Jesse Jackson and How to be Black in America

I’ve said from the start that Barack Obama’s candidacy is good for America if for no other reason than that it gives us a good excuse to have some frank conversations about race in this country. The recent “hot mike” remarks made by Jesse Jackson highlight at least two interesting topics regarding how blacks should conduct themselves in this society.

The first issue is whether or not blacks should castigate other blacks in front of whites. When I watched excerpts of Barack Obama’s “Father’s Day” speech, I must confess to some discomfort. While I fully agreed with Obama’s call for responsibility among black men, I wondered to myself when have we ever seen a white politician telling deadbeat white dads to get their act together on national television? All I could do was picture a bunch of good ‘ole boys watching his speech and saying “yep, even the colored guy knows how lazy and shiftless his colored brothers are. Heck, if he’s saying it, it must be true.” I have struggled with my feelings about this. It smacks of airing dirty laundry outside the “family”. On the other hand, how do we fix problems in any community if we don’t discuss them? When Bill Cosby gave the same message not long ago, I didn’t think twice about it. Perhaps it was because he is an entertainer. Obama is auditioning for leader of the free world, and President of ALL Americans so perhaps I’m upset to see him singling out one group for admonishment? In any case, Jesse’s comments resonated with me on a certain level. Yet I’m not comfortable about it.

The second issue involved Jesse’s use of the “N” word during his whispered comments about Obama’s social perspective. This prompted a heated debate on “The View”, a show that I don’t typically  look to for intellectual stimulation. However the following dialog is worth discussing. (The video is a bit long but ultimately worth it.)

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Who should use the “N” word? Absolutely no one! In this face off on The View I was astounded to find myself at first on the same side as the too-young-to-know-better conservative Elizabeth Hasselbeck. Sheree Shepherd and Whoopi Goldberg’s old argument about how “owning” the word somehow disinfects it is just so much horse manure. The word is hateful and has no place in public or private discourse. But the argument does take an interesting turn when Hasselbeck suggests that “we all live in the same world.” To this, Whoopi angrily pointed out that life for blacks and whites in this country is not the same. Hasselbeck, who more often than not comes off like a spoiled brat who lucked into a reality show and a football player husband, was dumbfounded (and outright hurt) by Whoopi’s reaction. Sadly, Hasselbeck naively believes that her Utopian view of the world is reality. For this she badly needed a wake up call from Goldberg. Whoopi’s only mistake is in thinking that the way we deal with our lot in this country is to “take ownership” of words that demean us.

As I expected, Obama’s candidacy is sparking debate among blacks and whites about racial politics in America. More interestingly, a road map is being drawn for how to conduct oneself as a black in 21st century society. Are we truly in a post-racial period? If so, then blacks criticizing blacks in a public forum might be completely appropriate and part of that criticism ought to be the complete and utter rejection of the “N” word.

Rutherford Political Blogger Alliance


15 thoughts on “Jesse Jackson and How to be Black in America

  1. TO WHOOPie
    I am a white man and I am not racists
    And if whoppie Goldberg wants a segregated language; as she spoke about yesterday .. that only black people are allowed to use certain words.. then we all should be able to go back to segregation – seperate but equal – seprate but equal… this is what she really wants … To me she wants segregation and if she says its ok to segargate a language or words, the why stop there??? lets bring back segration.. we all should be able to do it
    I may never vote for a black person now because of her …
    I am not a racist – I am a white man … but if thats the way she wants it then so be it – I am following the lead of whoppie Goldberg and the Rev of god… Master Jackson and master Sharpton
    You want polarized society well now you got it – I will start from this day on
    Thanx for bringing me to lite

  2. Rutherford,

    How symmetric of you to perceive Hasselbeck to be a spoiled brat. Here I was thinking the same of the “black” side of the argument.

    How special does one have to be to get their own private world? In my experience, one doesn’t have to be special at all, only in a constant need of an excuse and a in a relentless effort to push one’s own shame and guilt onto someone else.

    Addicts, career criminals, panhandlers, and wife beaters are some of the other groups that are famous for this. They are in such special pain, just ask them about it.

    Jesse Jackson is a segregationist. Goldberg is a segregationist. Even after all the barriers to integration are removed, after 40 years of remediation in the form of Affirmative Action and minority set-asides, these people have defined their own segregation that can never be eliminated: how they feel.

    I have been on this like, as they say, white on rice and rudely re-ask the question: What do you do when the gossip is true?

