by Bob McManus
It was just like the old days: As New York wrestles with a race-tinged tragedy, Al Sharpton sends a nastygram.
The one-time portly pastor, now whippet-thin but as full of it as ever, stepped into a borrowed pulpit at Harlem’s Mount Neboh Baptist Church on Friday — and promptly stirred the same old pot.
Sharpton had been invited to eulogize Jordan Neely, a severely troubled, often violent vagrant who died May 1 while restrained in a chokehold applied by fellow subway passenger Daniel Penny.
It was, as they say, a teachable moment.
Certainly the Neely tragedy touches on so much of what makes life in New York City so difficult now: publicly expressed mental illness; random violence; the growing inability of existing institutions to protect the vulnerable — and the dangers such instabilities pose to public support for the rule of law itself.
But Neely was black and Penny is white — and that’s all Al needed.
Out tumbled the usual blizzard of words, and some even made sense. Certainly he wasn’t wrong to call out New York’s enduring failure to address mental-health issues.
But his time-tested, thoroughly predictable and impossible-to-miss core message resided in these two sentences:
“When they choked Jordan, they put their arms around all of us.
“All of us have the right to live.”
“They” being white New York; “us” being black New York — and never mind nuance, context or common sense.
Just like that, Gotham’s race-baiter emeritus was back.
Jordan Neely was choked to death on the subway.AP see also
The same man who pushed the infamous Tawana Brawley hustle, who helped three days of rioting in Crown Heights in 1991, who never missed an opportunity for anti-Semitism, didn’t preach unity or love. He stoked division.
Life has sanded down a bit of the Rev’s rough edges. After all, he’s living off donations to his National Action Network, TV gigs and personal appearances — and too much-naked demagoguery may put those in jeopardy.
But you know what they say about stripes and zebras: Some things will never change.
Yet Friday’s race-baiting, however deplorable, is also ironic. It may have benefited Sharpton’s interests — and certainly his ego — but it also undercut a black mayor struggling to govern an increasingly unstable city.
Sharpton spoke at Harlem’s Mount Neboh Baptist Church on Friday.Derek French/Shutterstock
Indeed, government in New York — even in Albany — is now overwhelmingly run by black, brown or otherwise minority incumbents. How does racializing a crisis help them?
Or, more properly, New York itself?
It doesn’t — but Al Sharpton doesn’t care. He never did.