Does Politics Have a Colour? An Observation

I will be taking the opportunity to allow different perspectives on Al Sharpton speech last night at the Operation Black Vote event titled “Realising the Dream: Rev Al Sharpton’s UK Rally

First observation is from   a  student in  International Relation  &  Politics,  Gergana Dimitrova.



Does Politics Have a Colour?


“Your lack of participation supports the opposition […] Progressive alliances can decide the government in these elections”, said political and civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton at an event organized by Organization Black Vote (OBV) in London yesterday. The political rally, whose initial purpose was to shed some light upon the decision-making procedures in the UK before the upcoming elections and to raise political awareness for the importance of voting, was gradually transformed into a political theatre with some exclusionary and radical elements. Condemning the ‘racist right’ and ruthlessly exploiting the ‘inferior’ position of black people in the UK, Rev. Sharpton’s fervent anti-Conservative rhetoric obfuscated any  ideological differences between left, right, conservative or liberal. In a wittily designed political show, Rev. Sharpton demonstrated a stereotypical and overtly simplistic view of civil society today, which, as he implied, consists of politically and socially victimized black people and superior, oppressive white villains. His ‘black and white only’ formula was the bottom line of an emotional and colourful speech, in which the individual vote suffered a crashing defeat from a long- term political opponent – the colour vote.

In a very populist, neo-fascist manner, Rev. Sharpton exploits the historical past in order to create political tension, to gain support and to create the false impression that it is ideological struggle that we are talking about. Ironically enough, it is people like Sharpton who actually exacerbate racial tensions and create racist discourses, by re-inventing the historical tradition and placing it in an obscure and very inappropriate context. People like Sharpton, who normally lack political expertise and rely on obscure, biting and senseless theatrical techniques in order to attract the listeners’ attention, usually manage in one and only thing – to verbally reconstruct the past so that it fits a current political reality. Activists like this are very often classified by political experts as neo-fascist, in the sense that they mythologize a particular race at the expense of another, prioritize historical parallelism for politics’ sake and mythologize a ‘glorious’ past, spreading xenophobia and fear. Figures like Sharpton are unfortunately a commonality in some Western and Eastern European countries, where popular discontent with the political situation transforms itself into far-right dogmatism.

An average observer with some right-wing affiliations would be petrified by the idea that black people should go out and vote against ‘the ones who have convinced them to accept a secondary status’. This forced, propagandist invitation to vote contains some dangerous characteristics of what political scientists call the ‘opposition vote’ and even worse – the racial vote. Both of these political phenomena have proven to be a failure in the past. Voting for the sake of condemning the incumbent government or out of a feeling for collective belonging has never been able to change the political realities. People should go out and vote not because they are black or white or because they belong to a particular ethnic community. People should register to vote as individual members of a free democratic civil society, not in a collective and totally exclusive fashion, and not, as suggested by Sharpton, as historically or racially burdened individuals. Otherwise we will keep on facing the same binary opposition where one group of people is treated as ‘different and other’ by a hypothetically superior and stronger one. In this sense, Sharpton is no better than BNP’s notorious leader Nick Griffin with his outrageous racist rhetoric and far-right ideas. A close observation on the verbal techniques and ideas of the two will disclose a striking similarity – only the colours of the stigmatized communities are different.

Ferociously condemning right-wing politics, Rev. Sharpton’s dogmatic appeal dangerously reminds extreme right propaganda and a power-political game. It bears all the features of populist oriented neo-fascism, where the white community is inevitably depicted as evil and aiming to politically cripple the black vote. Of course, this does not mean that there is no racial problem in the UK or the rest of the world. Until racial differences exist, tension will be there too. The question is, why should colour issues be transformed into an electoral pattern? Can’t we play politics without the racial card? In the end of the day the exit polls will not detect colour, but the electoral result – an amalgamation of the individual will for a change and progress. Because in the final countdown politics will not have a colour and political changes will affect all individuals equally, regardless of race, age and religion.

© January 2010

  1. #1 by sylbourne on January 22, 2010 - 10:04 pm

    A FB comment goes like this “Just read it and clearly the writer attended a different event. Far too many inaccuracies for me to even begin to address. Suffice to say the writer has issues.”

  2. #2 by sylbourne on January 22, 2010 - 10:05 pm

    Maybe the writer has seen it from a different perspective and with different eyes. I reserve my personal comments but not withstanding the fact that while i do appreciate some of what he has said i do reject some of what he has said and i mean of Al Sharpton. As for the writer i would agree that maybe she has issues …who dont have issues…lol we all have issues I have issues too.

  3. #3 by Glen on January 23, 2010 - 3:45 am

    Sharpton is a one trick pony who have not evolve since the black power struggles in the 60s. Sure some of his points have merit but he tends to incite division more than unity. By the way this is my Idea of politricks

    A Lesson in Politics

    A son asks his father, “What can you tell me about politics? I have to learn about it for school tomorrow.”

    The father thought some and said, “OK, son, the best way I can describe politics is to use an analogy.

