Discrimination is still a long way from being ended in God’s own country and Leader of the Free World. That is the bad News. The good News is that America has come a long, long way in seeking racial equality, and has arguably done a far better job in that regard than any other country in this planet. I see the emergence of Al Sharpton and the waves he is making today in the democratic primary election debates in that context. If you love Jesse Jackson’s struggle to fight for racial equality in this society, you would love what Al Sharpton is doing in this Election Year. The struggle for racial equality still remains a worthy goal in America that we all must uphold.
The United Kingdom, America’s erstwhile colonial master has had a few tough lessons to learn from America, as she now begun to liberalize her own racial equality struggle by electing into the House of Commons and the London City Council in particular, a few Indian/Pakistani, Jamaican and African immigrants after so many years of keeping them out of the political mainstream. The area known as Brixton in Britain today has arguably become the exclusive preserve of the Caribbean and Jamaican immigrants in much the same way like the Bronx is fast becoming the domain of the Hispanics in the Big Apple. While such predominance is reflected in the political representation of those races in the three tiers of Government in New York as a benchmark, you cannot say the same thing of the political reality of Great Britain.
The UK was only following the script from the United States which had demonstrated an apparent strength in her pluralistic society. The two major political parties in America know they have to deliberately go after the Black and Hispanic vote because they appreciate that Democracy is a game of numbers. The Hispanic in particular are growing by leaps and bounds, so much so, that Spanish is now recognized as the second predominant language in America in much the same way like French and English have become the two officially recognized languages in Canada. America is today the greatest country on Earth, and the only remaining Super Power, because she is truly a microcosm of the World. Even in the days when the old Soviet Union was considered a close rival to the United States, she (the Soviet Union) instinctively knew she was far inferior to America because it was a very close society In the age of globalization that the whole world is in today Glasnost and Perestroika have become the only game in town with apology to Mikhail Gorbachev.
The first time I visited Moscow in 1976, I met a good number of Russians who had never seen a black person before, and were so excited to see one, but were just too timid, to even come close to me, not to talk of engaging me in a conversation with the few Russian words I had picked up during my short stay in Moscow. I could tell, right there and then, the outcome of the cold war, which eventually came in 1991, was only a question of time. America, on the other hand, is the world. I am told that no less than 82 different nationalities now live in the Big Apple alone not to talk of other parts of the United States. The old Soviet Union was only a part of a whole, and in that unique sense, it could hardly claim parity or equality with America.
America has pulled a fast one on Russia in terms of military power by just being realistic, and just being true to the dreams of her founding fathers that mankind is all one before God, the Almighty. Period. By trying more and more to become a more open society, by absorbing other nationalities, right from her foundation, America has proved her superiority over the Soviet Union. America has sealed that superiority by opening up her doors to all nations of the World, and assimilating the best of all countries of the World, so to speak. America has done so by creating world institutions and organizations like the IMF and the World Bank and a few others while leaving the old Soviet Union out in the cold for so long. The die was cast by the time Gorbachev came along. It was too late, too little for the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union had actually collapsed in 1991, but the Union and its so-called Warsaw Pact had actually lost to the United States even before the competition and rivalry had started. I just knew that for a fact. The gap between Russia and America keeps getting wider and wider as America has attracted to America the cream of the Russian society, and making life so easy for the Russian immigrants in America that more and more Russians have continued to emigrate to America in their millions since the fall of the Soviet Union. You go to Odessa community in Brooklyn in New York today or you go to Sheepsheads Bay in Brooklyn, you will see a proof of what I am talking about America has become the promised land to all of mankind You go to the Upper Hudson Valley in Up State New York in places like New Paltz, Ellenville, Jeffersonville, Kingston and surrounding cities, you can clearly see the Russian Jews have abandoned Russia and all of its 15 Republics to start life afresh in America. They have brought along with them their resourcefulness and great talents in all fields of endeavor, and are now using same to transform and strengthen America in ways I cannot even begin to describe in this article. Why? Because America has not only encouraged them to come, she has also created a conducive climate and environment for them to settle down in America, and to share out of the American dream. Very few countries will do what America is ever so ready to do.
