In August 2000, the Rev. Al Sharpton bullied his way up the food chain and secured a meeting with then-Attorney General Janet Reno.
In an irony of which he was obviously not aware, the Torquemada of Soul was about to demand that Ms. Reno sic a federal watchdog on the New York City Police. On the far side of the looking glass, where Sharpton and his progressive friends prowl, this did not seem an absurd request.
Through that glass, Ms. Reno appeared as racially sensitive and police-savvy as the reverend himself. She had spent the past seven years as the nation’s chief cop, and he had been called “an expert on policing” by no less than the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
This, of course, was all an illusion. Those who remember what happened 14 years ago today understand just how preposterous the meeting was. Sharpton was seeking federal protection for his people from the woman responsible for the most lethal act of federal police misconduct in American history against those very people.
I refer here specifically to the tank assault on the Mount Carmel community in Waco on April 19, 1993.
Sharpton fans might be thinking, “You’re confusing me. What does the death of all those right-wing peckerwoods have to do with the reverend?”
Quite a bit, actually. Twenty-seven of the 74 peckerwoods incinerated at Waco were black, age 6 to 61. In fact, more than half of those gun-toting rednecks were minority rednecks, 39 out of 74 to be precise – six of them Hispanic, six of Asian descent.
Truth be told, Waco represented the single greatest organized – if largely unwitting – slaughter of black people on American soil since the Battle of Fort Pillow in 1864.
And no, this is not something I read on the Internet. I found a verifiable list of the dead, broken out by age and ethnicity, and counted them. The FBI had given the Branch Davidians video cameras. The Clinton White House knew who was in the buildings. So, almost assuredly, did the major media.
Although usually eggshell sensitive to the concerns of racial minorities, the media turned a strategically blind eye to their very presence at Waco, not to mention their deaths.
As intended, scarcely a black person in America knew the hell visited on his brethren in those early uncertain months of the Clinton era. That knowledge would surely have strained black affection for the Clintons and maybe even party loyalties. The media were not about to encourage such a schism.
“OK,” say Sharpton’s defenders, “what happened at Waco was unfortunate, but if some crazy Christian cultists of whatever color kill themselves, much as they did at Jonestown, what concern is it of Al’s?”
There are two major problems with the Jonestown paradigm. The first is that the Branch Davidians did not kill themselves. A White House capable of concealing the racial status of the victims was fully capable of concealing the nature of their deaths. For an in-depth perspective on what did happen, I would recommend the excellent Academy Award-nominated documentary, “Waco: The Rules of Engagement.”
As to the second concern, I would direct interested parties to the Evergreen Cemetery in the heart of Oakland, Calif.
There, in a mass grave, lie the bodies of more than 250 children, the great majority of them black, the victims of the greatest one-day murder of American young people in the nation’s history.
They are, of course, the children of Jonestown. Three-year-olds don’t commit suicide. Held in the jungle, often against their wills, their parents did not have much choice in the matter, either.
Nor did the children die “in the name of religion” as supposed. They died for the opposite of religion. There was not even a chapel at Jonestown, but the place revealed so much obvious reverence for Lenin, Mao, Che and Fidel that one might have thought it an extension campus of San Francisco State.
Not surprisingly, it was while at college – Indiana U – that Jim Jones got his first injection of Marx, and he was hooked from the beginning. Replacing capitalism with communism in 1950s Indiana held about as much as promise as replacing basketball with croquet. So Jones took another tack.
“I decided how can I demonstrate my Marxism,” he would recount years later. “The thought was ‘infiltrate the church.'”
Jones thought of Christianity as a “a dark creation” of the oppressed. Salvation would come through other channels. “Free at last, free at last,” he led his temple comrades in prayer, “Thank socialism almighty we will be free at last.”
By 1973, after aggressive recruiting in black neighborhoods nationwide, the Peoples Temple boasted some 2,500 members, most of them in San Francisco. Better still, they voted as if with one voice, Jones’.
Given their affection for independent thinkers – and so many of them in one place! – Democratic vote harvesters from far and wide wooed Jones like a Southern belle, Bolshevik or not.
Local pols like Willie Brown, Jerry Brown, George Moscone and Harvey Milk all came a courting. So too did national Democrats like Rosalynn Carter and Walter Mondale. “I figured if these people – if anybody should know, they should know,” testified one black survivor as to why he stuck with Jones.
After taking office as mayor of San Francisco in 1976, Moscone repaid Jones by appointing him to the Human Rights Commission and then to the chairmanship of the city’s Housing Authority. That same year, the Los Angeles Times named Jones “the humanitarian of the year.”
That was just two years before he murdered all those children in Guyana. As at Waco, the progressive establishment rushed to bury the truth along with the bodies. Too much truth might just estrange African-Americans from the party that has made Al Sharpton a star.
Now, about that Don Imus!
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