Jesse on Jesse

Here's a fairly interesting interview with Jesse Jackson. (Peace to J&JP for the link) I think the fact that it's done by a black magazine (ESSENCE) gives it a flavor that's lacking in MSM discussions of Jackson's faith. Put more plainly, ESSENCE knows what it's talking about. Anyway, I think people interpret this Obama/Jesse rift as something new brought about by Obama's "post-racial" approach. This is just wrong. I can remember back in 1995, as the Million Man March approached, a great degree of disenchantment with Jesse, who at the time, was weighing whether to attend. The funny thing is the issue then, was the same issue now--if cast in a different light.

The most attractive thing about M3 was that it was that it offered a sense of empowerment--it said to black men, "Your life is not perfect. But you have it within you to fix it." What so many people forget about M3 is that it wasn't a protest aimed at the broader country--it was a demonstration aimed at ourselves. The theme was, literally, atonement--the idea that black men had disgraced themselves and needed to be redeemed. From a young black perspective, there was always something emasculating something weak about Jesse's protest approach. There was this implicit message in the tactics--protests, boycotts, marches--that if white people don't help you, you're fucked. So many of us came up on the words of Malcolm, and to us, that sort of talk was just another form of shuffling. I'm not saying that's right, but it's how we saw it.

Moreover, that "Appeal to white folks" approach was basically the dominant picture of black America as seen by the MSM. For a lot of us young cats, it was embarrassing and enraging to watch the murder rate shooting up in our neighborhood and then turn on the news and see the NAACP boycotting Denny's. I think the picture was always more complicated than that. But the fact is that we had about as much contact with "black leadership" as most white people. We knew Jesse the way most of the country did--through the television. Thus there was this distance between the daily struggles of being black, and what we saw Jesse focusing on.

I think a lot of the venom that's come Jesse's way has come as a shock to a lot of white people, especially as the MSM has begun to pick up on this idea that there is no singular "black opinion," (though there is a singular white opinion, more on that in a bit) and thus maybe there was never one black spokesperson. But this was never really about Obama, as much as it was about our desire to be seen in the world in more than just one way.