    Let’s say that I’m a capitalist because I’m the breadwinner.
    Your mother will be the government because she controls everything, our maid will be the working class because she works for us, you will be the people because you answer to us, and your baby brother will be the future. Does that help any?”

    The little boy said, “Well, Dad, I don’t know, but I’ll think about what you said.”

    Later that night, after everyone had gone to bed, the little boy was awaken by his baby brother’s crying. Upon further investigation, he found a dirty diaper. So, he went down the hall to his parent’s bedroom and found his father’s side of the bed empty and his mother wouldn’t wake up. Then he saw a light on in the guest room down the hall, and when he reached the door, he saw through the crack that his father was in bed with the maid. The son then turned and went back to bed.

    The next morning, he said to his father at the breakfast table, “Dad, I think I understand politics much better now.”

    “Excellent, my boy,” he answered, “What have you learned?”

    The little boy thought for a minute and said, “I learned that capitalism is screwing the working class, government is sound asleep ignoring the people, and the future is deep in sh*t.”

  4. #4 by Coulette on January 23, 2010 - 9:45 am

    Although I was not able to attend the event, Gergana makes it a good point when she states, “Because in the final countdown politics will not have a colour and political changes will affect all individuals equally, regardless of race, age and religion.”

    However, I think she has missed the view point that people do see color in politics, and that is not just Sharpton’s point of view but the world as a whole.

    However, right winged a black, white, mexican, asian politician will be people in general will continue to look at them in that light, so to the question “Politics have a colour? Sadly, yes it does.

    It might not be in my eyes, or even your eyes, but society as a whole it does. However, to vote for somebody just because of the color of their skin is not right either, values, ideologies, and their vision for the future for all of society should be the reason why you are voting for the candidate, not because of the color of their skin.

    One must remember Al Sharpton is a civil rights leader and activist, he comes from the time when racial segregation was in full swing, so his views and experiences are inbedded in his life, something that is difficult to let go, especially when we in America are still living in a economically segregated society, and the political divide is now in full force I believe not because he is a Democrat, but because of the color of his skin.

  5. #5 by alamanda on January 23, 2010 - 9:47 am

    Al Sharpton has always been a stand-up comic and not a good one either. I watched him debate Christopher Hitchens and I was quite embarassed. Has nothing to do with color or even the issues, just reason and the application of knowledge and intelligence. Sharpton excels in none of these areas, and is known to be a divisionist. I was really wondering whence came all the excitement that he was coming to London, when it’s quite clear the man has nothing to offer.

    Disappointed, aren’t you?

  6. #6 by Mariana on January 23, 2010 - 5:01 pm

    Hey, guys, are you sure you really read the article carefully? I think the author has a simple message – she does not deny racism or racial tensions in contemporary society. She is just implying that people should vote neither as black nor white, but as INDIVIDUALS. And I agree that people like Sharpton create more division than unity, it is from people like him that the hostile, exclusive rhetoric comes from. And…yes, racism exists, but why does it need to be transferred to the election polls? Until when voters will be hiding against their own color? Also, crazy as it may sound, there is a certain similarity between Sharpton and Nick Griffin – only Griffin’s after the ‘racially different’ and Sharpton is after everyone who’s ‘non-black’. Believe it or not, both of them are far-right, racist witch hunters, somehow legitimized by the general resentment of the people for incumbent governments.

  7. #7 by Izi on January 23, 2010 - 5:50 pm

    My personal opinion – PEOPLE ARE GENERALLY STUPID.

    I didn’t have the opportunity to hear Sharpton’s speech, but the point Gergana makes is a very obvious one, at leats for people who don’t care about color, and especially for politicians. Unfortunately the tendency to abuse racism is a reality and people, especially color sensitive people should become aware of the fact that politicians take and will continue to take advantage of their vulnerability and the only reason being that it’s easy. As Gergana points out, as long as one feels inferior and fights inferiority he or she will remain inferior. Unfortunately history shows us that the same old tricks work over and over again. There is only one color in politics and it is GREEN. It is STUPID to assume that you have less advantages because you come from an “inferior” community. Such assumptions add you to the flock looking for it Shepard.

    And to sylbourne – What’s with the issues? Try to complete a sentence and then mention whatever you want to mention. It’s unfortunate how blind people are, and what’s even more unfortunate is how much they resent the person who tries to give them their sight back.

    Gergana, great job with your observation. Keep up the good job.

  8. #8 by sylbourne on January 23, 2010 - 6:15 pm

    When I mentioned issues I was more referring to the writer who said the author of the article has issues. I played a more mild tone in getting the discussions flowing by saying that we all have issues of some degree. Some may be angered at Al Sharpton for what he says or even love him for for what he stands for. Either way we have varied point of views and while I may disagree with some of Al views I also endorse some of his views.

    I would not wAnt us to throw out the baby with the bath wAter here, there is a clear need in taking a stand and accomodate what is relevant and disregard what is not relevant.

