September 22nd, 2021


Doesn't Al Sharpton deserve a rest?

Wesley Pruden

By Wesley Pruden

Published December 2, 2014

Meeting of the "community activists".
The terror of Ebola in the United States has subsided. Maybe it's too soon to tell, but it looks like we're not all dead, after all. Dispatches from West Africa have vanished from the front pages. The digital purveyors of news have gone on to more important catastrophes, such as the latest celebrity wardrobe malfunctions, feuding between Whoopi Goldberg and Rosie O'Donnell, and gays fighting in borrowed hot tubs. The disappearance of Ebola from the public consciousness is a tribute not to the power of medical science, however, but to the power of the press.

The wretches of the press (or the media as we sometimes call it now) have the attention span of a 3-year-old and this week the flavor of the week is the terror of Jim Crow, who apparently has returned to take command of police departments everywhere. President Obama, Eric Holder, The Washington Post and The New York Times have all the breathless details of life in the rotten society where we all are doomed to live.

President Obama and the Rev. Al Sharpton convened a meeting at the White House Monday to do something about it. It's not clear whether the mob at Ferguson, which mourned the death of Michael Brown and assuaged its grief by trying to burn down the town, will now be satisfied with anything short of lynching Darren Wilson, the police officer who, in fear of his life, shot young Mr. Brown — or, as he is invariably identified in media boilerplate, "the slain 18-year-old unarmed Michael Brown," as if Unarmed was his Christian name. He is rarely identified as "the angry 6-foot 5-inch, 250-pound young man who charged at the officer."

Two wrongs do not make a right, and death, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is an organ with many mouths. The undisputed details of how the young man died may never be revealed, which is OK because in the New Age everyone is entitled not only to his opinion but to his own facts. If such facts are not available, make them up.

President Obama wants more money to throw at a "problem" that is not yet identified in all its grim particulars. Young Mr. Brown's parents think the answer is in "body cameras" to be worn by policemen, so the president and his administration wants Congress to spend $263 million to buy 50,000 cameras for the nation's police departments. Nothing yet on whether the program can be expanded to outfit the public with such cameras, to be worn like seat belts to get the full picture of confrontations between cops and mischief-makers.

The president promises that he will discuss with his Cabinet the "militarization" of local police departments, and promises to appoint the inevitable task force to make recommendations to him about how to redirect the $5.1 billion giveaway in discarded military gear. "We support the use of cameras and video technology by law enforcement officers, and the Department of Justice continues to research best practices for implementation," the White House said in response to a public petition with 154,000 signatures.

The White House said it would provide "new training resources and money to study how to reform police practices." Except for the anticipated usual government waste, this will no doubt be money well spent. Well-trained policemen are needed and welcome everywhere.

But somewhere here somebody should say a good word for teaching impressionable young men (and women) of whatever color that confronting a policeman, disobeying his lawful order and trying to take his gun away from him, is not a good idea. Maybe Michael Brown didn't want to walk on the sidewalk. Maybe he preferred the street. Maybe he didn't like the officer's tone of voice. He was entitled to his opinion. He was not entitled to do something about it. Later he could tell it to the judge.

Perhaps the president could explain this to whoever needs to hear it. If he's busy Eric Holder could do it. Right now they're busy instructing white folks how to behave themselves. But one of them could remind everyone that if Michael Brown had resisted the urge to confront and reform the cop, to obey the cop's lawful order, to keep his hands (raised or not) to himself he could have saved his life and saved his parents the grief of an unspeakable loss that can't be relieved no matter how many beauty shops and convenience stores the mob burns down.

This would be a genuine service to everyone, and the president and the attorney general could let Al Sharpton, called to the White House so often and who has done so much to so many, get a rest.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.