Sunday, July 13, 2008

Is Jesse Jackson "nuts"? Not so fast.

So, maybe some of you have heard that Rev. Jesse Jackson wants to (figuratively) cut off the nuts of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama?

For background, I'm a member of a listserv dubbed "youngblackjournalists" and I occasionally engage some very smart folks - most of them black - on another e-mail chain that I'm often reading when I should be doing other things. As you might imagine, the hot topic near the end of the week was whether Rev. Jackson had stepped out of line and was Sen. Obama really "talking down to black folks" during his celebrated speech on Father's Day.

Of course, there's no place for Rev. Jackson's crude remarks in reasonable and logical political discourse. He apologized, and he should have. But some people are using his "mic check" moment as an excuse to pile on and push him further into the background. Here's a compilation of my responses on "youngblackjournalists" and the e-mail group. What say you?:

I think there's room for lots of folks at the top, and in many ways, the idea of a black leader is sort of antiquated. Can a handful of folks truly represent the diversity and complexity of the so-called black community? Even if Sen. Obama wins in November, he doesn't all of sudden represent the entirety of "Blackland." He and Rev. Jackson (I believe he's earned the right for a courtesy title, no?) are free to offer their takes on the triumphs and ills of the community, and they don't have to be in direct competition to do so. In fact, all of us are free to contribute to the larger discussions.

But back to what Rev. Jackson was referring to during that mic check mishap, I can sort of see where he was coming from. Sen. Obama was coming from a good and decent and honest place during his Father's Day speech. I truly believe that and don't have a problem with that.

My issue is that folks, specifically some of the media's biggest political pundits and others, are acting as if black folks have never had the common sense to understand that fathers should stick around to take care of their children. I mean, that's only common sense and a rather obvious point that any reasonable person can understand.

Sen. Obama and Bill Cosby are not the first black people to mention that, uh, "maybe some of you guys should take care of your kids." It's an old refrain. And something that applies to people across all races and ethnicities. I know that my late grandfather, who had a 3rd-grade education and raised 12 kids (four of whom were not biologically his) in Jim Crow Arkansas, felt the same way.

So let's stop acting like Obama and the Coz have come up with some cutting-edge lesson for a new generation, ok? Black people have always been talking to black people about black people. Nothing new there. Tsk-tsking folks isn't exactly some form of political bravery.

And that's what I believe Rev. Jackson was talking about during that really crude moment on Fox. He should have apologized for that, and only that. And he did.

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