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“Outraged” Again: Al Sharpton's Long History of Racism and Vulgarity

Al Sharpton is now angry about “racism” in a newspaper cartoon, but his own ugly history of racism is unrivaled.

By John Perazzo
March 5, 2009


Poor Al Sharpton. He’s been quite vexed lately, in reaction to a supposedly “racist” newspaper cartoon lampooning the Obama administration’s $789 billion federal stimulus package. Caricaturing the February 16th police shooting of a crazed and violent chimpanzee in Stamford, Connecticut, the offending cartoon, published in the New York Post, showed two police officers standing over the body of a chimp they had just gunned down, saying: “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” Perceiving the chimp in the cartoon to be a thinly veiled depiction of President Barack Obama, an outraged Sharpton swiftly organized a street protest calling for the Post to be shut down. His National Action Network website currently features a petition not only condemning the Post for its “blatant insensitivity to issues of race … and bias,” but also calling for “an immediate review” of the waiver that allows the paper to publish.

In the wake of the cartoon’s publication, Sharpton complained, “on behalf of the offended African-American community,” that this “
troublingincident “raises all the racial stereotypes we are trying to get away from in this country.” Calling the Posta racist rag sheet,” he demanded that the paper’s executives “reprimand their cartoonist for making inferences that are offensive and divisive.” “What does a chimpanzee have to do with the stimuli bill and the president?” a bewildered Sharpton asked. “What does any of it have to do with a chimpanzee being shot, other than you’re trying to make a very shrewd inference that the president and a monkey is the same thing?”

It seems to have escaped Sharpton’s understanding that Barack
Obama, the man he claims is represented by the chimp, did not write a single word of the stimulus bill. That colossal dishonor belongs to none other than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey, some fellow congressional Democrats, and a number of political lobbyists. In other words, in this particular single-frame New York Post cartoon, it was the incompetence and poor judgment of these (mostly white) individuals, and not of President Obama, that was the focus.

But alas, who can blame poor Al Sharpton for failing to comprehend any of this. After all, it isn’t his fault if the cartoonist, who claims that his intent was neither racist nor aimed at Obama, was not capable of articulating his thoughts as elegantly and as clearly as Sharpton. Few people are.

Indeed, who could forget the dulcet tones of Sharpton’s 1994 speech at New Jersey’s Kean College, where he lavished an audience of students and professors with pearls of eloquence and sensitivity like this:

“White folks was in the caves while we [blacks] was building empires … We built pyramids before Donald Trump ever knew what architecture was … we taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.”[1]

Lest you think that Sharpton was being unkind in his reference to homosexuals, he subsequently explained that while his use of the word “homos” may have been “irresponsible,” it certainly “is not a homophobic term”[2]—leaving us to conclude that he probably meant to use the word only in its best sense. “Ho,” as Sharpton would lecture us in the wake of Don Imus’s April 2007 “nappy-headed hos” fiasco, is supremely offensive. But “homo,” technically, is not. Get it?

Sharpton’s Kean College speech also featured him explaining that America’s founders consisted of “the worst criminals, the rejects they sent from Europe and sent them to the colonies.”
[3]  “So [if] some cracker,” he continued, “come and tell you ‘Well my mother and father blood go back to the Mayflower,’ you better hold you pocket. That ain’t nothing to be proud of, that means their forefathers was crooks.”[4]

For people squeamish enough to recoil at Sharpton’s use of the term “cracker,” he had a ready explanation: “Cracker,” Sharpton informed us, is merely a “colloquial term used to describe a certain kind of bigot, who hates both blacks and Jews. It’s certainly not a racist term and certainly not an anti-Semitic term, because a cracker hates Jews and blacks.”[5]  Get it?

Recall, further, Sharpton’s rhetoric during the deadly 1991 anti-Semitic riots in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights section, which erupted after a seven-year-old black child named Gavin Cato had been accidentally killed by a car driven by a Hasidic Jew. At Cato’s funeral, Sharpton criticized the Jewish community and thereafter organized a series of massive, angry demonstrations which ultimately devolved into destructive bedlam. Sharpton and his supporters, of course, said that the good Reverend could not be held responsible for any of this; after all, they explained, Sharpton hadn’t made any explicit calls for violence.

