Jesse Jackson

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu May 31 07:47:27 MDT 2001

Counterpunch, May 30, 2001

The Reverend and The Movement

By Kevin Alexander Gray

I grew up in a National Enquirer house. My mother reads it weekly and my
brother works in the plant that prints them. There is something cosmic
about Reverend Jesse Jackson, for whom I used to work, being in the same
rag that regularly reports on space aliens. Now, every time I think of
Reverend, Diana Ross's Love Child plays in my head. And I have gotten
enough email cartoons. The one with Reverend's head (with a ponytail) on a
little girl's body was low down-- as low down as the state of black and
progressive politics. And that should be our real concern.

Some defend Reverend as a prophet while others condemn him as a profiteer.
As far as Reverend being a prophet I can only suggest counseling for the
believers. In this case, the difference between prophet and profit
resembles the difference between praying and preying.

Recently, Reverend was cheered when he attended a Chicago area basketball
tourney. Every church he has attended since the baby story broke has
forgiven him. Often when a black leader faces attack or criticism by the
powers that be, many blacks take the position that if white folk are giving
a "brother" hell then he must be doing something right even when the person
benefiting from support is screwing them royally. This is the present day's
version of racial solidarity. Ironically, Bill Clinton benefits from this
rule. Lani Guinier and Jocelyn Elders did not. And for all the love that
folk like Toni 'the closest we will ever come to a black president'
Morrison shower on Clinton, more black men went to jail under NAACP Image
Award winner Clinton than under Ronald Reagan. I guess it hate the game
don't hate the "playa." In ghetto slang Reverend and Clinton are "playa
playas." [Translation -- They are so good they can play the playas
themselves; so good they can con the cons.]

The age-old stereotype is that blacks care little about Reverend's sexual
behavior due to their "inherent immorality." We hear the same thing
whenever Bill "Cotton comes to Harlem" Clinton and black people are
mentioned in the same sentence. A more useful idea-that black people
practice that rarest of all Christian maneuvers, hating the sin not the
sinner, understanding that Saturday night is followed by Sunday morning,
not the other way around.

But this is never suggested, possibly because in the "true" white American
Christianity, such tolerance and forgiveness do not exist. (Ask Ashcroft.)
For most of those doing the evaluating, the logic is far simpler: Clinton
apparently likes to fuck so he's black. Jackson is unquestionably black, so
we ought to expect him to fuck.

But the problem with Reverend Jesse Jackson isn't that he fathered a child
with a woman he didn't marry. The problem is that Reverend has used a
movement predicated on protecting rights of the many with gaining privilege
for a few. Our movement is anti-privilege. Now, Reverend's privilege and
privileges are being challenged. Who's to say that's a bad thing?

Kevin Alexander Gray is a longtime civil rights organizer who lives in
South Carolina.

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Louis Proyect
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