The classic image of the Hollywood movie set features a gruff director — wearing a beret and chomping a cigar — bellowing, “Lights, camera, action!” The actors then perform their roles. In Sanford, Florida the director might shout, “Lights, camera, Sharpton!”
Although Al Sharpton is a devout blowhard, let’s give the devil his due. Whenever there’s race to hustle or cameras to hog, he never misses his cue. In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s untimely demise, Sharpton delivered a timeless line to the teen’s parents: “they will try to make your son a junkie, thief, assaulter, everything else before this is over.”
It’s theatrical history, Mr. Sharpton starring in a role for which he’s uniquely qualified, dividing public opinion. His concern over that fateful night when one life ended and another was forever altered is purely professional. Sharpton is an actor, a caped civil rights crusader manipulating Trayvon’s death to build his own street cred. It’s a role he’s played many times over.
Remember the Duke Lacrosse case, when white lacrosse players were accused of raping Crystal Mangum, a black stripper? Al Sharpton declared the accused guilty without a shred of substantiating evidence. Rich, powerful, white men had abused a vulnerable black woman, as if the scene had played out on an 18th Century southern plantation. Anyone who questioned Mangum’s story was racist, sexist, and probably a few other things.
There was only one problem. Mangum wasn’t a victim; she was a lying fraud. Ensuing scenes found her convicted of child abuse and charged with the stabbing death of her boyfriend. But before Mangum’s story reached its ugly climax Sharpton had long since left the stage.
Sharpton played a similar role in Louisiana’s Jena Six case. The script reverberated with racial injustice when Mychal Bell was arrested for beating a white classmate. The cameras rolled and Al delivered in all his demagogic glory. Sharpton’s dramatic monologues declared Bell the victim of blatant racism at a racist high school in a racist southern town. However, Mychal Bell turned out to be everything his critics had said, and Jena’s systemic racism was pure hype. When the scene ended and the set fell dark, Bell remained in jail and Sharpton had disappeared quicker than September snow.
Since Al Sharpton claims the title of reverend, it’s fitting for his marquee to come directly from biblical text, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” Al plays the role of the sympathetic civil rights crusader. Inwardly he’s a publicity hog, Kim Kardashian without the buxom figure.
Evidence to date can neither exonerate nor convict George Zimmerman for Trayvon’s death. Jumping to either conclusion is foolishly immature. But identifying Al Sharpton as a race-hustler is verifiable. He flawlessly performs the black leader’s role, only to vanish without a trace just prior to the scene’s climax. Keep a close eye on Sanford, Florida. Al Sharpton’s latest performance is can’t-miss theatre.