    Last time, you used Spike Lee’s idiot rant to evade this question.

    I’ll tell you again, I understand the conflict you have between fairness and loyalty, but whether you answer the question where I can see it or not, you WILL answer the question.

    So far your answer seems to have been that loyalty to your race comes before everything. It comes before your life. It comes before the lives of your children.

    That’s fine by me. It’s a free country, whether you like it or not. It’s your life and those were your kids. Do try to keep in mind the universally known reaction to this behavior of all those famous groups. Those outside those self-segregated worlds will smile, apologize to the raving adolescents, and hate them in silence. You aren’t even going to get a special kind of brush off.

  3. Ecclesiastes, you seem dead set on painting me into a corner here. While I’m not a fan of Mikecookie’s style of rhetoric, I agree with the notion that segregated language is as ill advised as a segregated society. This is not to say that everyone ought to be able to use the “N” word, but rather that no one should be using it, neither black nor white.

    You’ve discussed “40 years of remediation” before. Do you really believe that after 40 years everything is perfect now? Equality has been reached? Are you really saying that the disproportionate number of incarcerated blacks is simply a matter of the “gossip being true”?

    Contrary to what your comment seems to imply, I am not in the tank for Whoopi Goldberg. However, I also don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. She is right that whites and blacks, for the most part, still don’t live in the same world (in this country). Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s view is that of a sheltered “little girl”. She is at best idealistic, at worst shallow. But I DO agree with her that racial epithets used by ANYONE discourage healing and social progress. There were valid points made by both sides.

  4. Rutherford,

    It isn’t my intent to paint you into a corner. It is my intent to point out the corner you are painted into. You don’t answer to me. You will answer to your children and their children.

    The question I posed presumed that the point of gossip was true. False ones are slander, and there is no question about how to handle those. How do you handle the truth?

    Take that statistic that there are a disproportionate number of blacks in jail. Is the relevant comparison against whites, or might including the illegitimacy/broken family factor bring it in line? I don’t know the answer for that one but then again I’m not in the group with the problem either.

    What would you do if it wasn’t about race, but a culture of failure?

    What would the statistics look like for just Atlanta, or just New Orleans, or just Jackson MS? These are cities with black mayors and black city councils. They draw juries from the voter registrations. Are you sure you know whom you are accusing of racism?

    How would you handle not just disproportionate black on black crime but also disproportionate black on black justice?

    You object that I would think 40 years are enough, but your standard is perfection? I don’t quite know how to take that. Are you saying that 80 will fix it, or that you can’t deal with any imperfection at all?

    Black America’s constant justification is that they are ‘special’, and they have special needs. Oh, really. Should I agree?

    Let me point out something I haven’t seen you think about. If Obama becomes President, your racial remediation period is officially OVER. It may not be perfect world, but it’s close enough.

    Are you ready for that day when your every statistic is greeted with ‘B*****t.’ instead of that smile and apology? Where you will have to PROVE your disadvantage because it no longer assumed?

    I’m not painting you into a corner. I’m doing you a big fat favor goading you to think. Forewarned is forearmed.

  5. If Obama becomes President, your racial remediation period is officially OVER.

    There’s the racists’ “get out of jail free” card. I wondered how long it would take somebody to play it.

    Truth is that electing an African American does not mean that everything is A-OK, that all of the problems and issues of race will magically disappear. They won’t.

  6. The problems with racism will never disappear because it is in the interest of too many that the problems persist.

  7. vjp,

    Obama won’t even be inaugurated before that card is played. That IS what is coming whether I bring it or not.

    Take that ‘everything is not A-OK’ thing. Things aren’t A-OK for anybody. we all just put up with it. There hasn’t been a Latino president yet, though, nor a female, nor a homosexual, nor a Jew. What will you say to them? Blacks aren’t going to be one of them any more.

    You probably missed the history of this debate between Rutherford and myself. The question at issue is what should Rutherford do when faced with accurate negative facts about black Americans in general. Keep silent? Deny it? Trumpet it?

    Take the state of the nuclear family as an issue. The collapse of the family didn’t happen under Jim Crow laws. It didn’t happen under slavery. It happened in the last 40 years.

    That means it’s not the racist’s fault. Black Americans did it to themselves.

    Right now Bill Cosby is taking heat for saying so. He’s hardly the first. VP Dan Quayle said the same thing years prior and look what that got him.