If you think of Pearl Harbor in December 7, 1941, which was, once upon a time, correctly described as “a day in infamy,” you will be amazed about how far America has gone to seek reconciliation and understanding with Japan. Japan and America were sworn enemies at one point in time in our history, but today America and Japan are great allies. People now talk of the “Japanning of America.” America had seen the potential of Japan, and had quickly buried the hatchet to bring them closer to America in spite of the tragedies of Nagasaki and Hirojima. America had bombed Japan into submission in 1945, but in doing so, they did not fail to see the strategic location, potential and resourcefulness of a great and determined Nation. The Japanese people like people from other nations of the World have emigrated to America in huge numbers doing for America and using their limitless talents and energy to develop America. You go to Hawaii and California and a few other states like Washington State and Arizona and Nevada and Oregon, you will be surprised about how much inroad the Japanese have made in America. Don’t be too surprised, if in the future, the country called Iraq again becomes a bosom friend of America. That should be nothing, but History repeating itself.
I have mentioned all this as a backdrop to my main hypothesis that America has singularly created the environment for all Americans without exception to attain their highest potential and to go as high, and as far as their talents and their wings can carry them. It doesn’t matter in America where you have started, where you are going and where you end up is what counts. America offers you an opportunity to change your life and change the nation in so doing.
This article is focussed on Rev. Al Sharpton who was once described, and rightly so, as a hoodlum and rabble-rouser when he first showed his face as a Civil Right activist in the Big Apple some years back. Before then, he had served as an active member of the Rainbow Coalition founded by Rev. Jesse Jackson where he probably served his pupilage. Then came his activities in the Tawana Brawley case where he had tried to champion the interest of a poor African American young girl who had wrongly or rightly claimed she was sexually abused by some white guys. Then came the case of the Haiti guy who was allegedly sodomized by some racists in police uniform. Al Sharpton also got himself involved in the case of Ahmadu Diallo who was mercilessly gunned down as a victim of Police Brutality in New York. In all these situations, Rev. Al Sharpton had stood out as the champion of the oppressed, carrying placards and leading so many demonstrations across the City from one Borough to another, exposing himself to danger, just to send a powerful message on the need for racial justice in America.
He was arrested so many times, harassed and even sent to jail. He never wavered in his ultimate goal and mission. He was even stabbed at one time by one of the oppressed group he was defending and helping. That did not stop him from doing what he had set out to do. It was only a question of time before he ran for public office as a Senatorial candidate in the Empire State. Even though he knew he did not stand any chance of winning, he was in the race to send a powerful message, and to make a statement. In all those efforts, the young, intelligent and eloquent Reverend has proved he was a force to reckon with. He had a good grasp of the issues at stake and was able to eloquently articulate them decidedly better than most of his opponents. He was making history and hysteria at the same time, but doing so with resilience and determination.
The particular race I want to focus in this article is the ongoing Presidential Primaries to select a nominee for the Democratic Party to run against George Bush in November. Even though Al Sharpton was short in his ability to raise funds for his campaign for President, as he recorded losses from one primary to another. He has something going for him, however, that his other opponents could not match. His force of personality and self assurance, and his eloquence or gift of the garb were strikingly remarkable and different. If success in the Debates was the only yardstick for being President, Al Sharpton and Kucinich would definitely be a force to reckon with in this primary season. Al Sharpton is particularly brilliant and exceptionally talented. And when you recall that all of his opponents are all Ivy Leaguers from Harvard and Yale, and some of the best Universities across America, you have to give kudos to Al Sharpton for being able to stand his ground, and, quite often, doing a more persuasive job than all of them without exception.
Asked what makes him the best candidate to speak for the downtrodden in American Society. He replied that he was himself born and raised in the ghetto but that what matters is the largeness of your heart. You could be born an aristocrat like John F. Kennedy, and still has within your heart, a propensity to identify with the downtrodden of this world, if it was part of your make-up as a human being. He was always able to bring some humor into his answers and one liners by not pulling punches, but still making his point in a way that hits the nail at the head without any question. Al Sharpton is razor-blade sharp and exciting to watch in the debates. He does not indulge in quoting from the Bible as would be expected of preachers like him, but one can excuse that because Al Sharpton is a preacher without a pulpit. I am not sure, if he has ever “pastored” a church ever since he was ordained, but he, sure, knows his stuff and he is unflappable. He has made the political podium his own pulpit, and is doing it with great success, I might add.
