Jackson’s Not Down for the Count

Jackson’s Not Down for the Count


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And while Austin and folks from her generation rush to condemn Jackson and call him

a “Grandpa” who is “off his meds,” they also owe him and others who fought

the good fight against racist discrimination a little bit of gratitude.



Rev. Jackson’s Not Down for the Count, Yet

By Mel Reeves

“We need someone who is going to help provide the social and economic means by which folks can take care of their families.”


Some people are once again preparing to shove Rev. Jesse Jackson into the dustbin of history, this time for his off-color remarks about what he’d like to do to Barack Obama’s groin area. The Reverend’s words were raw and impulsive, but it should be remembered that many have tried to pronounce the final verdict of history on Rev. Jackson over the years—all of them prematurely.

I predict Taii K. Austin will find herself in that category.  The young black guest columnist for Huffington, in a smart-mouthed piece titled “Aw, Grandpa Jackson’s Off His Meds,” guides readers to an Internet news story on Rev. Jackson’s 2001 child out-of-wedlock scandal, then to a campaign site page featuring an idyllic family portrait under the heading “Meet the Obamas.” Ms. Austin contemptuously derides Rev. Jackson for having twice “failed – failed!” to win the Democratic presidential nomination. She rubs in the fact that the Reverend’s son “works for Sen. Obama” (he’s national campaign co-chair) and has denounced his father’s words.

Austin wondered if Rev. Jackson, who was one of Obama’s early endorsers, “flat out hate(s) the dude.” But it is she who seems consumed with malice toward the totality of Rev. Jackson’s lifetime of contributions.

Through her rage, Austin seemed to say that Jackson’s indiscretions (and his age) render him unfit to comment on Sen. Obama’s moralizing messages on Black men—or about anything else! Further, her dismissal of his 1984 and ’88 presidential bids shows an appalling emotional and intellectual shallowness.

Jackson was of course ripe for criticism. However, I understand the Reverend’s frustration. Obama’s insistence on beating up on defenseless black folks—who are already battered and bruised—smacks of cowardice and political pandering of the worst kind. It also doesn’t seem very Christian-like.

Only a black man could get away with calling out poor black folks the way Obama does, and he and his advisors know it. If indeed Obama’s campaign is about transcending race, let’s talk about the absenteeism and bad parenting among upper middle class families (most of which are white) as well. We all know we have problems in poor black communities, but the point is: if Obama is elected as head of this government, what is he going to do about them?

We don’t need a moralist, that’s why folks go to church. What we need is someone who is going to help provide the social and economic means by which folks can take care of their families. Despite the racist propaganda, many of our constantly defamed young people do not intend to be bad fathers. Many, however, were born to unequal opportunities: poor schools, poor housing, poor parents, poor job prospects, poor self esteem, poor expectations from the greater society and a poor message from that society about the worth of black humanity.

Rev. Jackson was bound to be taken to the shed for his personal failings. But that’s not politics. At least it isn’t real politics. The truth is, folks in power have ultimately been judged on their policies and what they did or didn’t accomplish for the people. Beating up on Jesse for his moral failings displays a bit of a double standard. The Kennedys were known philanderers, but nobody ever mentions it these days. Even Ted Kennedy gets a pass for his long ago failure of judgment at Chappaquiddick. Bill Clinton remains a respected world statesman after having cheated in every house he was elected to, including the White House.

But, the practice of beating up on poor Black people’s “morals” has become a kind of sport; in Obama’s case, it just may get him elected.

Older folks know that we have to be careful when throwing rocks; if you live long enough, one may wind up with shards of glass on one’s own floor.

Many rushed to applaud the young woman for running Jesse down. Most of these folks are the folks who hate Jackson and wish he would disappear, but they don’t hate Jackson because of his indiscretions or accusations surrounding his organization, Operation PUSH. No, what they are really mad at Jackson about is the fact that he reminds them of the racism and class prejudices that still exist in this country. Let’s face it, if it weren’t for racism and inequality there would be no Jesse Jackson. And while Austin and folks from her generation rush to condemn Jackson and call him a “Grandpa” who is “off his meds,” they also owe him and others who fought the good fight against racist discrimination a little bit of gratitude. Austin may be more indebted to the good Rev. than most. She is a writer for the television series “Scrubs.” Ironically, Jackson and some old folks like him fought hard so that Hollywood had to open its doors to talented people of color.

The writer even took a shot at what she called Jesse’s “failed” presidential campaigns. She should go back and do her research. Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition fought for the rights of all races and the working class from the Appalachian poor, to new immigrants to Native Americans.

They were far from “failed” campaigns. If anything, they fell short in that they didn’t go far enough to address the plight of the left-out in this society. But these were profoundly progressive campaigns, real anti-war campaigns, genuine people’s campaigns that did not stoop to victim-blaming, as Obama’s has done.

I only wish that Rev. Jackson had thought to speak up about Obama’s “talking down” to Black folks sooner, and had done so in a formal, dignified, sober manner. Instead, he managed to lay himself open to criticism from the likes of Ms. Austin and others with shallow understandings of history and quite narrow notions of social morality.

Mel Reeves is an activist living in Miami. He can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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If indeed Obama’s campaign is about transcending race, let’s talk about the absenteeism and bad parenting among upper middle class families (most of which are white) as well.—Mel Reeves

Mel Reeves makes an excellent point in response to Obama, in observing, we might want to talk about absenteeism among upper-middle-class whites.   Due to the high divorce rate in this country, there are many professional class people who have limited contact with children of a first marriage.   Obama’s simplistic analysis belongs in the Victorian era with Anna Julia Cooper, Mary Church Terrell, and W. E. B. Du Bois.   Serial polygamy is a common family ethos in the 21st century U.S.A.  

