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38 Years Later

By John Martin - Posted on 16 January 2007

As Republicans, we like to tell ourselves that we’re color blind and that America should be color blind– that people should be judged and rewarded for their talent and hard work, and not on where they came from or the shade of their skin.

On some level then, it’s a good thing that the likes of Al Sharpton and Harry Belafonte don’t write Obama a blank check. It’s a good thing that Reverend Al can line up behind a wealthy and white John Edwards because of where he stands politically, and a good thing that Belafonte warns that America should “be careful about Obama,” because “we don’t know what he’s truly about.” Hopefully it’s a sign of our maturity and progress as a democracy that even the most left-leaning political leaders now look beyond a candidate’s skin color.

It’s hard to not be at least a little suspicious, though, that Sharpton is more about Sharpton than anything else, and is frustrated that Obama’s style of politics wins over voters of all races the way Al’s never was. After his failed attempt to become the President of Black America with the 2004 election, you just get the feeling that Al is doing whatever he can to not slip into irrelevancy, even if that means hijacking what would obviously be a huge step forward for Black Americans.

It’s hard to not think that if Martin Luther King were alive today, a day after what would be his 78th birthday, he’d wince at the fact that black leaders with an agenda already line up against our first legitimate Black presidential candidate, even before he announces he’s running. It’s hard not to think that after a life of working to help blacks enter the American mainstream and be treated like any other American, MLK wouldn’t question Harry Belafonte’s warning of “be careful about Obama.” What does Belafonte mean by this?

People can decide on their own, but my bet is that Belafonte is frustrated that today’s civil rights movement looks different than the one he grew up with and will die trying to relive. He’s frustrated with the possibility that a majority of Americans may now actually be more interested in a candidate’s qualifications than with the color of his or her skin. He’s annoyed with the fact that if an African-American can now be elected president, there’ll be one last thing for Harry Belafonte to complain about.

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