The story I reported a couple of weeks ago for VIBE Magazine got timely after Jackson’s recent nutty, whispered remarks. It’s up with the offending video clip on VIBE.com right now. Or for text ….
It must be a confusing time inside the headquarters of the Rainbow PUSH
Coalition, in the aftermath of the Whisper Heard ‘round the Political
World, uttered by founder Jesse Jackson Sunday before an interview on Fox & Friends.
if you’d been with VIBE.com at the Southside Chicago temple a couple
weeks before, on June 28, you’d have sensed then that Jackson’s
conflicted attitudes about Barack Obama were driving him, pardon the
expression, a little nuts.
Amid the simultaneous preaching, politics and praising
of the Lord on a “Reunion Day” marking the 20th anniversary of founder
Jesse Jackson’s 1988 campaign for the White House, two strong ideas
First, it was taken as a happy fact that Obama is going
to be the next president of the United States. Authoritative remarks
expressing the assumption that Obama’s victory is a fait accompli
overwhelmed a handful of get-out-the-vote calls from the crowd to “get
off your booty and do your duty.”
And—just as importantly, it seemed on that Saturday
morning—this marvelous moment in American politics is not a dream
bubble in some post-racial Obamalogue; it’s merely the latest of many
fixed footprints on a not-yet-nearly-finished civil rights slog in
which Rev. Jackson figures prominently.
“Journey ’54-’08: Ghandi, King, Jackson & Obama” was
the stated theme, and the speeches, by a number of longtime civil
rights warriors, expressed it with both variety and consistency.
Obama’s likely successful presidential campaign
“completes the circle” Jackson drew with his presidential runs in 1984
and 1988, said Jackson’s campaign strategist Ronald Walters.
“We laid the foundation for hundreds of years,” Walters
said of himself and Jackson and “millions and millions” of
African-Americans through history. “We want you to celebrate” the Obama
phenomenon, Walters said. “But we want you to see it in context.”
At which point Jackson stood and gave the context,
beginning with Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954 in Kansas, the
state where, he took care to point out, Obama’s mother was born. He
listed every subsequent civil rights gain, connecting each to Obama’s
“We knocked down the barriers on [Obama’s] journey,” he said.
He went on a half-Biblical riff about how “God will be upset” if someone else is given credit for God’s work.
he stands there that night” at the Democratic National Convention in
Denver, Jackson said, Obama shouldn’t ascribe his ascension to the
Democratic Party. “We beat the Democrats,” Jackson said, recalling
George Wallace and other Dixiecrats who were many of the leading
opponents of the civil rights struggle. He implored unnamed social
narrators not to let unspecified upstarts “steal” a victory that
belongs to older soldiers.
Finally, Jackson made it clear Obama’s victory won’t
mark the end of Rainbow’s push. “Does [an Obama presidency] mean the
race is over?” Jackson asked rhetorically. “No, it just means we have
The massive marble inscription over the pulpit from which Jackson spoke reads, “KNOW BEFORE WHOM THOU STANDEST.”
By the end of Jackson’s sermon, the Reunion Day crowd knew well enough. But one wonders: How sure are they today?