Wait A Minute: On Jesse Jackson...



Mel Reeves is a freelance writer, activist and organizer living in Miami, Florida and will be contributing regularly to The Liberator. He is also the former editor of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder newspaper in Minneapolis and the Miami Times.

I read with interest an attack on Jesse Jackson by an up and coming young black writer Taii K. Austin on the Huffington Post recently that caught my eye for several reasons.

She defended Senator Obama by attacking Jackson’s moral failings and implied that his indiscretions and his age should limit his ability to criticize the presidential candidate and not so subtly dismissed his contribution to the struggle for human and civil Rights in this country. I disagree.

Jackson of course was ripe for criticism for his silly comments about Senator Obama. I have to admit, I understand the Reverend's disdain. 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 doesn’t seem very Christian-like to me.

But the pandering is in poor taste, primarily because only a black man can get away with calling out poor black folks the way he can and he and his advisors know it. I can’t but notice how the press picks up on what he is doing without any trouble. I mean if his campaign is about transcending race lets talk about the absenteeism and bad parenting among upper middle class families (many of which are white) as well. We 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?

I mean we don’t need a moralist, we need someone who is going to help folks by providing the social and economic means whereby folks can take care of their families. Despite the racist propaganda, these young people weren’t born 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 society about the worth of black humanity.

It's one thing for Bill Cosby to beat up on black folks, but Obama, if elected, will have State power at his disposal. The question is, what is he going to do with it? Or, is this constant harping on the victims of a society in which wealth and opportunity are unequally divided, a message to us.

Young Austin decided to beat up on Rev. Jackson and seemingly attempt to silence him because of his personal moral failings and, no doubt, Jesse is open to be taken to the shed for them. 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. And beating up on Jesse for his moral failing displays a bit of a double standard. The Kennedy’s who have been in the news quite a bit, were known philanderers, but nobody ever mentions it these days. Even Ted Kennedy gets a pass for his long-ago failure of judgement. No one beats up on Bill Clinton about moral failing and he has cheated in every house he was elected to, including the White House.

I never hear talk about Cosby’s moral failings. You can look them up, I am not going there. The reason one hears little about Cosby’s indiscretions is because too many victim-blamers, conservatives and -- yes -- racists pat him on the back for his foray into beating up and kicking poor black folk, who are already down. Hell, the practice is almost becoming sport; it pays well and in Obama’s case it just may get him elected.

The writer shows her age, because us older folk know that we have to be careful when throwing the rocks of moral failings; if you live long enough, one may wind up with shards of glass on your floor.

People 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 the unproven accusations and rumors 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 the 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 and call him ‘old fogey’, they also owe him, and others who fought the good fight against racist discrimination, a little bit of gratitude.

It may be out of ignorance, but the writer even took a shot at what she called Jesse’s “failed” presidential campaigns in 1984 and '88. She, like many others, should go back and do their research. Jackson ran under a true rainbow coalition that took into consideration the desires of all races and the working class from the Appalachian poor, to immigrants, to Native Americans, to the fight for workers' rights.

They were far from “failed” campaigns. The only failure was that they didn’t go far enough to address the plight of the left-out in this society. But they failed because it was a real campaign, a real anti-war campaign, a real people’s campaign that sought to bring attention to the real pain of being poor in America. It did not stoop to victim blaming, and rather than push further down those that were already beaten down by US imperialism, it offered a real hand up. He ran on a real “yes we can” platform and really did fire up the people's imagination, just as Obama’s has done. Only he didn’t back away from his promises, as Obama is doing, in order to become “electable.”

Jackson wouldn’t have agreed that spying on Americans is okay, he was really anti-war, he was opposed to US adventurism, he was opposed to the death penalty, he made real proposals about how to get folks back to work, he advocated real quality public education. Jackson’s campaign failed partly because it tried to put “new wine in old wine skins,” that is, it attempted to put the people’s ideas into the framework of one of the ruling classes two designated parties and they “weren’t having it.” But it failed primarily because the power structure used its propaganda tools, mainly the big-business press and our class and racial self hatred to convince us that we couldn’t and shouldn’t vote for what we really wanted.

I agree with the writer that Jackson should make his objections known in public and stop acting like a rejected suitor who has lost his lover's attention. The truth is he probably doesn’t disagree with Obama that much for all of his posturing; he too is still beholden to US imperialism and has no intention of breaking with the system and is comfortable tweaking it.

However, it appears that Obama’s continuous flip flops -– especially concerning the war and FISA -- place more than a little doubt on the writer's projections about what she called the “potential for social change that having a black president would bring.” And since advice was being dispensed, I think it behooves her and other Obama supporters to take seriously her admonition and, “follow him closely if elected to see that he makes good on his promises.”


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