ON US! Al Sharpton—one of our wisest observers—puts it where it belongs. Right on us:
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TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2007
In the past decade, Al Sharpton has deepened and matured; he has become a truly brilliant, soulful observer. In part because he tends to express himself humorously—in part because of his early career—this fact is rarely observed by the mainstream press. But then again, this is a group which rarely notices anything.
Sharpton is one of our most insightful public figures. We thought of this again a few weekends ago, when we watched Tavis Smileys annual State of Black America conference (on C-SPAN). At one point, Sharpton described the toughest job a black minister has—preaching the funeral of an unproductive person. (Speaking humorously, he used the word Negro.) The audience laughed, very hard; Jesse Jackson looked at Sharpton and shook his head, seeming to marvel at his wit—and seeming to say that hed been there. But Sharpton continued, and he made the point he makes at the end of this column from by Gene Robinson
, a column found in this mornings Post. Robinson asked Sharpton what lessons he drew from a new revelation; Sharptons great-grandfather, Coleman Sharpton Sr., was once legally owned by a relative of Strom Thurmond:
ROBINSON (2/27/07): For Sharpton, learning his family history was a reminder of unspeakable cruelty and monumental injustice—but also a personal challenge.
"I think of my grandfather, the son of a slave, the son of a man who was bought and sold in that horrific manner, and my grandfather opened up a grocery store and took care of his family and raised 17 children," Sharpton said.
"That's what his generation did. Now what are we going to do? Are we a generation that wants to be defined by nothing more than using the n-word and having all this gangster attitude? This information doesn't just put the responsibility on society, it puts the responsibility on me. On us."
At Smileys conference, Sharpton drew this same lesson—and it took him from a big laugh to a long standing ovation. After noting how hard it is to find something to say at the funeral of an unproductive person, he told the audience that this puts it on them. Sharpton said: We have to make sure that our
productive. We cant let some future preacher stand there with nothing to say.
This man is a brilliant
In his comments in Robinsons column, Sharpton is most explicitly speaking about a generation of African-Americans. But his words apply to white people too—to all of us, to all us Americans. What is our generation of Americans
going to do? How do we plan to we deal with current situations which have proven so confounding?
As we read Sharptons statement this morning, we thought of a column wed already read. We thought of this column by Richard Cohen
, adjacent to Robinsons in todays Post. Dealing with Cohens tribe comes down on us.
At THE HOWLER, weve described them as Antoinettes. Perhaps we should change that to Thurmonds.
It shouldnt come as a great surprise, but Cohens column is almost shockingly disingenuous. But then, thats a fundamental part of modern press culture—a culture our liberal elites dont just refuse
to discuss. Addressing that culture comes down on us;
it means addressing the Dowds and the Matthewses. Are we a generation that wants to be defined by nothing more than having this bought-and-sold attitude? Over the course of the past fifteen years, the answer has seemed to be: Yes.
Addressing this cohort comes straight down on us.
Well start with Cohens column tomorrow.