    It is my contention that the Democrats destroyed the black nuclear family on purpose. Everybody knew. Alfie’s interested parties played their own race cards, saying that their opponents were racists, and the machine kept right on running. Congratulations on the win, Democrats. Black America, it’s not my fault. Too bad, so sad, s**ks to be you.


  8. Methinks Ecclesiastes has accidentally contradicted himself. Did “black Americans do it to themselves”? or did the democrats do it? You seem to say both. Or did you mean that the black democrats are to blame?

    A few weeks ago, Michael Eric Dyson wrote an excellent article on this topic. The answer to African American’s troubles is a balance of personal responsibility and government advocacy. One would hope the day will come that personal responsibility will be the only factor. Ecclesiastes, I don’t know if that will take another 40 years. I certainly hope not.

  9. While I am at it … and this perhaps deserves its own blog post instead of being buried in these comments … I am not a sociologist but there must be something inherent in the legacy of slavery that has greatly contributed to the under achievement of African Americans in this country.

    Let’s return for a moment to the question of the “N” word. I am unaware of any prevalence in the Chinese, Korean or Jewish community to embrace the epithets used against them. They don’t attempt to “own” these words. They repudiate them and these groups (although this is a generalization) tend to be goal oriented achievers despite their minority status. They place a high priority on education and self reliance.

    On the other hand, the persecuted immigrants of this country, blacks, Italians, and the Irish, to name three groups, all share this foolishness of embracing within their own community the hateful names that have been used against them. The Italian and Irish immigrants overcame their rough start, but then they were voluntary immigrants. I think that perhaps the fact that blacks were involuntary immigrants was a burden that it will simply take many more years to repair. Perhaps it will take blacks as much time as they were in literal and figurative chains to finally fully break free of them?

  10. vjp,

    Why? Like I said, you’re coming into the conversation in the middle. Still, the question of why it hammered the black community as hard as it did is a good one.

    For the first part see post #7 on

    There always is the attraction of a ‘kinder, gentler’ solution to one’s problems. Who wants to do things the hard way? In 1965, black Americans were, financially, in sad shape.

    They had, recently, attached themselves to the Democratic party and to those political opportunists that Alphie mentioned. Johnson’s New Society was the solution de jure.

    To draw on a personal experience, when I coached my children on drugs – because the DARE program is a loser – I taught them this mantra: Drugs are poison.

    Drugs are all poison. One of the most horrible deaths one can endure is an overdose of asprin, hemorrhaging throughout one’s body. Antibiotics aren’t called that for nothing.

    The DARE approach is to saddle the word drug with a social value that waxes and wanes with one’s mindset and circumstance. Poison is always true. No one is mucking around with the negative stereotype of poison.

    Those programs of the Great Society were like drugs, but the appropriate fear of them was tossed away with the elimination of their social stigma, the baby went with the bathwater.

    There have been several minority groups that have found their place as equals in America, and while they may have fallen upon using those Great Society programs, it was only for a short time, as a treatment for a temporary problem, to wit, the Viet refugees of the late 1970’s.

    Black America was told time and again what was going to happen to them if they stayed faithful to the sweet overtures of the liberal agenda. They chose.

    That’s not my fault. I’m not guilty. I’m not ashamed. I don’t owe anything for it. I and those like me were castigated as racists for our efforts to warn you then, just as you have not so subtly implied of me on this very thread today.

    I approach this as a single father, passionate cruel and judgmental, that the family is vital to everyone. My first duty as a man is to protect. That my attention falls disproportionately upon the black community isn’t a matter of hate or love.

  11. Rutherford,

    I’m not so sure I didn’t contradict myself.

    Regarding ‘involuntary immigrants’ – Liberia.

    The ‘N’ word. HA! ‘N’ word = p*ssy.

    As long as what I say determines when you are angry, then *I* am in charge. Call me a cracker and see how much leverage that gets you. Call me anything you like.

    I’m not going to test it, but I’d bet that WordPress censors all posts that use it, to protect you. It doesn’t censor honky, redneck, yanqui or Yankee. I don’t need protection.

    You want real power, to be truly macho? Have racists call you the ‘N’ word and not notice. Until then, you’re weak. Man up. Don’t give them the power.

    The black mindset has been that of a victim, to draw their power from being persecuted. They aren’t going to give up the ‘N’ word anytime soon.

  12. Rutherford,

    There is a reason I start at Dan Quayle and not Moynihan.

    When Moynihan said it in 1965, it was still open to challenge. By 1992, it wasn’t.

    Oh, no. Everybody knew. Black America chose.

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