Al Sharpton has not only transformed himself, he is transforming America and the Democratic Party. Those who still consider Al Sharpton a hoodlum or a rabble-rouser have to think again. He has come a long way. The man has moved from being a follower to a leader. He has moved from being an amateur to being a professional and a major player in Democratic Party, at a time, we are looking for a successor to the great legacy of Rev. Jesse Jackson who seems to have gone on a voluntary retirement following the scandal involving him and one of his staffers in the Rainbow Coalition. Sharpton may no be another Jesse Jackson, but he is decidedly a man to watch. Until the younger Jackson, now an honorable member of the United States Congress, is able to take over the mantle of his father, at the national level, the emergence of Al Sharpton, at this moment in time, is a welcome development, I would argue. The younger Jackson, of course, a chip of the old block, would want to bridge some of the inadequacies of his own father by seeking public office as a US Congressman, and acquiring necessary experience and know-how that should stand him in good stead, when he is ready to step into his father’s shoes. Al Sharpton is filling the gap, in the meantime, and doing it so well.
Some may argue that if Bob Graham, Joe Lieberman and Howard Dean are dropping out of the race for the Democratic nominee, how come Al Sharpton and Kucinich, who have not faired any better, are still holding on? That is a legitimate question to ask. The answer is simple. Both Al Sharpton and Kucinich probably knew, going in, that they don’t stand a chance of winning the nomination. They are in the race to send a powerful message and to make a statement. They are in the race to help shape the Party Platform in much the same way like some of the major candidates were going to do. They are in the race to lay claim to as many delegates as they could get, so they could earn the right to speak and be heard at the Convention.
Part of Al Sharpton’s argument has always been that the Democratic Donkey has no business putting on the toga of the Republican Elephant. It just doesn’t fit. The Democratic Party must remain faithful to its fundamental creed and values in order to beat the Republicans at their game. His argument is that the middle class and the downtrodden masses are far greater in number than the upward mobility class represented by the Republican Party. The Democrats can win any day against the Republicans if they remain faithful to their time honored values.
Al Sharpton is able to frame the issues in this Election better than any of his opponents. He was against the Iraq War from the “get go” and he has always lambasted George Bush for dragging America into an unnecessary War by lying about it. Al Sharpton had made the best analogy of the War than any of his opponents when he claimed that Osama Bin laden was the aggressor who had attacked America in their home front. Osama should have been the first person that George Bush should have gone after, not Saddam Hussein. Al Sharpton has also made a beautiful distinction between the “Christian Right” and the “Right Christians” that none of his opponents has been able to match.
Al Sharpton is not just a politician, he is also a poet. It was Richard Nixon who once recommended that the two professions go “parri passu” and he was right. Al Sharpton is clearly a hybrid of the two if you ask me. Al Sharpton has hit a home run at the last debate in Wisconsin when he added what I call the grand finale of intelligent deduction when he said he was concerned that George Bush had lied in dragging America to War, but would be much more concerned, if George Bush is not even aware he had lied to the Nation. It was by far the most dramatic distinction ever made by any Democrat running for President this year, and it drew a great laughter from everyone in the mighty auditorium. Al Sharpton has proved himself a great asset whose input our Party nominee must need when he gets into the big League with George Bush between May and November.
Framing the issues in a way that ordinary voters can understand is one of the strong points of Al Sharpton. John Kerry and Edwards our possible dream ticket must find some ways to involve Al Sharpton in developing the democratic strategy for taking our country back. If for any reason, John Edwards does not join the ticket, John Kerry and Bob Graham or the Governor of New Mexico and the former US Permanent Representative at the UN, who is a possible VP candidate, must find some ways to get Al Sharpton fully involved not only in more voter registration which is crucial, but in strategy sessions, and preparations for the debate, and formulating one liners that would be very good in responding to commercials that George Bush and his handlers are going to flood the Air Wave with, when the election goes into high gear.
Al Sharpton is a solid gold for the Democratic Party, and a one man battalion in this Election. He may not have won the nomination, but he has surely won the hearts of many minority voters in this Election, and must be recognized as such. The Democrats must be united for this Election, and we win if we can do that. Candidates like Al Sharpton and Kucinich not to talk of the big fish, John Edward and Howard Dean in particular are the keys to that strategy and victory. I can conveniently predict here that Al Sharpton has won by losing. We all do that sometimes, don’t we?
I rest my case.