Date: Tue, 8 Jun 1999 23:34:02 -0700 (PDT)
From: Lee Hubbard <>
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Subject: [BRC-NEWS] The Problem With Jesse Jackson

The problem with Jesse Jackson

By Lee Hubbard, The San Francisco Examiner, Monday 7 June 1999

HEADS TURNED in the Board of Supervisors’ chambers when the Rev. Jesse Jackson strolled in. He wasn’t on hand to speak up for affirmative action or to speak against an injustice. He was there to receive a proclamation for his work in freeing the three U.S. soldiers held captive in Bosnia.

This board does this day, declare May 24th, 1999, as Jesse Jackson day, said Supervisor Amos Brown in a thundering tone.

Jackson smiled, and the crowd clapped.

It calls upon all government bodies to defend you and celebrate all that you have done to create social worlds where peace is possible.

Scenes like this have been happening throughout the country since the soldiers were freed. But in this love fest in various houses of government, people fail to analyze the reason why Jackson is so successful: racism.

Owing to America’s peculiar history of racial oppression towards blacks, Jackson is seen as a voice for the voiceless and a counterweight to the foreign policy hegemony of the political establishment.

He is not seen by the likes of Slobodan Milosevic, Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein or Syria’s Hafez Assad as an inherent enemy, writes Earl Ofari Hutchinson. When they grant him audiences, favors and turn over American hostages to Jackson, they can reap PR value and put their best humanitarian face forward, and make the U.S. and Western nations look stupid and incompetent.

But while these foreign policy initiatives increase Jackson’s stature, they are counterproductive to the needs of the voiceless people Jackson is supposed to speak up for. His foreign policy successes overshadow efforts here in the United States that Jackson has failed to follow up on.

They include his effort to force a recall in California of then-Gov. Pete Wilson. His efforts to gather signatures to put a pro-affirmative action measure on the California ballot. His failure to break from the Democratic Party and create a black political party. His failure to force Hollywood to open its doors to minorities.

He has loudly advocated several other endeavors only to walk away quietly.

In the 30-odd years that Jackson has been in the public spotlight, he has managed to transform himself from a country preacher to an angry militant against the establishment into a part of the establishment.

But in his frenzy to be at the center of attention on every issue, he jumps from issue to issue. He is a mile wide and an inch deep.

He goes from Wall Street, to voter registration, to running to Africa, to being preacher to the president, said Robert Smith, a political science professor at San Francisco State and author of We Have No Leaders. Jackson has no fixed program or agenda.

This leads to what Jackson’s critics call his grand opportunism.

In the past, he has spoken out against school choice for low-income black parents, yet he sent his four children to elite private schools. When news of Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March broke, Jackson spoke out against the march—only to appear as a speaker at that historic rally Oct. 16, 1995.

While Jackson admits he is a tree shaker not a jelly maker, his shaking becomes problematic when it doesn’t deliver any results except for the spotlight. The problems remain unresolved when he leaves the scene.

Despite his flaws, Jackson has done some great things. He is the pre-eminent and most recognizable protest leader in the world. This was evident as the crowd in San Francisco listened to Jackson talk about his diplomacy.

We were told that we shouldn’t go (to Bosnia), said Jackson. We left the White House and they made one promise. That the bombing would not stop. We were determined that we would go anyhow and invest in a peace process that could end the escalation in a war that, in fact, could become a Third World War.

His call to cease the bombing in Belgrade failed, but in traditional Jacksonian fashion, he has moved on to another issue.

He is now tackling the digital divide with his Silicon Valley project, an attempt to expand and open the doors of high tech to minorities.

While this issue may seem minor compared to Jackson’s other high-profile endeavors, it could be one of his most important.

As the country moves towards an information and high-tech economy, black and brown inclusion and entrepreneurship in high tech will be important in building wealth, creating prosperity and maintaining peace and democracy.

I just hope that Jackson will have enough stamina to stay with this issue when the cameras stop clicking.