Our friend Al Sharpton and his large, loud, at times intelligent mouth have placed him back in the news. He was in Douglasville, Georgia yesterday denouncing the Attorney General Thurbert Baker (a black man, for the record) in his handling of the case of Genarlow Wilson. According the this article, 'Sharpton, the Rev. Joseph Lowery and other civil rights leaders led a rally Thursday to the Douglas County Courthouse to protest the handling of the Wilson case'.
Seems when Wilson was 17 years old he had consensual oral sex with a 15 year old girl. I'm taking a pass on judging teenagers and what they do with each other. We've all been there and we've all done things we shouldn't have. Exploring sexuality is part of the deal. Yeah, he was 17 and should have known better, but I remember 17 and thinking rationally was hardly the norm. Especially when it came to getting a blow job.
Anyway, Wilson was unlucky enough to live in a state that had a law with a mandatory 10 year jail sentence for anyone convicted of having sex with a minor. He was convicted of aggravated child molestation. A bit harsh, I would say. Georgia has since downgraded the consensual sex between minors to a misdemeanor but they didn't make it retroactive which means Mr. Wilson sits in his jail cell having already served 2 of his 10 years.
Compounding the issue is Baker's refusal to let Wilson go free after a state judge said that Wilson's sentence constituted 'cruel and unusual' punishment and that he should be set free. Baker's response was to say the court did not have the right 'to reduce or modify the judgment of the trial court'. Whatever. He's fighting a losing battle and if he had any sort of compassion or common sense he would let Wilson out and put the thing behind him.
Instead he has Al Sharpton coming to town to call him names, organize demonstrations for Wilson's behalf and get himself in the news again. Below are two quotes from the esteemed Reverend.
'Don't walk over the bodies of martyrs and achieve a position of personal stature, and then forget how you got there and sit there in silence while your children are locked in jail for unjust sentences.'
'People did not suffer for your career.'
Raise your hand if you remember Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton sinking their teeth into the Duke Lacross players who were - unjustly, as it turns out - accused of raping a black woman at a party? Yes, me too. Now, let's keep in mind that both have been oddly silent about the recent turn of events regarding that Duke case and reread the two quotes again.
Would he be in this Georgia town if Wilson was white? Of course not. Would he have been in North Carolina if the stripper claiming rape had been white? Maybe a better question should be, would he have been in NC if the woman was white and the accused were black athletes? Am I, a white male, allowed to call Sharpton a racist? I'm sure it wouldn't be the first time, but let's take a look.
Webster's defines 'racism' as a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race'. This doesn't really fit Sharpton. For better or worse, he is trying, in his own twisted way, to stick up for the little guy. The little guy better have some good publicity and cameras around, though. Sorry, was that cynical?
But I did find this definition: 'a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance'. Care to guess what's being described? The word is 'bigot' and I think we've hit the nail on the head.
I realize Sharpton vigorously defends African Americans because of centuries of mistreatment and oppression and he honestly believes he is working for the greater good. The problem is he is preaching acceptance and equal protection, but only practices that if the accused or slighted are members of a specific race. You can't have it both ways. Where were he and Jackson when it came out that the stripper in the Duke case had been lying? What did they have to say when it turned out that the players weren't being discriminated against because they were black, but because they were considered privileged and rich? Where was their outrage when a white D.A. acted so maliciously and illegally against the Duke players that he's now been disbarred and could be facing jail time?
Sharpton is - and has been - treading a fine line. He's been doing it for years. Speaking out with conviction and sincerity against intolerance and discrimination. But only if the person being slighted has dark skin. Sorry, dark skin, but not Hispanic. I need to be more specific.
If the person in trouble is white, Hispanic, Jewish (a group he has publicly said disparaging things about in the past) or 'other', well, don't expect Sharpton to be fighting your cause. If the accused are black and the victim white, you can bet which side Sharpton will lean towards.
One more definition to mull over for the weekend:
'Hypocrite (noun) - 1 : a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
2 : a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings'
Today's distraction: Interesting take from someone who knows Sharpton personally. Even more interesting since it was written in 1998. The more things change.......