SPEAKER Al Sharpton Calls U.S. Democracy Hypocritical By Laila Al-Arian Hoya Staff Writer

Dan Gelfand/The Hoya Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton addresses what he saw to be the disenfranchisement of black voters in the 2000 presidential election on Monday in Gaston Hall.

There is little difference between Republicans and Democrats in their positions on race, civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton told a crowd of 300 in Gaston Hall on Monday evening.

“There has been a strange laryngitis by both major parties,” Sharpton said, citing what he believes to be both parties’ noticeable indifference to the disenfranchisement of black voters in the 2000 presidential election.

He added that it is hypocritical for the United States to promote democracy to other nations while grappling with obvious disparities at home.

“It is almost a joke for us to preach voting around the world when we act like the world forgot the last national election we had,” Sharpton bellowed. According to Sharpton, thousands of black voters in Florida were unfairly asked to present two or more forms of photo identification and to prove that they voted in the past three elections.

Though an overwhelming majority of African Americans supported Democratic candidate Al Gore during the presidential election, the former vice president refused to file a voter’s rights suit on behalf of the disenfranchised voters, Sharpton said. In addition, there is little effort by the Democratic Party to give black candidates a chance at nominations during primaries, Sharpton said.

Sharpton criticized critics who say he has no chance of winning the 2004 presidential race. Even if he does lose, Sharpton said he hopes to mobilize black voters much like Jesse Jackson did in 1984.

Sharpton underlined the importance of black candidates because of the underlying tendency to ignore race issues in society.

“Those who claim that there are no [racial inequalities] in America have never been victims of racism,” Sharpton said. The medium income level of whites is a little over $44,000 a year, while the average salary of blacks is $28,000, Sharpton said. A recent study shows that blacks on the same income level as whites receive inferior health care, he added.

The criminal justice system is also biased against blacks, Sharpton said. While those arrested for possessing powder cocaine are usually not punished, individuals caught with crack cocaine must serve a mandatory five-year jail sentence. This policy “puts a

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disproportionate number of young people and people of color in jail,” Sharpton argued. “We can’t have a criminal justice system built on disparity in income and federal mandatory laws that apply unequally,” Sharpton said.

In the months following Sept. 11, some have charged that blacks are not as patriotic as whites, according to Sharpton. Calling this assertion “absurd,” Sharpton said, “We are the only community that has consistently fought for this country when this country would not fight for us.”

Because ignorance and inequalities continue to affect race relations in the U.S., Sharpton stressed the need to continue fighting for civil rights. “We have to continue to struggle until we are absolutely dealing with a just, fair and even playing field.”

The lecture was sponsored by the Lecture Fund and the Georgetown chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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