Recently, I received an email for a post on Jesse Jackson and his use of the word “nigger” in a not so flattering comment about Presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Yes that comment that also found Jackson wanting to destroy Obama’s family jewels.
Referring to Mr. Jackson as an “old nigga” I found it to be very disrespectful. It can be argued that Mr. Jackson does not deserve respect, but after reading Allen Johnson’s blog Thinking Out Loud, I disagree. Maybe after reading it you too will understand why I have come to such a conclusion. Johnson’s article from the Greensboro News & Record is reprinted below for your reading pleasure.
Being Jesse isn’t easy in The Age of Obama
Teetering on irrelevance, but still hungry for the spotlight, Jesse Jackson has seen better days.
Even as a national conference of minority journalists descended two weeks ago on Jackson’s home base in Chicago, he was out of sight, if not out of mind, after an especially bad run of headlines.
It’s not often that Jackson shuns attention.
I remember him coming by the News & Record a couple of years ago to meet with the newspaper’s editorial board.
He had sought the session and gave us two-plus hours of his time.
With an attentive aide in tow, Jackson was in rare form. In particular, he had a lot to say about the country’s prison industry, as he called it. He reveled in the discussion, and he was a thoughtful and engaging interview.
But we could sense even then that he seemed a man who needed an audience. And who believed he had earned one. Who could blame him?
Since his days as an undergraduate at N.C. A&T, oh the places he’s seen and the things he’s done.
Long before Barack Obama came along, there was Jesse, doing the unthinkable, winning Democratic primaries and saying Yes He Could decades ago, way back in 1984.
Remember (and not many people seem to), Jackson won five primaries and caucuses, including Louisiana, South Carolina, Virginia, Mississippi and the District of Columbia. All told, he garnered 21 percent of the popular vote.
Then there he was again, in 1988, winning seven primaries (Alabama, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico and Virginia) and five caucuses (Alaska, Delaware, Michigan, South Carolina and Vermont).
There he was in 1997, serving as President Bill Clinton’s special envoy to the land of Obama’s father, Kenya, and meeting with Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi.
There he was, during the Kosovo War in 1999, negotiating the release of three U.S. POWs who had been captured while on patrol with a U.N. peacekeeping unit.
Then again, there he was in 1984, making his infamous reference to Hymietown, one of several disparaging remarks about Jews.
There he was, as well, in 2001, admitting to an affair with a staffer and to fathering a child with her.
There he was, accepting an apology over the phone from Michael (“Kramer”) Richards for Richards’ use of the N-word in a “comedic” rant. “A simple apology does not deal with the depth of the trauma,” Jackson said.
There he was, declaring with great bombast, that the N-word ought to be retired. Forever. “We want to give our ancestors a present,” Jackson said at a November 2006 news conference. “Dignity over degradation.”
Then there Jackson was earlier this year, using the N-word himself, while whispering not-so-sweet nothings about Obama and what ought to happen to a certain part of Obama’s anatomy. The man who had berated Richards’ use of the word as “sick” and “mean” found himself sheepishly apologizing for the very same sin.
By almost any measure, Jackson, 66, has led a remarkable life, with his stock rising and nosediving with each victory and each gaffe.
But now he seems more a bit player than a star, parachuting into Headline News hot spots, from Jena to Durham, and grabbing sound bites.
And even at that he’s been upstaged at times by (egads!) the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Still, we can’t deny Jackson his accomplishments, and we shouldn’t.
Some dismiss him as having turned victimhood into a profitable industry.
Others rightly question why he didn’t do more with the celebrity and political power he once wielded.
At the height of his power, writes National Public Radio and Fox News commentator Juan Williams in his 2006 book on black leadership, “Enough,” Jackson became “unofficial president of black America.”
But Williams says Jackson squandered the chance to do something more meaningful and substantive at that point — that he feathered his own nest but did little to improve the general condition of black people.
“He turned away from political races he had a chance to win by refusing to run for mayor of Chicago, the hometown of his group PUSH, or to run for the U.S. Senate from South Carolina, his native state. …
“And he was not accountable to any constituency for his lack of progress.”
Now Jackson has been overshadowed by one who is younger, and who has chosen the path he turned away from.
He may have his regrets, but he has made his mark. Jackson’s place in history is secure. He just won’t let go.
In the Age of Obama, he’s finding it hard to cede the spotlight, even when it burns.