10 July 2008

Say Goodnight, Jesse

In light of the print and air time already given to Jesse Jackson's intemperate outburst against Barack Obama, what more could I possibly add? Not much, probably, except to say good riddance to the Rev. Jackson, who not only lost any remaining credibility as a spokesperson for the African-American community (credibility which in retrospect he probably never should have had in the first place), but also, with any luck, may finally cease being a millstone around the neck of black America.

It's been pointed out repeatedly that Jackson's fit of pique no doubt stemmed from the realization that he is finished as a serious political force, completely and utterly eclipsed by Obama's cool rationality and unforced eloquence. By contrast, Jackson is and has long been an embarrassment, a fast-talking hustler who frequently reinforced some of the most negative stereotypes about black men playing fast and loose with the truth. Those of you old enough to remember the outcry that saw Amos'n'Andy banished not only from the airwaves but from the collective American memory for its allegedly racist caricatures might also notice an uncanny resemblance between the Rev. Jackson and that show's gobbeledygook-spouting ambulance chaser, Algonquin J. Calhoun.

Even Al Sharpton, who normally makes JJ look downright statesmanlike, has been speaking up for Obama and putting the diss on Brother Jesse, but as much as I'd like to believe this marks a tentative first step into reputability for New York's own clown prince of race baiting, it's more likely that Rev. Al has seen the graffiti on the wall: for all his promises of greater economic opportunity and justice, Barack Obama may have signed the death warrant for one well-established profession, that of the perennially and professionally aggrieved black man.

Because frankly, when you've got an articulate, eloquent, educated and apparently upright and decent presidential candidate who happens to be black, what need is there, really, for one-note shuck and jive artists of the Jackson-Sharpton ilk? "The white man is holding me down" just won't play when you've got tens of millions of white men happily voting to be governed by a black man; it just just makes it all the more obvious that the cult of victimology so profitably mined by Jackson, Sharpton has done more harm to black America in recent years than the white man ever could.

As for Obama, he continues to grow in my estimation: his soft-pedaling or jettisoning some of his more loony-left positions makes me far more enthusiastic about the possibility of voting for him, and his willingness to speak straightforwardly and honestly about some of the social dysfunctions rife within the black community - the sort of stuff Jesse Jackson needs you to believe is entirely the fault of the government, structural racism, and whitey - marks him as the kind of leader Americans of all colors have been crying out for.

Yes, I know it could be mere political posturing, but as of now I'm inclined to give Obama the benefit of the doubt. He seems to have reawakened a sense of possibility and idealism that 20 years of Bushes and Clintons had all but killed off. When Spike Lee - who I've previously never had much time for - and I start singing from the same Obama hymn sheet, it's hard not to believe something's afoot.

"Here's the thing," Lee says, "I don't know why people are questioning whether Barack Obama is black enough. For me, that's an ignorant statement. There are middle-class, educated black people who speak the way he does. ... We have to try to move away from this so-called image of what black is, which is largely influenced by rap and that type of stuff."

And I join in saying hallelujah: I've been arguing for years against the notion, largely promulgated by an unholy coalition of guilt-ridden, clueless whites and then Jackson-Sharpton poverty pimp/race hustler crowd, that the only way for someone to be authentically "black" is to come across like an angry, loud-mouthed ignoramus. Obama, on the other hand, gives people of every race something they can both identify with and aspire to.

"I'm for Mr. Obama," says Spike Lee. "I think he's gonna win. And it's going to be a better day not only for the United States but for the world." As of July 10, 2008, that's pretty much exactly how I see it.

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