On Thursday, March 27, 2008 columnist Tonyaa Weathersbee and blogger SheCodes appeared on Al Sharpton's radio show to discuss the intense pressure Al Sharpton and the NAACP received from bloggers and their readers regarding their support of the four males who are accused of raping a mother and her child.
We must refute some statements and accusations Mr. Sharpton made regarding the blogger campaign to denounce his unfortunate and disrespectful position in the Dunbar Village (DV) gang rape.
CAMPAIGNING FOR EQUAL MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE
Contrary to what Mr. Sharpton attempted to imply on his radio show, he did not stand before the courthouse to demand the Boca Raton rapists are denied bail. He was not complaining about preferential treatment on their behalf. If that were the case, he would have been flanked by the family members of the two girls who were raped in Boca Raton. Instead, he stood before the cameras flanked by the family members of the DV rapists and described the treatment the DV rapists have received as "unfair". He stood with them because he was advocating for them. What sense does it make to stand with the DV rapists families if he felt they should be denied bail? This backpedaling footwork would make an NFL Pro Bowl cornerback proud.
According to Nancy Othon of the Sun-Sentinel: He [Sharpton] repeatedly expressed his concern about the lack of bail for the Dunbar defendants.
According to Michael Bender of the Palm Beach Post the day before the press conference: Sharpton also will condemn the "unfair" treatment of the suspects in the Dunbar Village assaults, said the Rev. William Richardson, the Florida director of the National Action Network.
According to WPBF-TV, the local ABC affiliate: The Reverend Al Sharpton Tuesday said four black teens charged in the gang rape and beating of a West Palm Beach woman and her son were treated unfairly. Sharpton said the teens charged in the June 2007 attack in the Dunbar Village housing project should have been treated the same as five white teens recently accused of raping two young girls in Boca Raton after a party.
And far as making the rape cases equal, therefore demanding equal treatment under the law I'll start with the words of Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post: To call these cases identical, as Sharpton did, is to ignore far too much. And to make martyrs of the Dunbar teenagers only trivializes real cases of racial injustice and further denigrates two black victims of unspeakable crimes.
The crimes in Dunbar Village were horrific, and its not that the boys in Boca Raton deserve less than the standard punishment, the boys in Dunbar Village deserve more. Their crime was heinous and they will continue to be described by me as a roving pack of armed animals seeking to inflict unimaginable pain and damage.
BLAME THE MESSENGER
I resent the idea that people would blame the messenger for the message, rather than looking at the content of the message itself. -Anita Hill
They would love for you to fall in line with their "blame the messenger" defense strategy. Blame the messenger because they don't know what they are talking about. Blame the messenger because they got it all wrong. Mr Sharpton you can continue to ignore the benefits that technology and blogging bring to activism, thats your prerogative. You can dismiss bloggers as inaccurate and unreliable, that, sir, will be to your detriment. But bloggers specifically and grassroots activists in general are the coattails you ride into town on.
Bloggers made Jena possible, not Al Sharpton. Dunbar Village will be remembered for the work of bloggers, not Al Sharpton. To characterize us as a mere group of bloggers who get it wrong will not work with this case. If indeed we did get it wrong, we were not alone. We are joined by The Palm Beach Post, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Associated Press, and Black America Web, to name a few. You saw some of the excerpts above. There is no grand conspiracy to manipulate Al Sharpton's words. We didn't get it wrong. If anyone got anything wrong it was Sharpton for failing to deliver an unambiguous delivery of his position.
The bloggers who have contacted reporters who were on the scene, local politicians and spoke with Dunbar Village residents do not provide false information to our readers. Everything we post on our blogs can be verified. We don't post hearsay.
If there is any group of people who can't seem to get their facts straight its Sharpton and his National Action Network employees. From contradictory statements between the NAACP and NAN on who held the press conference to lies about not receiving blogger requests for clarification, the NAN has mishandled this from the beginning.
Numerous emails, letters and phone calls were made to the National Action Network. Our need for clarification was ignored. No matter what they tell you, we reached out to them. We did it as a perfunctory but sincere move because we knew they thought very little of us, but we hoped to learn their stance. They decided we were nothing more than a minor annoyance that would go away. We won't go away.
Truly, in his rush to simply play a role, any role, in Dunbar Village, I don't believe Mr. Sharpton actually thought out what position he was willing to stand for.
Let this be the alarm for any man, woman or organization that decides to align itself with those who harm Black women and children - today is a new day. Today is the day you realize we are an omnipresent force to be reckoned with and respected.
I leave you with a few words from Bella Abzug:
...whatever I am —and this ought to be made very clear—I am a very serious woman.