It was perhaps fifteen years ago, while flying from Boston to Washington D.C., that I was seated next to a pleasant young woman of 17.  She was intelligent, and guileless, and smelled like Tide.  During the previous summer she had held an internship with a major candy company investigating how to keep a Rice Crispy from losing its crunch when immersed in chocolate. 

Her divorced parents lived in different cities but within driving distance of one another.  She told me that when she was “young,” they had bought her a car, and she told me she felt quite grown-up, as a result of frequent travelling between their separate households.  

On her way home from Boston, she was dropping in on her Dad.  He seemed quite solicitous and caring, as he greeted her at the gate in Washington; then over her shoulder she gave me a final smile that I shall never forget. 

While in Boston, she decided to accept a full scholarship to  MIT.—Wilson

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Why Jesse Jackson Hates ObamaBy Shelby SteeleThe Wall Street Journal    22 July 2008


Why I Hate Shelby Steele

Why I hate Shelby Steele is that he’s a Republican operative who too often hits the nail squarely on the head in characterizing persons and situations. When he doesn’t, he slips into over-generalization and stereotyping (and worse), as when he says, “After Obama’s NAACP speech, blacks flooded into the hotel lobby thanking him for “reminding” them of their responsibility.” Well, I am a black and I doubt every black who was there did as Steele asserts. Then his characterization of Reverend Jesse Jackson is just scandalous.

The greater problem is his characterization of blacks in general. He characterizes blacks as a people, while remaining silent about white Americans and others, as “irresponsible” and their leaders as condoning irresponsibility. Of course, he has the black poor in mind and solicits the black middle-class in his racial condemnation. I ask Mr. Steele who dropped the bomb. Who took us into the Middle East. Who has ruined the American economy? Here is where we need Reverend Wright to make a catalogue.

Of course, Steele and Obama take whites off the hook and suggest that blacks are poor merely because they were “irresponsible.” Pray tell why are whites poor? Why can’t we take a break sometimes and speak of their irresponsibility as individuals and groups. Neither Obama nor Steele is willing to do that, opportunists do not get paid for that kind of service. Moreover, to place an opportunist tag on Jesse’s back for satirical barbs is the pot calling the kettle black.

But I’ll put aside for now my objections to Steele and his reactionary style of argumentation and speak to the places where he nails America’s racial politics:

1) “Mr. Jackson and his generation of black leaders made keeping whites “on the hook” the most sacred article of the post-’60s black identity.” 2) “Mr. Obama’s sacrifice of black leverage has given him a chance to actually become the president. He has captured the devotion of millions of whites in ways that black leveragers never could.”

3) “His [Obama’s] campaign is more cultural than political. He sells himself more as a cultural breakthrough than as a candidate for office.”

4) “he [Obama] no doubt hopes his trip to the Middle East and Europe will reflect him back to America with something of Mr. Powell’s stature.”

In Number One Steele goes considerably over the top by labeling what Jesse, Operation Push, and the Rainbow did in challenging the racial practices of corporations as “extortion.” It’s outrageous. Though Steele brings attention a post-MLK political reality, his argument by analogy is tasteless. Moreover, extortion is a criminal term. If that is what Jesse and others did, they should have been hauled into court and jailed. All statues of MLK should be pulled down.

The political strategy of public embarrassment of corporations by outing criminal activity, namely, racial discrimination and racial exclusion was right and proper. The activity of indicting every white as racist is indeed wrong. There remain indeed individual white racists. Some say as much as thirty percent of white Americans hold some racist views of blacks. That’s a critical mass that Obama hopes to reform. I wish him Godspeed. The political labeling of every white however was not, however, the political activity in which Jesse or Andrew Young were engaged. Steele’s charges border on libel.

Steele’s insights (numbers two through four) nail Obama’s pitches for homeruns, though they may be inside the park homeruns, for the park is so vast. But Jesse too has his white admirers as well, including Jews, probably not as many as Obama. But Jesse did not give away the store and the kitchen sink, either. Jesse indeed was not all things to all people. He was a colleague of MLK and tried as much as much as possible to keep faith with his mentor. Though he thumps the Bible now and then, Obama tend to be faithless to mentors and principles.

Now, there is another item I did not list. Steele makes this social assessment: “Obama presidency might nudge the culture forward a bit—presuming of course that he would be at least a competent president.”  That’s an if, for competency is such a loose term. There may be other political factors as well in the assessment of an Obama presidency, as with all presidencies, that could garner and stimulate personal, as well as racial hatred of the man and blacks in general.

In that there is this “political invisibility,” as well as political and personal self-interest, Obama may become as hated as Abraham Lincoln, during his presidency. Those voting for Obama whatever the color are spinning the roulette wheel.—Rudy

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Well put. I can’t wait to get him back on the phone after the election, if not before.—Kam

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You don’t begin to scratch the surface of Shelby Steele’s loathsome self-hatred. Moreover, those who crowded into the hotel lobby to congratulate Obama after his NAACP speech were not the Blacks Obama was speaking to.

Shelby Steele has made a life long career, funded by the racist Hoover Institute (an institution that defended apartheid until its final gasp) of denigrating, humiliating and disparaging Black aspirations. He is far more than just a Republican operative. In that sense he is probably apolitical-willing to support whomever is willing to raise high the banner of unfettered capitalism. He is also a plagiarist.—Jean

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posted 15 July 2008




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