Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

The Politics of Distraction

May 13, 2011

By now, most of us have become accustomed to the all-too familiar notion of the politics of distraction. With pressing issues like near double-digit unemployment, skyrocketing gas prices, a lingering budget deficit, growing international crises, struggling job growth and more, many on the right would rather avoid creating real solutions by averting our attention to nonsensical 'issues.' This week's target: a Chicago-based rapper by the name of Common. Only problem is, this time, those screaming the loudest forgot to check their own history.

Anyone with an ounce of reality knows that this wasn't the first occasion where a rapper went to the White House, participated in a function or was acknowledged by an administration. In fact, Bush Sr. invited Eazy-E, a solo artist and former member of the group N.W.A., to the White House. Not only do the folks at Fox News and those attempting to create this non-controversy have amnesia about hip-hop's presence at our nation's headquarters, but they also quickly forget their own embrace of Common. Less than a year ago, a report on referred to the lyricist as a 'rap legend,' 'very positive' and a 'conscious rapper.' How quickly we forget indeed.

The attacks against Common and the linkage of his alleged radicalism with President Obama are troubling on a multitude of levels. Once again trying to paint a picture that the president is some sort of angry Black man who has a vested interest in taking this nation down, the right is implying that he is again somehow not one of us. Now that the birther 'controversy' has been silenced, these opportunists want to create new ways of portraying Obama as somehow un-American, foreign or other. It is yet another pathetic attempt to discredit our Commander-in-Chief and take away from his very real recent accomplishments like catching Osama bin Laden. Perhaps because of the failure to bring the most wanted man in the world to justice during the past 10 years, those objecting the loudest here are just hurting from the failures of the previous administration.

For several years now, I myself have openly condemned the sometimes misogynistic and profane lyrics that can be found in some rap songs. But to even attempt to paint Common -- an artist who prides himself on creating uplifting music -- in such a light is ignorant at best. The scapegoating of Common is yet another example of the proverbial boogeyman who is to blame for all of the ills of society, when in fact the very people attacking him have no resolutions to our very grave challenges.

As the 2012 campaign begins, we as an observing public, must be weary of the politics of distortion, coercion and misinformation. When we see these deplorable moves to avert our attention, we must ensure that we do not fall victim to its fallacy. At a time when many on the left are criticizing the President for not being progressive enough, any concept of his alleged radicalism is beyond laughable. It's yet another pitiful method of steering away the public from this man's very real accomplishments, their very real failures and our very real problems. But rest assured, the politics of distraction didn't work in 2008 -- just like they won't work in 2012.