Street Fight

PBS Premiere: July 5, 2005Check the broadcast schedule »

Watching Street Fight

Debra Dickerson

The Revolution Has Finally Been Televised

Debra DickersonHaving followed the election between Sharpe James and Cory Booker through the print media couldn't prepare me for the reality of watching Street Fight and seeing the civil rights movement played out again in documentary form but with black thugs surreally replacing the white ones. This time, it was blacks taking away black folks' jobs for complaining about the status quo. It was blacks intimidating black voters and rigging the ballot boxes. It was blacks using the police to threaten and harass blacks who dared to speak up.

The parallels are undeniable: Jim Crow said that blacks were happy the way things were and didn't need 'outside agitators' coming in and stirring things up. James says that Booker was a carpetbagger telling black Newark how bad everything was when there was so much new development in the business district and the suburbs. Jim Crow sent the police and civilian thugs to harass, beat, and 'disappear' journalists, movement workers and their sympathizers. James sent the police and civilian thugs to 'disappear' Booker's supporters' jobs, businesses, and reputations; both he, his handlers and his police officers roughed up sympathizers and journalists covering Booker. James' is as arrogant, amoral and corrupt in his power, the power conferred on him by the blood of the Movement dead, as Jim Crow ever was.

I have always suspected that blacks would be as fascist, greedy, violent, criminal, and racist as whites if given the opportunity to be so and Sharpe James proves me right, sadly. We fought, march and died for our civil rights and all we want to do with them is become everything we fought, marched and died opposing. "Street Fight," much as it saddened and angered me, didn't make me want to cry until Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson showed up to march with the Rolls Royce-driving, double-dipping, overpaid and venal mayor of a city which ignores its black poor (between elections) and who refuses to shake the hand of his young, black opponent. It's perfectly fine for Sharpe James to fight hard to beat that young, black opponent. It's heinous that he did so by telling a beleaguered black community that to be an All American football hero, a Rhodes Scholar, a Yale Law grad who lives in the projects and doesn't drink, smoke or even eat meat is to be "white."

It's time for the Movement generation to retire. They're out of both ideas and moral capital. It's time to let the generations they claimed to be fighting for take the stage.

Next: Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou -- Beyond the generation gap »

Debra Dickerson has written for The New Republic, The Washington Post, Talk, Slate, Salon, Essence, and Vibe, and has been featured in "Best American Essays." She is the recipient of the New York Association of Black Journalists' first-place award for personal commentary.