Rev. Al Sharpton, longtime fighter for justice and civil rights, is used to virulent attacks from the right—and sometimes from the left—but a cartoon in the conservative publications National Review and Investor’s Business Daily, has invoked the ire of activists by using lynchings to attack him.
The cartoon by Michael Ramirez of Investor’s Business Daily, shows a lynching tree that has been labeled “Sharpton,” with four lynched bodies – each labeled “truth,” hanging from its extended limb. Underneath the four figures are captions reading “Tawana Brawley Hoax, Crown Heights, Freddie’s Fashion Mart” and “Zimmerman Trial,” which conservatives believe are four questionable causes Sharpton has been connected to over the years.
The right wing is upset with Sharpton for organizing the more than 100 marches in cities across the U.S. on Saturday through his National Action Network, pressing the U.S. Justice Department to file civil rights charges against George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin.
The cartoon comes after commentators on Fox News referred to Sharpton and other leaders as “hustlers” and “racist” for leading the demonstrations and criticizing Zimmerman’s acquittal. A Fox commentator even compared Sharpton to former Klan leader, David Duke.
“It’s horrifying to think that the terror lynching would be so flippantly employed to try and shame and silence Rev. Sharpton,” Blair L.M. Kelley, an historian and associate professor at North Carolina State University, told The Grio. “How odd that an outspoken black advocate for justice would symbolize the lynching tree.”
“At the turn of the 20th century thousands of black men, women, and children were lynched specifically for speaking on their own behalf, and millions more lived in fear of racial terror,” Kelley said. “Rev. Sharpton, by exercising his own right to free speech, is no threat to anyone in a free and democratic society. It’s shameful to think that the real murders of thousands of American citizens should be trivialized for a political talking point.”
“How horribly ironic that this cartoonist and by association, the National Review would use the awful iconography of racial violence in order to mount an ad hominem attack against Reverend Sharpton,” said LeHigh University professor of African-American Studies and MSNBC contributor, James Braxton Peterson. “After hours organizing and leading a peaceful vigil across over 100 cities in honor of the modern-day lynching of Trayvon Martin, Sharpton spent the night in one of Harlem’s most dilapidated housing projects in order to spotlight the inhumane conditions there. I wonder how the editors of the National Review spent their weekend?”
Sharpton, who had no comment on the cartoon, was the frequent subject of horribly racist cartoons in the New York Post over the past three decades as he fought for justice for blacks in New York.
Yet the Sharpton attacks didn’t stop there. More condemnation came from Cornel West who, along with Tavis Smiley, has gone after Sharpton with increasing nastiness in recent years.
“It’s too humiliating. It’s too embarrassing. You see it with brother Sharpton,” West said of the question of blacks pushing the president to force the Justice Department to take action against Zimmerman. “Sharpton probably deep down wants to be critical of the president, but he can’t because he’s still on the Obama plantation.”