Al Sharpton’s Familiar Lament

by Jim Geraghty

Man, some things do not change. Almost fifteen years ago:

The tone of the argument on the stage of the historic Apollo Theater was set at the start, when the presidential rivals agreed that they’d both take steps against racial profiling – and immediately tried to turn the question against each other. 

The 90-minute debate was televised by CNN. The largely black audience cheered, applauded, jeered, sometimes booed. Neither candidate was spared the raucous reactions. 

Bradley demanded to know why the vice president hadn’t gone down the hall to get President Clinton to issue an executive order outlawing racial profiling. Gore shot back that racial profiling practically began in Bradley’s New Jersey. 

The exchange was prompted by the leadoff question, accorded to The Rev. Al Sharpton. ”Many in our community have to live in fear of both the cops and the robbers,” the black activist said, asking how they would deal with police brutality and racial profiling while avoiding an increase in crime. 

Bradley said he would issue an order against racial profiling, and would declare ”quite clearly that white Americans can no longer deny the plight of black Americans.” 

”If you elect me to the presidency, the first civil rights act of the 21st century will be a federal law outlawing racial profiling,” Gore said.

That was in February 2000, five years after Sharpton’s infamous role leading protests against Freddie’s Fashion Mart and the owner he called a “white interloper“; a protester later entered the store firing a gun and setting a fire that killed eight people. 

The Democratic Party’s leadership has embraced Al Sharpton for a long, long time.

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