It would be easy to assume that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are brothers-in-arms marching forward together in the never-ending struggle for "civil rights," especially since their names are so often mentioned in tandem.
But if you really think about it, at a certain level, they must resent each other, since each wants to be the chief spokesman for Black America. (Barack Obama is theoretically chief spokesman for all of America.) So Jackson and Sharpton essentially compete for television time whenever a Trayvon Martin-type incident occurs, and they compete for donations to their respective organizations, Operation PUSH and the National Action Network.
They also make near identical pronouncements to the press whenever a black is the victim -- or seems to be the victim -- of unwarranted white violence. (One or the other will solemnly intone, "So it's open season on young black men now," or some similarly accurate assessment of our current social climate.)
So it has to be, in a sense, a turf war.
At least publicly though, there has been very little infighting. Jackson and Sharpton are often photographed standing near each other, wearing similarly grim expressions reflecting the continuing horror visited upon black America by white America.
But since both men are cut from the same cloth, they must see through each other. And you would think that each would resent his chief rival. Jackson is, after all, the man who, when he thought he was off mike, famously expressed a desire to cut Obama's nuts off.
Yet I could find only one quotation indicating discord.
When Sharpton was first thinking of running for president, back in 2001, he was asked if his role in the Tawana Brawley hoax might hamper his chances. He responded by comparing himself favorably with past Presidential candidates, including Jackson: "I think the Brawley case pales in comparison," Sharpton told Fox News. "Did I take the blood of the guy I loved and put it on my shirt? Let's talk about who we're getting behind!"
I have to think that similar sentiments are expressed by both men quite frequently in private.