I'll be right with you.
First I have to finish silently counting how many more hours - or maybe days ? - broadcast media will hype the recorded off-air conversation Rev. Jesse Jackson had Sunday at Fox News Channel's Chicago studios, in which Jackson expressed a desire to chop off Barack Obama's coin purse.
More important to the conversation, Jackson said Obama had been talking down to black people lately in Obama's call for a reshaping and renewal of faith-based social programs, his calls for black men to step up to the plate and be active fathers to their children, and his calls for black parents to wield a firmer hand with their kids.
I'm not exactly sure where Jackson's "talking down" comment is rooted, but let's forget being uncomfortable and being PC for a minute and let's face a few realities:
First, Obama isn't saying anything that thousands - maybe millions - of middle class and working class black folks haven't been saying for a long time. Obama, like Bill Cosby, is famous. So when they say things that can be categorized as tough love toward their own people, their comments are played out for days and weeks on TV and in newspapers and magazines. And that's OK, considering TV and to a lesser degree other forms of media are opiates to the masses.
Second, you can't deny the numbers that are partly the impetus for Obama's comments on personal responsibility in some black communities: Nearly 12 percent of black men between the ages of 25 and 29 are incarcerated. Two-thirds of black children born in the United States today are born to single parent homes. And for all the carefree post-modern logic that says one parent will do, common sense says that kids are better off with two active parents in their lives. And many of our nation's best social scientists, black social scientists among that group, have acknowledged that while children can get solid adult support from parents who are not married to one another and don't live together, it is often the case that very young, single black dads don't appear to be active enough in their kids' lives. Are there white dads who aren't active in their kids lives? No doubt, but we're not talking about them today. And I don't feel a personal obligation to express "tough love" to them.
Third, this story has two halves - the half that has raised some eyebrows over Obama's calls for personal responsibility in some black communities, and the half that is hyping Jackson's recorded conversation. I can assure you that the first half of this story would not be in play if the suits at the major broadcast networks had not decided a long time ago that prominent black folks can't call out their own people and get away with it.
The first half of this story would not be in play if those suits hadn't approached these matters by hinting that a black man who calls out his own has somehow abandoned the Resistance and given in to the temptations of Lord Vader and the Empire.
The second half of this story wouldn't be in play if the broadcast suits hadn't gone along with the philosophy for the past few decades that Rev. Jackson was the equivalent of an elected official in America's black communities. Clearly the suits did not watch episode one, from season 11 of South Park, in which the character Token Black so eloquently stated "Jesse Jackson is not the emperor of black people!" Not surprisingly, Token's white classmate Stan Marsh replied "He isn't? He told my dad he was."
Now, let's not get it twisted. I'm not taking any political bait. No activist on either side of the political spectrum is gonna take my words and use them to exemplify their distaste or support for Rev. Jackson. I'm not gonna bash his record of leadership in some black communities, 'cause frankly - and I'm not trying to be cute when I say this - I don't know enough about his record. He may have done everything in the world to advance equality for all and the quality of life for African Americans over the past 40 years or so....Or he may have done little. Yeah, I'm a veteran journalist, and the son of educated black folks who came of age in the 1960s. But without first doing some homework I couldn't name a specific mega-thing Jackson has done to advance black folks. And my point is neither can the broadcast suits who have gone along all these years with the notion of Jackson as King.
I can't speak for my folks' generation, but I think I can speak for at least some of mine when I say that Obama calling for individuals to do the right thing for themselves and their children doesn't offend me. That doesn't absolve the government from its role in tipping the first dominoes that started our social messes back in the day. But it does say we recognize that we can't wait for Uncle Sam to come down from his apparent high and fix his side of things.
Seriously, I'm not trying to be funny. But when I say this whole thing is molehill, not a mountain, I'm saying the suits have it wrong. Report what Jackson said, 'cause it would be irresponsible not to. But drag out the jaw-dropping and the feigned chagrin over his words by TV analysts and you become disingenuous by making it out like anything Rev. Jackson says could actually hurt Obama's campaign....with black or white voters. If Obama loses in November, it won't be because of anything Rev. Jackson said about him.
Again, this wouldn't have happened if not for that whole king-making thing. African Americans don't need a king. One more time, those of us who aren't handling our business need to do so now, 'cause Uncle Sam has done a crappy job trying to handle it for us, and 'cause arguing that we're not the only ethnic group in the U.S. with problems is not gonna help us fix our problems, no matter how true it is. Besides, by the time that truth is widely accepted, the dinosaurs will have come back to life.