Dr. King did not gain prosperity and esteem for his work in civil rights. Much to the contrary, he gained nights in jail and assassination. History remembers him well, but in his day he suffered for his beliefs. Today, if the Rev. Sharpton suffers it is only an occasional missed dessert and the probable doom of his television show. (Facts are facts, and the fact is there exists no large audience eager to hear him bloviate on things he knows very little about -- namely, public matters. I heard him bloviate during the Democratic presidential debates. He is a vacuum.) That idealism pays today suggests why it attracts hucksters. Yet that is not wholly a bad thing.
To be a civil rights idealist is no longer a dangerous pursuit. In fact, the cause of civil rights is no longer a dangerous cause. That is because the vast majority of Americans favor civil rights for all Americans. There was a day when black people were barred from the Bill of Rights. To qualify to vote in some segregated areas of the South blacks had to take literacy tests that asked such questions as "How many bubbles are there in a bar of soap?" It is a funny question, but with a cruel consequence. Those days are past.
So now we have civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Sharpton. As he left the restaurant, he joshed to us about how he was engaged in cooling off his erstwhile opponent, John Francois Kerry, from making yet another campaign blunder. The Rev has a whiff of the magisterial to him. He puts on a grand show.
So there is no more lynching in the South or much prejudice up North. Al prospers. If only something could be done to help the poor blacks who are condemned to inner city schools. On that, Al has not a clue.
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