Chicago Sun-Times
Discussions across the racial divide

Jesse Jackson's ugly comments

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It's not clear to me why the Rev. Jesse Jackson seems not to have learned from his mistakes.

Although this isn't the first time Jackson has been critical of Obama, it is the first time he has suggested Obama should be taken to task for allegedly "talking down" to black voters.

Call it trash talking. Call it disrespect. Call it wrong. But it was definitely deja vu.

It was what Jackson thought was a private conversation that helped derail his own presidential aspirations in 1984 when he referred to Jews as "Hymies" and to New York City as "Hymietown" in a conversation with a black Washington Post reporter.

The idea that the media-savvy Jackson got so caught up at a taping of a Fox News program -- a network that a lot of blacks complain is racist -- that he forgot he was in a public arena is absurd to me.

Publicly, Jackson has supported Obama, but privately he has been sweltering with resentment over how Obama's campaign has been run in the black community.

"I've always shared my observations with Obama privately," Jackson told me. "My support is long-standing, but I have had concerns about the broadening of the message before these black audiences.

"Whatever he says about social issues in the black community is picked up by the right wing as chastising blacks, not as addressing the issues."

And lately, there has been a lot more grumbling about Obama's failure to speak out nationally about concerns critical to black people, such as the ongoing discrimination in the job and housing markets.

In fact, Obama has had to step so gingerly around racial issues that it was probably easier for black leaders to push their agenda with a white candidate.

Jackson's faux pas turned up the volume on a whispered conversation.

But there's no need to worry.

Black Democrats have supported a long line of presidential contenders who had to walk the same fine line.

They are not about to abandon Obama because he finds more opportunities to talk about black pathology than he does white racism.

Besides, the reverend's comments were so beneath the dignity of the cloth he wears, and the road he has traveled, the Obama campaign won't have to deal with them -- period.

But if Jackson keeps making loud noises, he'll find out how quickly even a civil rights icon like him can get left behind.

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Mitchell published on July 10, 2008 5:09 PM.

Unequal justice? was the previous entry in this blog.

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