By: Eden Dixon
Over the past few decades, Reverend Al Sharpton has been a highly prominent figure within the African-American community. During times of social and racial injustice, Al Sharpton is often present and vocal in regards to issues that constantly press the Black community including police brutality, racial violence, and other social injustices. While a significant amount of African-Americans appreciate the contributions and sacrifices of Sharpton, some still wonder whether he has taken advantage of certain situations to further his own career and political agenda. However, whether or not there’s an underlying agenda for the activist work that Sharpton has done, there’s no doubt that he has made many contributions to the interests of the Black community and has helped many families and individuals obtain retribution.
Beginning in 1969, in the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Al Sharpton began work as a youth director of the New York City branch of Operation Breadbasket, a program implemented to find better work for African-Americans. Since then, Al Sharpton has been actively present and involved during times of hardship and crisis in the Black community. We began to see Sharpton’s activism in the mid-1980s with the 1984 shooting by Bernhard Goetz which was thought by Sharpton and others t be racially motivated. Sharpton participated in protests and assisted in contacting the authorities to reopen the investigation after Goetz was cleared of his charges. Since then, we have often seen Al Sharpton present during similar situations, and he is often seen marching, protesting, spreading awareness on a national if not global basis, and giving a voice to the voiceless. Most recently, Sharpton was active during the protests for Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner two cases in which gained widespread notoriety for not only the horror of the murders but also the unjust way the cases were handled.
With the amount of activity that Al Sharpton has had within the Black community, why do some feel as though he is simply an opportunist, taking advantage of tragedies? It is quite possible to speculate that Sharpton uses his notoriety to promote his name and businesses. There have been several occasions where Sharpton has spoken less than favorably about fellow African-Americans and other minorities. While he is known for fighting for Black rights, Sharpton has made many unfavorable comments about other African-Americans who disagree with his agenda. Sharpton has used racially divisive language such as the “N” word and other racial slurs directed at other minorities. With this information, one could easy question the true motives of Sharpton as some of his actions contradict the very causes he claims to fight for.
Whether or not Reverend Al Sharpton’s motives are pure and true, he has been and continues to be an active voice within the Black community.
Do you think he’s an opportunist? Comment below.