An incident that almost went unnoticed nearly placed the race issue back on the national radar. Before being interviewed on Fox News recently, Reverend Jesse Jackson said, not knowing that a nearby microphone was live, that he didn’t like the way Barack Obama was “talking down to black people” and that he would like to castrate the presumptive Democratic nominee. Actually, he said he wanted “to cut his nuts off.”
It took three days for Fox to realize that Jackson’s statement was on tape. Fox went public with it. Jackson apologized. Jackson’s congressman son with the same name chastised his father. Obama accepted Jackson’s apology. After a brief stir in the media (with suggestions that Jackson’s comment demonstrated a state of ”vertigo” over the possibility of a black becoming President), the incident has pretty much disappeared.
What caused Jackson to make his crude remarks? On Father’s Day, Obama had lectured black men for failing to uphold their responsibilities as fathers. At a predominantly black church on another occasion, he had said, “Any fool can have a child. That doesn’t make you a father . . . . Too many fathers are AWOL.” What Obama said is basically what Daniel Patrick Moynihan said in his report on the black family in 1965 before he was elected to the U.S. Senate as a white liberal Democrat from New York. Martin Luther King was one of the few black leaders at the time who didn’t eviscerate Moynihan as a racist.
Now let’s go back six months when a flip remark by a white TV sports commentator about lynching Tiger Woods and a subsequent magazine cover picturing a noose approved by a white editor resulted in the anchor’s suspension and the editor’s firing. What would have happened if either of them had said, Tiger Woods is so dominating in golf, I’d like to cut his nuts off? Maybe prosecutions for a hate crime.
What if John McCain had said, not realizing he was sitting next to a live microphone, I’m so sick of this young whippersnapper Obama, I’d like to cut his nuts off? McCain’s candidacy might well have expired.
One thing’s for sure. The media wouldn’t have let the story slip away after a few days of apologies and chastisement.
Hypocrisy makes the race issue all the more difficult. Jesse Jackson said something so incendiary that if said by a white person, a riot might have ensued. But he gets away with it after a slap on the wrist. As long as black leaders, including Obama, allow this kind of hypocrisy to go unaddressed, it’s difficult to find fault with the crackers, red necks, and blue collars who say they won’t vote for a black for President until hell freezes over. It also makes it difficult for employers who must deal with racial tensions in the workplace caused by a slip of the tongue like that of the sports commentator or a premeditated statement of hate like that of Jesse Jackson.