Sunday, July 13, 2008

Jesse Jackson, Cutting Up Obama, and the Guilt ... Part 1

Another blogger left a comment on my first post about the Jesse/Obama nuts flap, "Jesse, Obama, Men, and Their Nuts," a post one friend told me should have been "Jesse, Obama, Men, and They're Nuts," and her comment sparked this post. The comment, which you can read here, is one with which I think many people, especially people who aren't black, would agree. The gist of it is Jackson likes to blame everything on white people and that's why he's angry with Obama's message. (I do know at least one black person who would agree with that.)

The commenter also said that Jackson has been the default black people's spokesperson politically for a long time. This is probably true, as far as white people believe him to be and the media crowns him, except when he shares that position with Al Sharpton. Nevertheless, anyone who thinks black people have crowned Jesse their spokesperson or that black people automatically love and follow Jesse Jackson (and I'm not saying the commenter believes this) must've missed the movie BarberShop and the storm over it.

The statement that Jackson is no longer the default black spokesperson within the context of the Obama uproar implies that Jackson thinks Obama is now the default black people's spokesperson. I suppose Obama may be that since the media seems to ask Obama to respond to every political opinion another black person expresses in public, but I don't think "black leader" is a mantle Obama wants.

My earlier Barbershop reference and observations about the myth of a monolithic black people notwithstanding, I did suggest in my first post on the nuts flap that Jesse may be experiencing some jealousy of Obama:

I don't know what's going on in The Rev. Jesse Jackson's head. Is he comparing himself to Obama and regretting that he couldn't have had as much approval? Does it bother him that Obama's on the cover of Ebony as the epitome of black cool? Perhaps Jesse feels that he made the sacrifice but Obama's taking the spoils. Of course, it's possible that Rev. Jackson really thinks Obama is disrespectful and "talks down" to other African-Americans. (Jesse, Obama, Men, and Their Nuts)

While Obama identifies with black heritage he appears to want to speak for all Americans, to inspire us to do things differently, and to reach across the great divide. This means that he will remain silent sometimes about how racial inequality has impacted the black community because he knows that frequently acknowledging the influence of racist policies will upset the American majority. Politicians cater to the majority all the time, and this is what's concerned some "black" leaders about Obama's running successfully for the presidency. He will have to cater and compromise, actions synonymous with selling out.

Also, talking about the sins of white folk at that Father's Day service from a pulpit would have been the kiss of death to Obama. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright clips and associated misunderstandings undoubtedly remain in his mind. He's a smart man and so he stayed on point and talked about fathers, and it made sense for him to talk about absent fathers because he himself grew up without his father in the home. He made sure he acknowledged that he's an exception when it comes to the success rate of children who grow up without the influence of a father. But let's remember, his grandfather was around.

I can see how Obama's willingness to build a bridge through compromise would unnerve black leaders, especially those of Jackson's generation who were first line Civil Rights soldiers. They know that the media and the majority love to find one black person to claim race doesn't matter and hold that person up as the voice of reason. You can observe this through Bill O'Reilly's reguar use of Juan Williams as a cloak or magic shield for O'Reilly's racist, right wing propaganda.

Selling out is rarely seen as a good thing, but wise compromise is not necessarily selling out. Without some form of compromise, we'll stagnate or implode, and well, compromise oils the political machine. A good leader knows when to compromise, how much to compromise, and when to stand firm.

If Obama doesn't dwell on racial injustice at every turn, if he tries to build bridges for change instead ditches for division, does that make him a sell out? Does building bridges and doing things differently mean you don't believe social injustice is real or that there's never a need to address it head on?

Part 2 is at this link.

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