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.
But 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 jutted out:
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 success.
“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.
“When 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 an ally.”
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?