Al Sharpton, who has sought to reinvent himself as a legitimate civil rights leader, is facing renewed criticism that his rhetoric helped stoke an environment that contributed to the fatal shootings of two police officers in New York City, The Washington Post reported
Sharpton continues to spearhead demonstrations
in the wake of recent incidents in which white police officers have shot unarmed black men who were resisting arrest.
In 1989, then-New York City mayor Ed Koch referred to him as "Al Charlatan"
and then-conventional civil rights leaders thought of him as a "racial arsonist"
infamous for his anti-white and anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Sharpton's efforts to create a different biographical narrative – focusing on his relationship as an adviser to President Barack Obama, a confidante of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, and as host of his own program on progressive-oriented MSNBC – has lately suffered a blow
Former New York governor George Pataki and New York Republican Rep. Peter King have said that Sharpton contributed to the creation of an anti-police environment. Bernard Kerik, a former NYPD commissioner, charged Sharpton with having blood on his hands, the Post reported.
The street-reverend is not short of supporters. African-American studies Prof. Peniel Joseph describes Sharpton as "probably the country's most well-known civil rights activist." He invariably turns up at the side of family members after a police shooting. National Urban League president Marc Morial says that Sharpton has devoted his career to "police-community violence" making his current role "a natural," according to the Post.
Some younger African-Americans, however, see Sharpton's efforts to re-brand as selling out. "Al Sharpton doesn't speak for us," Erika Maye told the Post
. "His focus on respectability, pulling up your pants and getting an education – that doesn't keep our brothers and sisters safe. You can do everything you’re supposed to do, but if a police officer sees you, they will see you as a suspect, so you can still be subject to police violence."
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