But Efraim Lipkind, a former Hasidic resident of Crown Heights who had witnessed the riots of 1991, stated the following in a July 1994 sworn deposition: “Then we had a famous man, Al Sharpton, who came down, and he said Tuesday night, kill the Jews, two times. I heard him, and he started to lead a charge across the street to Utica.”

Sharpton emphatically denied having said or done this. Perhaps he didn’t. Perhaps Mr. Lipkind was incorrect. We do know with certainty, however, that Sharpton characterized Gavin Cato’s death as being not merely the result of a car accident, but rather “the social accident of apartheid.”[7] And we do know that Sharpton challenged local Jews—to whom he derisively referred as “diamond merchants”—to “pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house” to settle the score.[8] And we do know that, stirred in part by such rhetoric and false accusations, hundreds of Crown Heights blacks took violently to the streets for three days and nights of rioting, pelting Jewish homes with rocks, setting vehicles on fire, and shouting “Jew! Jew!”[9] And we do know that Sharpton’s pathetic response to the rioting was: “We must not reprimand our children for outrage, when it is the outrage that was put in them by an oppressive system.”[10] And we do know that Sharpton, while in Israel searching for the driver who had run over Gavin Cato, likened the Jewish state to “hell.”[11] But none of this, we are presumably to believe, rises to the “chimp” cartoon’s level of insensitivity.

Then in 1995, Sharpton and his National Action Network led an ugly, racist boycott against Freddy’s Fashion Mart, a Jewish-owned shop in Harlem, New York. The boycott started when Freddy’s owner, a Sephardic Jew named Fred Harari, announced that because he wanted to expand his own business, he would no longer sublet part of his building to the black-owned “Record Shack” run by a man named Sikhulu Shange. In response, an angry Shange threatened Harari, stopped paying rent, hired a bevy of picketers, and commenced a protracted boycott of Freddy’s. The street leader of the boycott, Morris Powell, was the head of Sharpton’s “Buy Black” Committee.

The boycott was marked by innumerable expressions of racial hatred that somehow failed to offend Sharpton’s ostensibly sensitive heart. For example, one male boycotter, identifying himself as “Shabazz,” screamed: “Don’t shop at Freddy’s. Don’t give the [expletive] Jew bastard one dime, he doesn’t have no respect for black women.” When Freddy’s manager, Steve Brodsky, asked Shabazz why he was using such language in an obviously tense environment, the latter replied: “Go [expletive] yourself white boy, you fat bastard.”
[12] On another occasion, Shabazz forced his way into the store and shouted, “I will be back to burn the Jew store down, burn, burn, burn.”[13]

Shabazz and his fellow demonstrators took their rhetorical cue from the aforementioned Morris Powell. Pledging to ensure “that this cracker [Harari] suffers,” Powell told New York’s WWRL Radio audience that “these people” (i.e., Jews) “just sponge and parasite [sic] all for the dollar.”[14]  Among Powell’s more infamous quotes was this: “Keep [going] right on by Freddy’s, he’s one of the greedy Jew Bastards killing our people. Don’t give the Jew a dime. [Expletive] the Jews.”[15]

“These phrases,” Steve Brodsky testified to the New York Supreme Court, “were then repeated in almost chant-like fashion over the next few days by the other demonstrators.”[16] Making frequent reference to “bloodsucking Jews” and “white crackers,” the boycotters threatened to “loot and burn the Jews.”[17]

Kareem Brunner, a black security guard employed by Freddy’s, also testified before the state Supreme Court, reporting that he personally had heard the boycotters say such things as: “Kill the crackers”; “Get the Jew bastards”; and “This block is for blacks only, get the Jew owners out.”[18]  Brunner elaborated:

