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May 03, 2007 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2007-05-03

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Editorials are posted and archived on JNonline.us.

Dry Bones


Sharpton's Accountability


hen Don Imus stepped over
the line, he was held account-
able and lost his radio and
television show. When the prosecutor in
the Duke University lacrosse team case
was found to have breached the public
trust, he was held accountable and may
face severe sanctions from the North
Carolina bar.
But who holds Al Sharpton accountable?
What happens to him whenever his accu-
sations and slurs are unsupported by the
evidence or simple decency? Apparently,
not much.
While demanding that Imus be fired for
racist and sexist remarks, Sharpton never
felt the need to apologize for his own
intemperate statements about the Duke
athletes. It is also a sorry matter of record
that Sharpton and those who speak in his
name have a long history of anti-Semitism
and have never felt inclined to make any
apologies for that.
America should demand more of its
self-appointed moral conscience.
He was in the middle of the horrific
Crown Heights rioting in Brooklyn in

1991. Speaking at the funeral of a child
accidentally killed by a Chasidic motorist,
Sharpton attacked "diamond merchants"
for having "the blood of innocent babies
on their hands."
His listeners knew exactly to whom he
was referring and several of them went
out and murdered a rabbinical student
who had nothing to do with the incident.
Four years later, he led the protests
against a Jewish storeowner who raised
the rent of a black sub-tenant in Harlem.
Sharpton referred to the businessman as
a "white interloper" while his followers
chanted "Burn down the Jew store." They
eventually did and eight people died.
What was never mentioned was that the
rent was raised only because the building's
landlord, a black church, had raised the
rent of the storeowner.
When challenged on these events,
Sharpton told his Jewish critics to "pull
their yamulkes back and get it on."
New York's liberal establishment is
reluctant to challenge Sharpton because
he has become the chief power broker of
the city's black community. The Village


Voice has written that no
Democrat can get elected
there "without kissing his
Many of the city's
Jewish leaders deny that
he is an anti-Semite,
"although he has been
involved in incidents that
were anti-Semitic." How's
that for hair-splitting?
But political clout is not
quite the same as moral
Imus' remarks were
indefensible, and although
he apologized he paid a
price for them. The same
goes for Michael Nifong,
the prosecutor in Durham
County, N.C.
Sincere repentance is
a foundation of religious morality. As a
member of the clergy, Sharpton should
understand that.
He seems to believe where he's con-
cerned, however, that donning the mantle









of moral superiority means never having
to say you're sorry. II

E-mail letters of no more than 150 words to:


Reality Check

Unexpected Wisdom


ydney Harris, who wrote for the
Chicago Daily News, would occa-
sionally start one of his pieces
off with the heading: "Things I found out
while looking up something else."
Harris' syndicated column used to be
a regular feature in the Detroit Free Press
and it was one of my favorites. I thought
that those particular pieces touched upon
one of the distinct pleasures of reading a
newspaper: You just never know what you
are going to find when you turn the page.
There have been a lot of changes since
Harris was writing. Among them is the
fact that the Chicago Daily News went
out of business. And columns such as his
that appeal to the inquiring mind, "think
pieces',' are not regarded as relevant today
by the corporate geniuses who determine
the content of most daily papers.
It is also the conventional wisdom that
the future of these newspapers depends

on the Internet. I
am no longer in
daily journalism,
so I don't have to
believe that if I
don't want to. But
I really can't dis-
agree too strenu-
A Web page,
after all, is far
more efficient. It
conveys the reader right to the articles he's
interested in without that tedious sorting
through pages. It takes mere seconds.
The problem is he doesn't find out any-
thing new along the way. The reader only
confirms his knowledge in a narrowly
targeted group of issues. It leaves him
uninformed about others that may inter-
est him if he ever came across them. Some
of them may even be important.

The rationalization is that nobody has
time for that sort of thing anymore. People
need information and they need it in a
hurry. But I believe it also leads to a lot of
people making decisions in a void, based
on a limited number of sources and input.
I am a great advocate of random intel-
ligence, opening an unexpected door and
finding an entirely new room to explore.
It is one of the things that separate us
from machines that are programmed
to perform only specified tasks effec-
tively. Randomness is a gift that makes us
A college friend recently retired from
the Chicago Tribune, embittered by the
changes he has seen. He asked ine how I
could justify teaching college journalism
when I know the jobs for which I'm pre-
paring my students may not even exist.
I think they will, although in a different
form than today. But those who can write

well and understand how to organize a
story to engage the reader will always find
employment somewhere in journalism.
Life does take unexpected turns,
though, and it surprises me that I take a
good deal of satisfaction when I see one of
my students improve. I never had thought
of myself as a teacher before.
So I am now registering a limited num-
ber of high school students in our com-
munity to work with them as a writing
coach; helping them with college admis-
sion essays and writing more effective
papers and tests.
Maybe it's the old Sydney Harris syn-
drome. On the way to doing something
else, I found a late-blooming vocation.
It's never too late to bloom, you know.

George Cantor's e-mail address is


May 3 2007


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