Monday, July 14, 2008
Reverend Jackson Was Right: Uhhhhhh, His Point That Senator Obama Talks Down To Black People
By now, everyone knows about Reverend Jesse Jackson’s hot mike comments about Senator Barack Obama. Of course the Reverend was wrong for joking about emasculating the brother. But, Reverend Jackson was right about one thing: Barack Obama has been “talking down to black people.”
Not everyone has taken Reverend Jackson’s critique of Senator Obama as seriously as they should. Instead, the Reverend has come under attack.
The critics of Reverend Jackson accuse him of being a “Playa Hater.” They contend that he and other civil rights leaders of his generation – those who risked life and limb to end de jure segregation – are jealous of Senator Obama, resenting his rapid rise to political prominence. Reverend Jackson, in particular, is thought to be envious of Senator Obama because he believes that he, not the Senator, should be the nation’s first black president.
Reverend Jackson is also believed to be angry at Senator Obama because the Senator fails to give him and other civil rights leaders their “respect,” that is, the credit they deserve for creating the opportunities that Senator Obama and other black post-civil rights leaders are now benefiting from.
In my view, these veiled attacks on Reverend Jackson’s character miss the larger point of his critique of Senator Obama and the current generation of new black political leaders who are willing to make accommodations with white supremacy for political advancement.
Viewing it as the only legitimate way to contradict the view of black inferiority which hampers their ability to be upwardly mobile, the “accommodationist” black politicians of today repudiates black identity as a political organizing strategy, is willing to tolerate a certain level of white domination, and tries to distance themselves from the black lower classes.
If they are willing to play by the rules, the political currency of the accommodationists is boundless. Anointed as the best and brightest of the new generation of black political leaders by white media and political elites, the accommodationists advance politically by embracing the two doctrines favored by whites: colorblindness and the declining significance of race.
The career advancement of the accomodationists is made secure when they publicly point out, as Senator Obama has been doing, the so-called pathologies of blacks and other people of color in front of eagerly approving black and white middle and upper-class audiences.
The truth is that Reverend Jackson critique of Senator Obama was on the mark. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee “talks down to black people.” He eagerly demands that black people, particularly black men, take personal responsibility for their failures and short-comings, but he lets - though not completely - the system that helps to produce racial and economic inequalities off the hook.
No one serious about eradicating poverty discounts the importance of human agency. At the same time, reams of evidence produced by social scientist also demonstrate that racism is alive and well in American society. I believe that Senator Obama intentionally fails to place many of the problems afflicting black communities in their sociohistorical context simply because of personal ambition, that is, it may harm his political advancement.
It is imperative that we follow Reverend Jackson’s lead and criticize this generation of black leader’s assimilation and accommodation preoccupations. The stakes are too high to do anything less.
Posted by Bilal Dabir Sekou, Ph.D. at 11:13 PM