“The protestors were threatening to kill all white people, calling them ‘crackers’ and [saying] that they were going to get ‘20 more niggers to loot and set fire to the merchandise both inside and outside the store’ … Whenever the police left, the protestors continued to ignore the wooden ‘horses’ the police had erected in front of the store, threatening customers up close and personal. I took these threats as directed against me personally also. I was told by them many times that I was a ‘cracker lover’ and ‘would get mine as a traitor’ [to the black race]…. Customers who came to the store, especially black customers, were likewise told that they ‘would get theirs’ for being ‘cracker lovers’ or ‘traitors.’ … On [one videotape of the boycott] you can clearly see one of the protestors gesturing as if he was striking a match and throwing it at the store. I have seen that same protestor do similar acts myself, but scream ‘burn Cracker burn’ when doing it….”[19]

Yet remarkably, none of these comments offended the oh-so-sensitive Al Sharpton. In fact, all of this occurred under his watchful, approving eye. Pledging that “[w]e will not stand by and allow them to move this brother [Mr. Shange] so some white interloper can expand his business on 125th Street,”[20] Sharpton exhorted local blacks to join “the struggle brother Powell and I are engaged in.”[21]  Just for the record, we should keep in mind that the so-called “white interloper” was the owner of the building.

Powell’s own words gave further evidence of the close alliance that existed between him and Sharpton, and confirmed the fact that Sharpton was a central, not a peripheral, figure in the boycott. Likening Sharpton’s “position to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ,” Powell told radio audiences at various times: “Brother Sharpton is on it. We have made contact with these crackers” (i.e., Freddy’s); “We just hope the community stands by [Sharpton]”; and “I don’t know what would have happened if we didn’t have Al Sharpton there.”

Over time the picketing became increasingly violent in tone, until one of the protesters, a 51-year-old ex-con named Roland Smith, eventually shot four whites inside the store and then set the building on fire—killing seven employees. One of the dead was the aforementioned Kareem Brunner.

Remember the foregoing quotes and facts the next time you see Al Sharpton standing before a news camera, blabbering his inevitable “outrage” over one thing or another. Remember who he is and what he has countenanced. And keep in mind that his chief accomplishment in life has been to demonstrate how even a racist, cartoonish imbecile can gain notoriety if he is simply unafraid to verbalize, unfiltered, every paranoid delusion and hateful thought that comes to his mind.


[1] Jonathan Mahler, “Sharpton’s Image As New Moderate Dimmed by Video,” Forward (December 22, 1995), p. 4.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Felicia R. Lee, “Bitterness Pervades Funeral for Crown Heights Boy, 7,” The New York Times (August 27, 1991), p. B3.

[8] Andrea Peyser, “With ‘Peacemakers’ Like the Rev. Al, Who Needs Rabble-Rousers? New York Post (June 24, 1993), p. 4.

[9] “Two Deaths Ignite Racial Clash in Tense Brooklyn Neighborhood,” The New York Times (August 21, 1991), p. A1.  James Barron, “Brooklyn Victims: Wrong Place and Time,” The New York Times (August 21, 1991), pp. B1, B4.

[10] Sean Piccoli, “Malcolm X, the Legacy: Does Black Racism Exist?” Washington Times (November 18, 1992), pp. E1, E2.

[11] Michael Meyers, “Sucking up to Sharpton,” New York Post (January 19, 1999).

[12] “Freddy’s Desperate Call for Legal Help,” Forward (December 15, 1995), p. 7. 

[13] Ibid.

[14] “Radio Rage: Voices against Freddy’s,” Forward (December 22, 1995), p. 7.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Douglas Century, “At Impromptu Shrine, West Indian Onlooker Spews Words of Hate,” Forward (December 15, 1995), p. 8.

[18] “Freddy’s Desperate Call for Legal Help,” Forward (December 15, 1995), p. 7.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Cathy Burke, “Sharpton and Protester Caught in Tale of the Tape,” New York Post (December 13, 1995), p. 7.

[21] “A Challenge to Al Sharpton,” New York Post (December 16, 1995), p. 12.

[22] “Radio Rage: Voices against Freddy’s,” Forward (December 22, 1995), p. 7.

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