WASHINGTON, August 26, 2014 — Rev. Al Sharpton called on the nation to police its police officers, and for the black community to police itself in his eulogy of Michael Brown.
Sharpton’s speech fired up the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church crowd when he spoke of Michael Brown’s body being left in the street for over four hours, uncovered in a pool of blood, “like nobody cared about him, like he didn’t have any loved ones, like his life value didn’t matter”.
When Sharpton spoke of the heavy, military-grade police response that came after the incident against what were, at the time, peaceful protests, mourners were again on their feet.
Sharpton has been a controversial figure for over 25 years, starting when he became the face of the Tawana Brawley case. Brawley was a 15-year-old from upstate New York who claimed that she had been abducted, raped, and abused by a group of white men, who smeared her with feces and wrote sexist and racist slurs on her clothes and body.
A media circus over the case pushed Sharpton into the limelight; many believed the frenzy was instigated and fueled by Sharpton for the publicity it brought to him.
After almost a year of investigation, authorities concluded Brawley made up the incident and staged the evidence because she had gone out with her boyfriend even though she had been grounded.
After hearing his eulogy at Brown’s funeral, it is clear that Sharpton’s critics today should listen to his words of today, not only his reputation of the past.
Al Sharpton did not only take the opportunity to question police behavior, but also to call out the behavior of the black community.
Early in his speech, a listener knew this was going to be different from what was expected when he scolded the rioters in Ferguson for making the grieving Brown family “to break their mourning and ask you to control your anger. Like you are more angry than they are. This is not about you.”
He added that the black community is “not anti-police, we respect police but those that are wrong need to be dealt with just as people in our community that are wrong need to be dealt with.”
“Our killing and shooting and running around gun toting. Some of us act like the definition of blackness is as low as you can go.
“Blackness has never been about being a gangster or thug, blackness was about no matter how low you pushed us down we rose up anyhow.
“Blackness was never about surrendering the pursuit of excellence, it was when it was against the law to go to some schools we built black schools and learned anyway, when we couldn’t go to church we built our own and now we get to the 21 century we get to where we have some positions of power and you decide that it ain’t black no more to be successful.”
One of the most shocking moments of the speech came when Sharpton called out African-American youth’s actions by saying, “Now you want to be a N**** and call your woman a whore. You lost where you have come from.”
Although Sharpton questioned the aggressive level of policing for low-level crimes such as selling “Lucy” (single) cigarettes in New York and jaywalking in Ferguson where two young men ended up dead and asked, “aren’t police trained above that,” he also said, “we have to clean up our own community so we can clean up the United States of America. Nobody going to help us if we don’t help ourselves. Sitting around having ghetto pity parties. Feeling sorry for ourselves won’t help anything.”
Rev. Sharpton is hoping through his speech to make change, and not just from one side of the issue.