Washington (CNSNews.com) - Former Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton blasted blacks Thursday for what he described as their blind support of the Democratic Party without demanding anything in return.
Sharpton, during his remarks at the National Urban League's annual conference in Washington, noted that his fellow Democrats, including former President Bill Clinton, have taken African-American voters for granted and failed to act in the best interests of the black community.
"The whole network of incarceration (of African-American men) happened under this president and the last president. So it wasn't just George Bush. Bill Clinton -- I wish Hillary had hung around -- Bill Clinton built a lot of jails and passed the omnibus crime bill," Sharpton said shortly after Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) had addressed the same panel discussion, entitled "The Black Male: Endangered Species or Hope for the Future?"
Sharpton noted that African-American men make up 6 percent of the U.S. population but 44 percent of the nation's prison population.
"And just because Bill can sing "Amazing Grace" well doesn't mean the omnibus crime bill was not a bill that hurt our people," Sharpton told the several hundred people gathered at the Washington Convention Center.
Clinton enjoyed significant African-American support and was affectionately referred to by many in the black community as America's "first black president."
"We must stop allowing people to gain politically from us if they're not reciprocating when dealing and being held accountable," said Sharpton, referring to the allegiance that African-American voters maintain to the Democratic Party.
Sharpton said many politicians who court the black vote "come by and get our votes 'cause they wave at us on Sunday morning while the choir's singing. And we act like that is reaching out."
The problem is these same politicians "never addressed why they sit here in Washington with an epidemic proportion of HIV AIDS in our (black) community, unemployment in our community and they do nothing to deal with eliminating those problems," Sharpton explained.
"Imagine me going to a convention of whites who half of them were unemployed and I smiled, waved, sing a hymn and leave. They would whip me in the parking lot before [I left]," he said to laughter and applause.
"As long as we allow people to get elected off of us and deliver nothing to us, then part of our problem is that we have such low political self esteem," he said. "Every time we give them support for no support, we add to the marginalization of black men."
Sharpton said the situation has "gotten so bad that we hold black leaders accountable and give white leaders a pass."
'People emulate what they see'
Sharpton also took aim at black popular culture. Noting that in some U.S. cities, black male unemployment exceeds 50 percent, Sharpton said black music and movies only aggravate the situation.
"We come out in response to that with movies like (the 2005) "Hustle and Flow" and tell our kids that the personification of black men is a black pimp of a white prostitute that wants to be a rapper who shoots the rapper and at the end of the movie, [a] black woman he had as his prostitute has his baby and the white prostitute becomes the head of the record company and makes the money while he's in jail. That don't make sense," Sharpton said to applause.
"People emulate what they see ...We cannot succumb to a generation that acts like it's all right to celebrate being down. It's one thing to be down, it's another thing to celebrate being down," he explained.
Referring to gangster rappers, Sharpton said, "We've gone from 'black and proud' to groups now calling themselves "Niggers with an attitude."
Sharpton told the panel discussion of how he has confronted rappers about their lyrics only to be told that the rappers simply "reflect the times." Sharpton said black art and culture used to project its "hopes for the future."
"In slavery we wasn't singing, 'you a low down cotton pickin ho.' That would've reflected the times," he said to more laughter and applause.
"In the civil rights era, we sang "We shall overcome" we didn't sing 'You in the back of the bus, got gum on your show, no good MF.' I mean we've been down before. We never romanticized it and put melody to it and acted like it was all right," he added.
Sharpton concluded his discussion with a call for the black community to help itself and return churches to "the center of our community."
"Even if we [are] not responsible for being down, we [are] responsible for getting up," he said. "And if we wait on those who knocked us down to lift us up we'll never get up 'cause if they wanted us up we would have never been down," he said.
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