  9. #9 by Izi on January 23, 2010 - 9:44 pm

    to sylbourne – my apologies

    You have a point when you say we shouldn’t throw away the baby with the water. But it seems that when elections day comes, voters choose the lesser evil, because the merits don’t make it to the surface, or perhaps we cannot trust the politicians to practice the merits instead of the brainwashing techniques. Perhaps my words are too strong but, I’m just not a fan of politicians who play with peoples primordial feelings. How are we going to evolve as a society when we don’t allow the individual to evolve by manipulating him?

    I was very glad to be able to read an open opinion such as Gergana’s. Open discussions of this type are the way against blind followers of a pointless cause.

  10. #10 by sylbourne on January 23, 2010 - 9:54 pm

    To Izi – That is undersanding and apologies accepted before it was even uttered.

    I must say that one of the reason why i entered into politics is because of some of the same reasons that annoys you where politicians capitalise on people’s feeling and are not genuine. I believe that times have changed and evolved and the rhetorics of yesterday does not apply today in the full sense and there needs to be a blending but not in missing the point when it comes to leaving the marginalise and the disenfranchise who are discrimated irrespective of what race.

    I still have before me the thought everyday of whether or not i will change…will i stop being the down to earth Syd or will I evolve and conform into something else to fit in. I rather not fit in while fitting in at the same time. How does that work well that will be the challenge that i am looking forward to.

  11. #11 by Coulette on January 24, 2010 - 1:47 am

    I meant to elaborate earlier today, the two major parties in the US Republicans (conservatives) and the Democrats (liberals) are much different then the Tories (Conservatives) and the Labour Party (Liberals) here in the UK.

    In the US I definately vote Democratic because of the views are much more in line with my views. However, I must say if I was able to vote here in the UK I would have to say my views lean more towards the Conservative side.

    From what my understanding was of the speech from another student that attends post graduate school with me and Gergana, is that Al Sharpton whined about the conservatives and their ways. One must understand that majority of the conservatives are born and bred into money, white don’t want the government involved in social programs that benefit the average and lower working class.

    Where the democrats are more for the working class and the lower income class, where public policies and social programs are put in place so that one can live above the poverty line.

    So that is one of the main differences between the two parties.

    Here in the UK the Liberal parties are way to liberal and although I believe that their should be programs and things that benefit and assist for those who are not as fortunate, I think that they government here has taken it a little to far for example, meddling in the family dynamics, but that is my perspective.

    I believe the point Gergana was making was that one should not vote according to race, or even party for that matter, because like I said just with talking with Sylbourne, I would say he shares the same views I do, and in America he would be considered a conservative democrat. It’s really not the color of ones skin that makes him a good man/politician but the views that he holds in his heart for the good of the people.

  12. #12 by Coulette on January 24, 2010 - 1:49 am

    please forgive my spelling, its late and I am tired…LOL

  13. #13 by Tom Mann on January 25, 2010 - 10:31 am

    This country needs a leader, black or White, who does not deny widespread racial discrimination, but also who does not claim it is worse than it is. Either extreme will be dismissed and mocked, and will draw limited support only from those with similarly unbalanced views.
    A leader who properly describes and constructively challenges the insipid … See Morebut not endemic discrimination in schools, mental health, and employment will achieve the most. To get there we need mature dialogue that confronts taboos and talks straight.
    I stand by one thing sharpton said: we are on the right road but we haven’t arrived.

  14. #14 by mariana on January 25, 2010 - 1:35 pm

    To Tom Mann
    Metaphorically and poetically what Shartpon said was right. But unfortunately, only metaphorically and poetically. The question is, do you want to be guided by an individual, who is exploiting the past in order to serve the political present? Is this the mature dialogue that you are so desperately craving for? If this dialogue manifests itsef in the racial differences and the tension which Sharpton so successfully fuels, you are more than welcome. Unfortuantely most people do not make the differece between cheap political opportunism and political and social sensibility. This is why people like Sharpton gain momentum – because of the lack of general political culture.

  15. #15 by Andrea P. Vybz on January 25, 2010 - 2:45 pm

    “Playing the racial card”-that statement alone angers me and makes it clear that Dimitrova has no understanding of the fundamental differences between Sharpton and Griffin and the ethnic groups they pupport to represent.

    The playing field is not even between blacks and whites so clearly; addressing issues that specifically affect black people and the inequalities we face, with a view to having some political voice in the next election is totally different in contect from BNP rhetoric.

  16. #16 by sylbourne on January 25, 2010 - 3:08 pm

    Well it is good that there are varied views stimulating the debate. Playing the racial card while it is emotive and may anger, it is still a reality today where many uses it is a crutch and do capitalise on it.

    I would not go as far as making a comparison between Sharpton and Griffin but I would go to the length of saying that they are both fighting for causes whatever their motives are. I can relate to Sharpton but not to Griffin. Some may say they are similar which is their God given freedom of expression views. One would not purport to discount such views but one may analyse and critique such views to see if there are any merits and take what is for us and discard what is not for us, and when I say us I mean the individual as it maybe argued they are both fighing for the marginalised in some sense.

    I would sum up with what Tom said and i quote
    “This country needs a leader, black or White, who does not deny widespread racial discrimination, but also who does not claim it is worse than it is. Either extreme will be dismissed and mocked, and will draw limited support only from those with similarly unbalanced views.”

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