Black on Black Politics: Sharpton and Obama

Al Sharpton has issues with Barack Obama. I don’t think that this will be the last time Sharpton takes a shot at Obama.

I like Al Sharpton, and I agree with him on many issues. While I think that Sharpton is being a bit extreme and is jealous of the attention that Obama is receiving, I do think he has a point. He raises an interesting question with regards to Black people and how we think about politics, especially when Black people are on the ballot with non-Black people:

Why shouldn’t the black community ask questions?

A lot of times when a candidate that is Black is a candidate, I find myself often wanting to give that person the benefit of the doubt on a lot of issues. I don’t think that I’m alone.

The question is why?
Do I want to see a Black Mayor/Council Person/President that badly?
Do I think that having a Black person “in power” will benefit me directly?
Am I making the assumption that because they are Black that I will always agree with them?

I think that it is not only irresponsible for me to vote for the Black candidate solely because they are Black, but I also think that it is disrespectful to the candidate. I see it as basically saying to that person, “I will let you use being Black as an excuse for me to not give your positions any sort of thought.”

Wouldn’t we be mad if someone outright said that? Sadly, if you don’t give thought to all of the reasons you vote for a person, that is exactly what you’re saying. If we don’t respect our people’s positions enough to give thought to them, who will?

One Love. One II.

Black Issues
Barack Obama


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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

10 responses to “Black on Black Politics: Sharpton and Obama”

  1. Political Realm says :

    While I agree that black voters should ask questions and not be counted on to automatically support a black candidate, I do think Sharpton’s attack is out of place. What has Obama done to make the black community feel he has taken them for granted?

  2. Garlin II says :

    My charge is not that Obama has taken the Black community for granted; to my knowledge, I do not believe that he has done that. I am not sure that Sharpton is saying that either.

    My charge is that Black voters should not take the positions Black candidates for granted.

  3. Brandon Q. says :

    Garlin, I think political realm is on point. From the article,

    “Senator Obama and I agree that the war is wrong, but then I want to know why he went to Connecticut and helped Lieberman, the biggest supporter of the war,”

    Now let’s assume that because the war is a major issue facing our country at this time, why would he then not ask Hillary why she voted for the war? And I understand the camaraderie of New York politics, but something has to give.

    Putting race aside, which is more damning, helping the campaign of Joe Lieberman or actually voting for the war!

    G, I don’t think the issue is not whether Black people should ask questions, but rather, are we holding Obama to unrealistic expectations that we would never hoist on a white establishment candidate, such as Hillary?

  4. Garlin II says :

    I’m not sure that Sharpton is a fan of Hillary Clinton, but regardless, I feel that that is beyond the scope of my question.

    With that said, I think that you ask an important question about standards/expectations B. It is unwise have some unfair litmus test placed on a candidate because they are Black, regardless of who is doing the testing.

    My fear is that we will have people voting without thinking. I don’t want people to vote without thinking.

    Hillary Clinton is still leading Obama among likely Black voters, though that will likely change. Why is she leading? I think it mainly is because of name recognition and not because of policies or positions. That is dangerous in my view, basically saying that this race is more like a race for High School Class President than it is for President of the US.

    People who are supporting Hillary solely off the strength of her name are guilty of the same faulty logic as people supporting Barack solely off the strength of him being Black. I see both as equally dangerous and unwise.

  5. Brandon Q. says :

    G, I agree with everything in your previous comment.

    However, let me answer your question head on. I think the Black community should ask questions but let the Black community ask the questions. I think with Al Sharpton, we have the entire Black community wanting to ask questions but we are asked to write down our questions and have them sifted through and articulated by Al Sharpton.

    Let the community speak for themselves!!!

  6. Garlin II says :

    That is real B. It frustrates me that Black views seem to be unjustifiably pigeon-holed to come out of only a few people’s mouths.

    That does raise another interesting question: shouldn’t Obama be able to get around this and get the ideas of Black people directly?

    This would be a prime example of him connecting with Black voters in a way that other candidates may not be able to.

  7. Anonymous says :

    I was doing some Opposition Research and came accross this blog and read the comments. I was pleasantly surprised that I’m not the only person who feels that as an American of African decent, I have to allow other people to dictate to me what I want in a candidate. I am currently a supporter of Barack Obama and as a 32 year old, raised in a racially blended family, I find it refreshing that we finally have someone who is not running as a “Black” man, but an American just like everyone else. Barack Obama has never called himself a Black Civil Rights Leader. He doesn’t have to. What he does do, however , is support and fight for Affirmative Action in Congress. He creates bills that end Racial Profiling. He’s more of a doer and not a talker. While he doesn’t pander to different groups like Hillary does, he has a record that demonstrates that he has done a lot more for the Black Community than others who claim to be our leaders. I would encourage you all to google him and read about his record with regards to helping out our community for yourselves. I also would encourage you all to remember that the questions we have for Barack Obama with respect to our community should also be asked of all the presidential candidates and not just Barack Obama which is why I am very upset at Al Sharpton for his attacks and false accusations posed as questions. I have some questions for as Al as well. I wasn’t born in the 60’s. I want to know what has he done that demands my allegance to him today.

    Help a sistah out!

    DeeAnna Roberts

  8. Garlin II says :

    Thanks DeeAnna.

    Critical thinking about candidates is something that I think all voters should do, and I wish more voters did it.

    I think that Sharpton is jealous of Obama for the reason that you state: he is running as an “American” instead of a Black man. My question is, why have other Black candidates not tried to do this in the past?

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