The Conversation

What Al Sharpton Has Done Right in Ferguson–and How That Opens the Door for His Agenda

Conservatives are supposed to hate Al Sharpton. The MSNBC television host and civil rights activist has given the right ample fuel to fire their disdain. So when he shows up in Ferguson, MO, to speak on behalf of the slain Michael Brown, we all know nothing good will come from it. Even if justice is achieved, God-willing, the scars that will remain in Ferguson will never heal due to Sharpton's presence.

The problem with hate and disdain, though, is that they blind you from seeking deeper reflection. When conservatives think about Al Sharpton, they think about the Crown Heights Riot, Tawana Brawley, and the Duke Lacrosse rape case. It's instant repulsion. When every word out his mouth is shaped by race, it's impossible to take Sharpton seriously.

The challenge is to move past dislike, ignore race, and focus on what Sharpton is really accomplishing in Ferguson, MO.

The 1991 film New Jack City offers a fitting analogy given the recent claim that Sharpton was a government drug informant in Harlem between 1983 and 1988. In the film, Nino Brown (played by Wesley Snipes) was the man on his block, even though he sold poison on the street. Every year around the holidays, Nino gave away turkeys, gifts, and cash to ensure the people loved him. As long as the people loved him, he felt protected from government.

Al Sharpton was not Nino Brown. Sharpton was Chris Rock's character Pookie, the underdog that made so many mistakes but needed just one more chance. Sharpton has learned one of the lessons an entire generation learned from New Jack City: it's better to live like Nino Brown than Pookie, especially if they both die in the end.

Watch Sharpton's movements carefully. First, we complain when he shows up, but we fail to acknowledge he was asked to attend. Our reaction implies insult that we conservatives weren't invited. That's our problem, not Sharpton’s.

Second, he sits and counsels the family. I won't put Reverend in front of Sharpton’s name, but I recognize others view him as an honest man of the cloth. Prayer is prayer. In times of grief, all prayer is welcome; a special bond is formed in worship.

Third, Sharpton meets with the local leadership and clergy. He knows his voice is louder and reaches more people, but he pauses to allow the grassroots to speak. He listens to their stories about Michael Brown and other instances of police "victimization" of citizens. So when he speaks, he sounds like them, captures their cadence, and uses their language when echoing their reflections.  Sharpton has created his own blueprint for outreach. Yes, it's based on the tragedy of death of destruction, but it works.

After—notice I said after—he has paid his respects to the city by waiting for an invite, paid respect to the family by offering them heartfelt condolences, and paid respect to the citizens who invited him in, he then goes into full Progressive mode. His ideology waits until he's handed out the turkeys, gifts, and cash. Indeed, Al Sharpton and his National Action Network will also be covering the cost of Michael Brown's funeral.

None of this should upset conservatives.

You want to know how to create minority outreach? I’ll tell you: pay attention to the moves Sharpton makes. Moreover, make a habit of showing up in the good times and you'll be invited back during the bad.

By the time Sharpton gets on camera, he's already won the crowd. They are so emotional and connected to Sharpton that whatever comes out his mouth becomes gospel. Monday on Politics Nation, he said it's time to "deal with those who go over the line in law enforcement." In front of cameras on Tuesday, Sharpton called for peace and justice.

"In order to establish peace, you must have fair justice for everyone," he declared. "We are not more angry than his mom and dad. If they can hold their heads with dignity, we can hold our heads with dignity."

If it weren't for the dignity and class of Michael Brown's parents, we would have heard more robust language from Sharpton. Whether you like him or not, he does bow to the wishes of the family, and that deserves notice.

What Sharpton does next is pure genius. He uses the problem of "abusive" government to push for bigger government. Sharpton urged federal authorities to get involved because local authorities can't be trusted. The main witness to the shooting, Dorian Johnson, echoed Sharpton's call. He still hasn't spoken with local authorities because, despite the huge media, legal, and community support, he distrusts police officials.

Random observation from the ghetto: when there is a mistrust of police, it extends to the Feds. In fact, most streets boys have a greater fear of FBI, DEA, ATF, and DOJ than they have of their local officers. They understand the difference between a federal indictment and a local warrant. No ones chooses the federal indictment.

Sharpton is teaching Ferguson progressivism. The local police force, those closest to the citizens and communities, can't be trusted, but you can trust the federal government. Local, limited government will "abuse" you. Big federal government will protect you and bring you justice.

For the people of Ferguson, I offer this friendly observation. Al Sharpton showed up and spoke loud about a cause that is deeply important to you. He offered his voice and the megaphone it provides. You feel upset with a system that doesn't care about you. You are mad they are protecting the police officer behind a wall of anonymity. A young, black, unarmed male was killed by Ferguson police, and Al Sharpton cares about your plight.

Except he fights to assure there are as many armed police officers in your neighborhood as possible. When Barack Obama wanted to pass his stimulus bill in 2011, Sharpton said, "They're laying off firefighters, police, and teachers. We're not talking about radicals here. We're talking about the backbone of our country." When fighting for jobs, he fought for the police officer's job.

Is it because Sharpton likes police officers? No, it’s because police officers are represented by unions. And Al Sharpton always lobbies for union jobs. The unions that organize his rallies or invite him to speak at their conferences are the same unions that are protecting the police officer’s identity. They are the same unions that will pay for the defense of the officer that took the life of Michael Brown.

Next week, Al Sharpton will once again march with those unions. Al Sharpton said, "That's the sign you got to deal with. Deal with the last sign he had shown. We want answers why that sign was not respected." He was speaking about reports that after the police officer shot Michael Brown once, Brown threw his hands in the air as a sign of surrender. Allegedly, the police officer then shot Michael Brown multiple times.

Al Sharpton should be asked why he continues to push gun laws that assure police officers are the only citizens with legal weapons. If young black men were taught gun safety, rights, and responsibilities at a young age, they would exercise their Second Amendment freedoms responsibly. In an armed society, authorities are less likely to get involved in frivolous confrontation. Our Founders didn't create the Second Amendment for hunting.

As Al Sharpton pushes for more gun control in places like Chicago, he is forced to confront the reality that people don't want their gun rights taken away. Instead, they want jobs. In December 2013, Sharpton held a Chicago town hall meeting to talk about the violence. The meeting erupted into a revolt against a lagging economy and high unemployment rates.

I bet if you asked the looters and rioters why they are truly upset, it would have more to do with not being able to provide for their families than the death of Michael Brown. This is inexcusable behavior, and calls for the immediate of release of those arrested during the violence are destructive. They are just another progressive tenet in action: absolve all wrongdoing under the guise of empathy.

However, it would be less likely riots and looting would occur if people had the money to purchase, not steal, the products they loot. People question why other groups don't riot and burn. Look at areas of poverty around the world, they do. People with jobs don't rob and steal from businesses, because they understand the importance of business survival. But what is Sharpton’s plan for reducing unemployment? Legalizing millions of illegal workers to compete for jobs that are currently unavailable.

If I, as a conservative black woman, can admit Al Sharpton isn't the devil and reflect on the positive aspects of his outreach strategies, I beg Black America to examine the poisonous price that comes with Sharptons megaphone.

When Pookie learns to be Nino Brown, we should pass on accepting the turkey, gifts, and cash.


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