Mark Grimm


Al Sharpton and the Race-Baiting Business

One thing is certain about the explosive Florida shooting that left teenager Trayvon Martin dead. Al Sharpton has no way of knowing what really happened. Sharpton has become a wealthy man exploiting racial tensions.

Sharpton rushed to the scene, and the cameras, to demand authorities “Lock him up” — a demand to arrest the shooter, George Zimmerman.This came despite the fact a close African American friend of Zimmerman, Joe Oliver, criticized these attempts to “lynch” his friend.

Sharpton’s celebrity status has led to his anchor role on a national cable news program. MSNBC should know better.

In November 1987, Sharpton accused a white prosecutor in New York State of abducting and raping a young black girl, Tawana Brawley. The charge turned out to be a hoax and Sharpton was eventually hit with a huge damage award in a defamation lawsuit (an award he never personally paid).

Then there is the Duke University lacrosse case where three white players were falsely accused of rape by a African American female stripper. The players were vilified in the media and even at their own university. They were cleared and the initial prosecutor was disbarred and found guilty of criminal contempt.

Sharpton is not the only one fanning the Florida flames. The NY Times refers to Zimmerman as a “white Hispanic.” Has the media used that term before? Is it a subtle attempt to heighten the white-black divide?

The truth is there is money, fame, and political advantage in the race-baiting business. It won’t do a thing to heal longstanding racial wounds. It only makes things worse. But we don’t have to accept it. The path in the Florida shooting case is clear — insist on a fair investigation and the let the facts tell the story.

I have no way of knowing what happened in Florida. None of us do. If Zimmerman acted improperly, he should be punished. If not, he should be left alone. If the Florida law needs revision, it should be done. None of these things will be easy to do now with the race-baiting business in full swing.

The writer is a former TV news anchor/reporter and elected official.