By Patricia Wilson-Smith
If by now, you still need a reason for why I started BWFO, you need look no further than the man who was once considered one of the most important black leaders in this country – Reverend Jesse Jackson.
Earlier this week, Reverend Jackson, a self-proclaimed Obama supporter, let slip during a 45-minute one on one interview with a reporter from South Carolina’s “The State” newspaper, that in not responding more strongly to the now well known “Jena 6″ case in Lousiana, Senator Obama was “acting like he’s white”.
I shuddered when I heard this too. I’ll take a moment and let your shudder die down – it’ll be tough though, because it comes in waves doesn’t it?
Yes it does. So as a proud member of Black Women for Obama, and a sworn defender of the Senator, I have to respond. The problem is, when I think about Jesse Jackson’s latest shenanigans, the only thing that comes to my mind is – why? Why is it so easy for a man like Jesse Jackson to let such toxic words fall from his mouth about a man who is our first real hope for a President who, well, isn’t white, and who has done more than what’s necessarily required of him to denounce the horrible situation in Jena, Lousiana?
I’m tempted to end my musings here with a “beats the heck outta me”, and a “thank you and goodnite”, but I can’t, because I’m genuinely puzzled. I’m confused, and yet strangely fascinated by what could have possibly motivated Jesse Jackson to say such a thing. So I am here tonight to offer up some possible theories. I welcome yours (clear throat).
Theory # 1: Jesse Jackson is the king of the political “player haters”; perhaps he simply can’t stand to see another African American man get so close to something that was so unattainable for him. Sounds plausible, but then the man did endorse Senator Obama back in March of this year, so though it’s theory number one, it’s not the strongest.
Theory # 2: He’s a secret agent and under-cover attack dog for the Clintons. This theory has legs, my friends. Jesse Jackson has been a close personal friend of the Clinton’s for years. What if – just work with me for a moment – the Clinton campaign secretly hired Reverend Jackson to pretend to be an endorser of Senator Obama’s, in order to get information about the inner workings of his campaign? And worse yet, what if he was really engaged by the Clintons to spout off at the mouth about the slightest gaffe the Senator might make, in order to bolster support for the Clintons with blacks? I mean THINK ABOUT IT – there are still dyed-in-the-wool Jackson supporters out there who think the man’s mouth is a prayer book. I’m just sayin’.
Theory # 3: The real Jesse Jackson was abducted years ago by alien life forms, who cruelly left us stuck with a talking and remarkably human-like Jesse Jackson doll with a bad micro-chip. Hmmmm.
Theory # 4: (And the more likely theory) Foot-in-Mouth-Syndrome. The glare of the national spotlight, and a tendency to deal with all issues in a trigger-happy, speak-then-think way has once again cast a gloomy cloud over Jesse Jackson’s presumably well-intentioned rainbow.
I mean, are we really surprised? Has Jesse Jackson exactly shown himself to be careful in speech, thought, or action in the past? [Insert resounding ‘hell no’ here]. This is the same man who made the ‘Hymietown’ remark during a time when he himself was actively campaigning for President. The same man who carried on an extramarital affair while at the same time serving as ‘spiritual counselor’ to President Clinton during the Monica Lewinski debacle. The same man who once said he was ‘sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust’. Geesh – Jesse Jackson is a member of the foot-in-mouth Hall of Fame.
Don’t get me wrong, peeps. Jesse Jackson has also done plenty of good work, and has been a tireless stalwart for the black community since the days of the Civil Rights Movement, though it’s been hard to miss the fact that some of his actions over the last several years have seemed more like opportunities to increase his personal visibility and net worth than genuine attempts at working to change the black condition in this country.
That’s what’s so dangerous about his careless remarks – when a man who in almost all other ways, claims to have the best interests of the down-trodden minorities in this country at heart, goes and spouts off at the mouth about anything anytime he wants, it lends credence to the idea that many have that he’s really only ever trying to draw more attention to himself. And in taking his little jab at the Senator, he unknowingly crossed the line from plain old diarrhea of the mouth, to committing what in my mind will go down in history as one of the classic goofs of all time.
See, what-had-happened-was, after Jesse made his little remark, the Obama Campaign disclosed that the Reverend’s very own son, Jesse Jackson Jr., had actually advised the Senator (in part) on what his official response to the Jena 6 case and the trial should be (no – you understood correctly, but go back and read it again if you need to). Yes! It’s true! Our friend Reverend Jackson:
- Inserted himself into the limelight surrounding the Jena 6 case, once again squeezing out a spot in the national spotlight for himself while…
- The Obama Campaign looked to the Jr. Jesse Jackson to help Senator Obama craft an official stance on the Jena 6 case, just in time for…
- Big Daddy Jackson to carelessly tell a reporter that in delivering the very same response that his son helped come up with, Senator Obama was ‘acting too white’.
Too funny. So in essence, Jesse Jackson Sr. thinks Jesse Jackson Jr. acts too white, and what we really have here is a private family matter between a father disillusioned by his son’s sense of his own racial identity, and a son who clearly doesn’t call his Dad on the weekends to tell him how he spends his work week.
My suggestion to Mr. Jackson is that he lay down his weapon (his big mouth), take a deep breath, and figure out how he can keep from destroying any legacy he might have left from his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. He would do well to start by not attacking the one man who in all his actions and deeds has proven that he has the best interest of all people at heart, especially African Americans and those who are disenfranchised, or have been forgotten by modern day politicians and their heartless brand of politics. He would do well to end by somehow choking back the urge now and forever more to belittle anyone’s actions by saying they’re acting ‘too white’. What the hell does that mean, anyway?
Finally, my fervent wish for Jesse Jackson is that he find a clue at the end of one of his rainbows and drag his politically, socially dated butt into the new millenium and find a way to help deal with this nation’s problems in the context of the new realities in which we find ourselves – one where people no longer refer to others as ‘too black’ or ‘too white’, and one where a black man can really become President of these United States, and is not relegated to just running on a national platform aimed at bolstering his street cred and eliciting the blind faith of black men, women and children in communities nationwide who deserve better. I’m just sayin’.