Good time for Sharpton visit

As Western debates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of King’s successors in the Civil Rights Movement, the Rev. Al Sharpton, arrives today on campus for two days of lectures and meetings.

Talk about good timing.

As exhibited in the Herald’s three most recent opinion pages, it takes just one controversial statement to reopen a gaping racial chasm on the Hill.

It’s an unhealthy condition healed only through healthy discussion. The visit by Sharpton — a famous name with an even more famous mane — will hopefully inspire spirited and much-needed chatter.

Talk about good timing.

Sharpton’s appearance is a sort of grand finale to Black History Month.

Echoes of his speeches should reverberate into March, appropriately keeping discussions of civil rights issues fresh well beyond their typical expiration date.

Talk about good timing.

Perhaps more than anything, recent dialogue has centered on whether King’s message can coexist with his sometimes maligned moral character.

Sharpton’s credibility has been similarly challenged, most notably in a decades-old surveillance video that seemed to depict Sharpton’s involvement in an apparent drug deal.

Now Western has an opportunity to weigh Sharpton’s philosophy against his personality. We can decide how much of Sharpton’s message — and King’s, for that matter — to cling to and how much to discard.

Talk about good timing.

For each person who has submitted a letter to the Herald this semester concerning civil rights or political issues, there are likely many others who have chosen to remain silent. We hope Sharpton’s visit prompts those people to speak and enrich the debate.

Western is hungry for new perspectives, new voices and new ideas. Whether or not we agree with his beliefs, Sharpton will provide each of those things.

But the campus shouldn1t serve merely as a soapbox for Sharpton. It1s an opportunity for students to be heard as well.

Talk about good timing.

Or talk about the current racial controversy on campus. Or talk about Sharpton’s credibility and the validity of his message. Or talk about the United States’ policy in Iraq. It really doesn’t matter.

Just talk.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 10-member board of student editors.