Rev. Al Sharpton recalled on Monday that the widow of civil-rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took him to task for his “cheap” rhetoric behind the 1991 riots in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.
Addressing the Religious Action Center’s Consultation on Conscience, Sharpton said he should have “done more to heal, rather than harm.”
Sharpton said Coretta Scott King told him, “‘Al, the purpose of our movement has never been to just get civil rights for us, it’s to protect and stand for civil and human rights for everyone.’ ”
“She said that ‘sometimes you are tempted to speak to the applause of the crowd rather than the heights of the cause, and you will say cheap things to get cheap applause rather than do higher things to raise the nation higher,’ ” he continued. “She said, ‘I know that you may not have done things you’re accused of, but you could have spoken out louder, if you are going to be in the King tradition and if you are going to be invested in your roots, and if you are going to be what we invested in you to be.’ ”
Sharpton added, “You cannot fight racism without fighting antisemitism.”
The death of 7-year-old Gavin Cato, who was struck by a car driven by a Hasidic Jew, set off the four days of riots in Crown Heights. Yankel Rosenbaum, a student connected with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement based in Brooklyn, was stabbed to death during the riots.
His brother, Norman Rosenbaum, and Isaac Abraham, a longtime consultant to the Rosenbaum family, denounced the RAC’s invitation of the National Action Network founder.