Conflicting emotions, feeling ofdisappointment, timing of revelation that Rev. Jackson fathered achild with former aide lead to charges of "right-wingorchestration"
Special to USAfricaonline.com
Supportersand opponents of Rev. Jackson are expressing their "sense ofbetrayal" over the civil rights leader's latest social twist andsudden fall from grace; although many say temporarily. While Jacksonand millions of Americans see the scandal as a matter of his own"making and responsibility", New York Daily News reporter WilliamBunch and other liberal activists are raising a divergent issue as towhether the January 18 outing of the Rev. Jackson as the father of a20-month-old by was "an orchestrated hit by the right-wing - aimed atdampening protests over President-elect Bush and his attorney generalpick, John Ashcroft?" Prof. Ronald Walters, University of Marylandprofessor who chaired Stanford's dissertation committee,called Stanford "a bright young woman." He added that "I don't thinkthis is going to have much of an impact on Reverend Jackson'sfuture," said Walters who co-authored "African-American Leadership"with Smith. "He has built up 30 years of capital, standing up forhuman rights, civil rights, women's rights, labor rights. By thatstandard, this is a minor thing." Jackson has decided to "withdrawtemporarily" from public engagement. Others like elederly Rev. JamesLowery have also conveyed their sympathy for the implications onJackson moral leverage to lead the civil rights movement. Family andfriends of the Rev. Jesse Jackson are seeking prayers and privacy.The baby (a girl), now 20 months old, was born while Jackson wasadvising Clinton as his spiritual counselor in the wake of the MonicaLewinsky adultery scandal. The affair has, as expected, negativelyimpacted Rev. Jackson's 38-year marriage. USAfricaonline.comwith wire reports
Pass political not moral judgment onJesse Jackson
Special to USAfricaonline.com
ByEARL OFARI HUTCHINSON
SUMMARY OF VIEWPOINT:
The moment the news broke on Wednesday night, January 16,2001, that Jesse Jackson had fathered a child out of wedlock a paradeof black elected officials, civil rights leaders, communityactivists, and persons on the street immediately pleaded for prayer,understanding, and forgiveness for Jackson. Some even praised him forpublicly admitting his sexual dalliance. This was not surprising.Blacks have been more than willing to circle the racial wagons andforgive, if not outright defend, their leader's sexual misconduct.Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Martin Luther King, Jr.,Washington D.C. mayor Marion Barry, and even Black Baptist leader,Henry Lyons, quickly come to mind. They chalk their behavior up tothe pressures of racism, cite the need for racial unity, and hint atconspiracies, and plots to nail black leaders. But even as manyblacks call for forgiveness for Jackson, the troubling issue is nothis moral lapse but his leadership.
Jackson has been black America's longest standing voice ofprotest. He could be counted on to pop up at a rally or lead ademonstration championing improved health care, education, end topolice violence, workers rights, prison and criminal justicesystem reform, affirmative action, and black political gains.
But the top heavy reliance on Jackson to rev-up the crowds andcarry the torch on the burning social issues carries a steep price.This was immediately apparent in the fall-out after his affair. Manyblacks expected him to keep media and public attention locked ontheir battle to torpedo the confirmation of attorney generaldesignate John Ashcroft and the continuing protests over allegationsof voter fraud in Florida. But he abruptly announced that he willtemporarily withdraw from public life. This took the edge off theprotests and caused many black activists to scramble to regroup.
The love-hate affair between Jackson and the media and the publicdidn't happen by chance. From the moment Playboy Magazine anointedhim as the heir apparent to Martin Luther King, Jr. followingKings assassination in 1968 many editors and reportersdutifully fell in line, not because they were enthralled by hiscaptivating personality, recognized his considerable talents, orgenuinely believed that he was the next King, but because they feltcompelled to pick a black leader that they feel comfortable with, andwhose views are not considered too extreme.
Editors and reporters, and many public officials have gotten awaywith this crass and cynical tactic because many whites regard blacksas so far outside the political and social pale of American societythat they filter their view of blacks solely through the prism of aracial monolith. They are profoundly conditioned to believe that allblacks think and act alike. They freely use the words and deeds ofthe chosen black leader as the standard to judge howAfrican-Americans behave. When the chosen one makes a real orcontrived misstep, he becomes the hand-made whipping boy to publiclyattack blacks.
Blacks are blamed for being rash, fool-hardy, irresponsible, andprone to eternally play the race card on every social ill that befallthem. The furor over vote irregularities in Florida was a neartextbook example of the danger of over-dependence on Jackson'sleadership. Gore backers were scared stiff that Republicans wouldplay hard on his status as the media-anointed leader of blackAmerica, to fuel white backlash, and divert public attention from thelegitimate issue of voter fraud. The Republicans didnt play therace card with Jackson but many in the media did. CNN frothed thatJackson created a "mini-riot" and "fomented turbulence." TheWashington Post railed that Jackson was "exciting racial passions."Bill O'Reilley (of FoxNews) whose antipathy toward Jackson isboundless, accused Jackson of inciting racial and "class warfare."MSNBC, Fox News, CNBC, the Boston Globe, the Dallas Morning News,Newsday, and the Detroit News, gleefully took up the"Jackson-is-a-race-baiter" cry.
Many blacks rapturously embrace prominent figures such as Jacksonas leaders for a simple reason. They have been tossed to the farflung margins of American politics and are desperate to find someone,anyone, who appears to speak boldly on their behalf. Thesusceptibility of many blacks to embrace this type of apopulist-sounding leader has been the cause of profound pessimismabout what and who a leader is and should be. This has caused manyblacks to throw up their hands in disgust and brand black leaders, insome cases all black leaders, as corrupt, ineffective, selfish, andweak.
Jackson defenders insist that he will bounce back from the scandaland that he will be as effective as ever. But if by effectivenessthey mean that he will once again resume his role as the exclusivevoice of black protest and that blacks must look to him to galvanizethem on racial issues then his fall will be their fall
Dr. Hutchinson, Los Angeles based executive editor ofUSAfricaonline.com and the author of The Disappearance of BlackLeadership, is the President of the National Alliance for Positivewww.natalliance.org. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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