Tuesday, August 03, 2004
I did it: I mentioned last week that one of my colleagues at work had dismissed race-baiter and hatemonger Al Sharpton as "harmless." With Sharpton's background as the main promoter of the Tawana Brawley hoax, inciting the Crown Heights riots -- which left one Orthodox Jew dead -- and the massacre at Freddy's Fashion Mart, I found his dismissal of Sharpton's past troubling.
So, I did what I suggested I might do: I likened Sharpton to another race-baiting hatemonger: David Duke.
It didn't go over well.
First, there was the insistence that I couldn't compare Sharpton to a KKK-er. (I thought I just had.) The KKK lynched blacks. It was a terrorist group that killed people.
Yes, it was/and it is -- but I also pointed out that Sharpton too had blood on his hands. David Duke isn't harmless. Neither is Al Sharpton.
Then it came. The debate equivalent of a nuclear bomb. The use of this weapon comes when someone is losing a debate on the facts and must resort to personal attacks -- racial attacks.
I was told that I couldn't say the things I was saying about Al Sharpton in the newsroom -- as he gestured in an attempt to point out the overwhelming number of white faces. I was also told that if someone from HR (human resources) had been standing there, listening to this conversation, I would be in trouble.
I'd uttered no racial slurs. I hadn't attacked the "black community" or anything remotely similar. I hadn't praised the Ku Klux Klan -- I'd condemned it. I hadn't encouraged violence -- I'd condemned it. I hadn't called my colleague any names.
I'd compared Al Sharpton to David Duke. I'd contended that Al Sharpton was not "harmless."
And for that, I was being accused of racism. I was being barred from criticizing Sharpton because I wasn't black.
At that point I shut my mouth and walked away. You can't have an honest discussion with someone when criticizing a public figure who happens to be black (not criticizing them because they're black) is determined to be racism.
I've had numerous, honest, discussions with colleagues at work who disagree with me. Every prior discussion has honest and respectful -- until now.
The scary thing about this incident was supposition on my colleague's part that a conservative viewpoint in the newsroom was somehow beyond the pale. That uttering such views (that race-baiting hatemongers aren't harmless regardless of the color of their skin) was reason enough to bring in HR.