singular focus: confidence that we as a people could resolve our own issues without unfair entitlements (although not without the necessary ones – just in case you can’t see, my right fist IS in the air) I’m all behind that like a fat john on a two dollar ho.
The truth is this, Barack Obama cannot, will not, should not focus any of the administration’s time and resource on fixing issues specifically for black people. All of this country’s resources need to be allocated to ensuring as much access as possible for ALL people. To do anything less results in a country divided…and, at the very least, one less vote for My Boo. (Ok, that last comment actually caused me physical pain) A country divided is easily conquered.
I don’t care what Tavis Smiley says. He’s wrong. Sorry, Tee Tee. You can’t have your cake and eat it to. Does it make sense to, at once, caution the people about voting for a candidate just because he’s black AND THEN expecting special favor from the elected candidate just because you are? Make up your mind, Tee Tee cuz that knife cuts both ways.
We’ve gotta learn from history. Our struggles as a people in this country have always been focused on inclusion. But the entrance fee to that arena was the loss of the black economic base. Difficult as it may be to see at times, Sharpton is laying out a plan to restore it. The absolutely neccessary civil rights movement was a wonderful climax to the history of black folk in America (that started with slavery, mind you) but we continue to struggle with the denouement. It’s time for us to write our own ending. People like Al Sharpton and organizations like his National Action Network, while not a panacea and maybe even riddled with flaws, are picking up the pen.
And I, for one, wait anxiously for the next chapter.