I am barely old enough to remember all the controversy surrounding the Tawana Brawley rape trial but there are two things about the ordeal that were etched into my memory growing up: 1) Someone did horrible things to a girl because she was Black and 2) Al Sharpton spoke up for her.
Now that the dust has settled around the highly publicized Nafissatou Diallo–Dominique Strauss-Khan rape allegations, many are wondering “wait a minute, where was Sharpton?”
The New York Times reports that Sharpton says he was unwilling to speak out publicly on the matter because he was not privy to Diallo’s defense strategy and therefore did not have enough information to weigh in on the matter.
Writes The New York Times: “Mr. Sharpton said...he would be willing to meet with Ms. Diallo, but that an invitation to meet her was never subsequently offered.”
Really? I’m sorry, but I always thought that if I got into some sort of sexual assault drama with such large race and class implications, Sharpton and a slew of civil rights leaders would be calling me, asking if I needed help crafting my strategy and offering pointers. That’s what I always thought we had civil rights leaders for, to lead us — not wait around for “my people to call their people.”
Perhaps it’s the sting of the Tawana Brawley case. I can understand Sharpton not wanting to throw himself into the spotlight for a rape case for which he knows nothing about. Totally understandable and logical. But having nothing to say whatsoever about a case that captured much of the Western world for months on end, involving a Black woman living just miles away from Sharpton: unacceptable.
Rape cases should be prosecuted and left for a jury to decide; they shouldn’t ever be allowed to “fall apart,” but maybe if Sharpton had reached out to Diallo, she and her defense wouldn’t have made some of the moves that many say were fatal to their case.
Ironically, in Sharpton’s defense, we don’t have enough information to rail against his silence in a wholesale manner. However, if Sharpton is no longer in the business of running to defend the rights of Black women and men who claim they’ve suffered horrible, demoralizing attacks, I hope someone else is.
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(Photo: Commercial Appeal /Landov)