Jesse Jackson: Decoding his cutting remark about Obama

The backlash that has followed Jesse Jackson's remarks may actually benefit Barack Obama in his quest for the White House.

If only Jesse Jackson could have kept his massive ego in check, said Neil Steinberg in the Chicago Sun-Times, he could have been “an elder statesman for the black community.” But last week Jackson showed once again why he’s black America’s “crazy uncle in the attic.” Unaware that he was whispering into a live microphone, Jackson said while waiting to be interviewed on Fox News that Barack Obama was “talking down to black people.” Jackson then declared, “I want to cut his nuts out.” Castration is not usually part of the nation’s political discourse, but Jackson was apparently upset by Obama’s recent Father’s Day speech, wherein the candidate decried the epidemic of single-parent black families. “Any fool can have a child,” Obama said. “That doesn’t make you a father.” Though Jackson apologized profusely, he found few defenders in the backlash that followed. Didn’t he realize that his threat to emasculate a fellow black man makes him sound like the leader of a lynch mob? asked Frank Harris III in The Hartford Courant. “If a white person had said what Jackson said, there would be hell to pay.’’

This was no mere slip of the tongue, said Patrick Healy in The New York Times. Jackson’s vulgar remarks—which his own son, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., angrily disavowed—were “a poignant reminder that a real generational shift in power and leadership is under way in African-American politics.” Not too long ago, Jackson was arguably the nation’s most important black leader. His 1984 and 1988 presidential runs helped pave Obama’s path to the White House. But that was then, said the New York Daily News in an editorial. Jackson’s brand of angry activism, which blames “governmental failures” and white racism for black America’s problems, belongs to another age. Obama has rejected the old victimhood ethos. With his message of optimism and personal responsibility, he is a modern candidate “for Americans of all stripes rather than a candidate of grievance for one racial group.” That’s why he’s so popular, while Jackson is a “relic.”

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