Moral Cowardice and Bigotry at the Law School

He's fought against "faggots," "yellow niggers," "white interlopers" and "diamond merchants." His political organization is littered with avowed racists, anti-Semites and bigots. He has on numerous occasions ignited and stoked the flames of racial hatred. Is this David Duke or some other Klansman? No, it's Al Sharpton, who was Harvard Law School's guest last Wednesday.

The gallery of Sharpton's outrages is full. Less than five years ago, Sharpton's organization--the National Action Network--organized a campaign, together with Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, to rid 125th Street (Harlem's main shopping street) of "nonblack"-owned businesses. One such owner was Fred Harari, who owned a clothing store named Freddy's on 125th Street and was--horror of horrors!--a Jew.

Little wonder, then, that when Fred wanted to expand his store and told the owner of an adjacent store that his sublease would not be renewed, Sharpton's organization stepped in. Sharpton sent the matter to his organization's Buy Black steering committee and announced at a rally that "we will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business on 125th Street."


The chair of Sharpton's Buy Black committee, Morris Powell, had sharper words: "We are not going to stand idly by and let a Jewish person come into black Harlem and methodically drive people out of business.... We are going to see that this cracker suffers." He added, "... that cracker got to be insane. We are going to close him down."

The several months of picketing by Sharpton and Powell's protesters were marked by overt racism and violence. According to court documents, the protests were characterized by epithets which included "kill the Jew bastards," "burn down the Jew store and its employees and customers" and "this block for niggers only, no whites or Jews allowed." Some protesters stood in the doorway of the store screaming "bloodsucking Jews," while others made motions of striking matches and throwing them into the store.

No one should have been shocked when one of the protesters actually carried through on with the threats on Dec. 8, 1995. He opened fire in the store and then burned it down, killing seven employees, before taking his own life. Several months of anti-Semitic protests, violence and incendiary rhetoric, organized by Sharpton's National Action Network and its Buy Black committee had reached their logical conclusion.

But Sharpton, typically, attempted to dodge responsibility. He claimed to have no connection to the protests, though he had been caught on videotape leading a protest on Dec. 2, only six days before the fatal arson. Then Sharpton maintained that "we never said we were going after whites or Jews." Unfortunately for Sharpton, his "white interloper" speech had similarly been caught on tape.

This was hardly the first time Sharpton has lied to avoid having to face the consequences of his race baiting. In 1988, Sharpton participated in a fraudulent rape and kidnapping charge with racial overtones (the victim was a young black woman, the accused were a group of white men) and claimed to have evidence to prove that an assistant district attorney, Steve Pagones, had participated in the alleged crime. When it became clear that the accusation was false, Sharpton dug in his heels. He said, "We stated openly that Steven Pagones, the assistant district attorney did it.... If we're lying sue us, so we can go into court with you and prove you did it." Pagones did sue Sharpton for defamation--and won. Sharpton's response? "I didn't believe it to be a hoax then, and I don't believe it to be a hoax now." Oh.

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