Ned Williams is of the belief that we need to find some way to get rid of Al Sharpton. Ned, I must ask, do you really believe Sharpton is the cause of all current racial strife? Or, really, much racial strife at all? Because that just seems ridiculous to me.
I like Sharpton for a few reasons. I think he’s quick witted (which I appreciate) and funny. He’s not co-opt-able. You don’t see a bunch of middle class white kids running around with Al Sharpton hair-does spouting lines from Al Sharpton sermons without ever thinking very hard about what circumstances those words arise from. But I like Sharpton most of all because he’s holy.
Yep, I believe Al Sharpton is a holy man.
I think that’s what makes him so irritating. You can’t count on him to stay bought, to stay on target, on message, on point. You can’t expect him to make sense or to apologize for not making sense.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Al Sharpton is a good man. I’m saying he’s a holy man.
It’s hard to talk about holiness as a factor in public life, and yet, when you have a bunch of folks running around calling themselves Reverend and expecting to be taken seriously on matters of public policy, I think it’s about time we come up with some way of understanding it.
I have been around ministers my whole life and I can tell you that there are roughly two kinds of ministers. There are the folks who love God and feel so moved by their love of God that they are compelled to join the ministry. I would, just as an outsider, put Jesse Jackson in this category. These folks are perfectly fine folks, but when they go bad, they go bad in perfectly predictable, ordinary ways, and they respond to their corruption in predictable, ordinary ways. And when they’re bought, they stay bought. Most importantly, their ministry is based a lot on study and travel to the Holy Lands and care for their flock and often they understand God as being present all around them.
These ministers do good work and they often make fabulous church leaders because they’re good with people and manage bureaucracies well. We might call these ministers ‘shepherds’ or, I guess, pastors.
But then there are the holy folks. Nothing about them particularly recommends them for a life of the cloth. You wouldn’t look at them and their actions and necessarily say, “Oh, wow, that’s a good person.” (though, certainly, sometimes, you can). You can’t predict them, you can’t count on them, you can’t buy them and expect them to stay bought. What they do doesn’t make sense. The things they call to be done are hard or ridiculous. They’re terrible bureaucrats. And hard people to love and be loved by. These ministers have their finger on the pulse of the Universe. Jesus is literally on the mainline, telling them what to do. They seem crazy. Sometimes they go crazy (see Pat Robertson, bless his heart) and you can’t trust that they’re hearing from God anymore.
But I love those folks. Not just ministers, I love artists and poet and writers and lonely folks and all manner of us who touch and are touched back by Something greater and more ancient than themselves. They go some place most of the rest of us never do and bring back things we didn’t even know we needed and, in the process, they are slowly made unfit for the world.
I respect that when I see it. Even if I don’t understand it, even if I disagree with it.
As for you, dear ‘Ned,’ I’m pretty sure you had to figure that I couldn’t leave you unresponded to. Shall I make a list?
1. You say, “To assert that ANY of these realities are unique to African-Americans is demagoguery.” and yet, you quote me as saying, “And, while these things remain serious problems for black people, they’ve become systemic for all of us ,” and so clearly you know (and even leave it out there for your readers to see) that I’m not claiming these realities are unique to African Americans.
2. (Which should be 1., but I’m on a roll, so I’m not fixing it). “Aunt B.” Seriously, what the fuck? My name is Betsy. A lot of folks call me B. and I have nephews. Fine, “Ned,” two can play at that game (though, I believe “John Galt” over at NiT may have been the first, so THREE can play at that game).
3. “To assert (or imply that King believed) that government could eradicate brutality or prejudice is foolishness.” Come on! When did I either assert or imply that King believed that the government could eradicate prejudice? Never. As for brutality? Come the fuck on, “Ned”! Now you’re being disingenuous. When the brutality was being committed by the government (as in the police brutality that King directly makes a point of mentioning)? Damn straight he expected the government to do something about it. And damn straight he expected the government to step in and fix injustice.
4. “Ironically, as I’m typing this, ESPN is showing footage of Bears Coach Lovie Smith–one of two African-American head coaches appearing in the NFL conference championships this weekend, is graciously addressing a question about his race in a press conference.” a.) Why is this ironic? b.) How many NFL teams are there? (32) What percentage of NFL players are black? (I’m going to guess at least half) And how many African-American head coaches are there? (7?) Oh, well, then, forgive me. Justice has been achieved!
4.5 Also, oh, hurray! People who can parlay athletic prowess into wealth find that money opens doors in our society and breaks down racial barriers. Again, justice is served. Now, if only everyone had athletic talent and money!
5. I never said that government treatment of blacks is worse now than in the past, “Ned,” if that even is your real name.
6. I’m not sure what your beef with “Al Sharpton” is, so I’m leaving that alone.
Update on Tuesday, January 16, 2007 at 11:00AM
In an ironic twist, it turns out that I didn’t read “Ned” close enough and that he wasn’t arguing for getting rid of “Sharpton,” but seems to be saying that we don’t have to give rid of him, leaving me to wonder who was advocating for the removal of the Reverend.