Just when things were going so good.
Six months ago, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton stood on the sidelines completely puzzled and wondering what the hell was going on. Suddenly – or perhaps they were only now just noticing it – nobody wanted to hear from the old crocodiles of the civil rights movement.
If it were just the white folk, it’d be all right. Jesse and Al were used to that. But now, not even the black folk were buying them beers anymore. What the hell? This was still the same Jesse who stood on that balcony the day MLK was murdered. This was still the same Al who forced the greatest city in the world to confront their racial differences.
Now they were just old men.
Aging relics who watched helplessly as their reason for being evaporate in the sunshine of Barack Obama’s election. Al and Jesse now had to accept the ironic reality that racism was the one thing that made them relevant.
Without racism, there was no Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Racism was Jesse’s first, second and third political planks. Racism bore the brunt of Al’s megaphone. And while there will always be racism, the tactic of pointing-and-shouting became counter-productive in a world where a black man holds the highest office in the world.
Jesse and Al battled The System. They didn’t even realize they had won. And now that African-Americans are working with the system Jesse and Al helped to create, Jesse and Al feel a bit out of the loop.
Especially Jesse, who must have bitterly noted the lack of offers from the Obama Administration. Thanks for all the yelling and the outrage, Jesse. It was needed then, and even though it doesn’t look like it, we appreciate it now. We’d appreciate it even more if you’d let us drive the truck for awhile.
That made Jesse angry enough to want to cut Obama’s nuts off.
The people crafting policy today didn’t live the Civil Rights Movement. We just live in a nation shaped by it. Denying black people a seat at a lunch counter seems as weird to us as riding to Starbucks in a horse and buggy. Take pride in that, Jesse and Al. We couldn’t have done it without you. Have you thought of taking up golf?
The New York Post published an editorial cartoon the other day that spoofed the most recent chimpanzee attack, using it as a metaphor to describe the federal stimulus plan. Two white cops are seen standing over the dead body of a shot-up monkey.
Like an old dog, Al didn’t come up with a new trick. Instead, he immediately declared a boycott of the New York Post.
“I guess they thought we were chimpanzees,” Sharpton said. “They will find out we are lions.”
Perhaps. Or maybe “they” will just see an old man returning to the site of his fame and glory. Still, the Legend of Al has its faithful fan club. Roland S. Martin, author of Speak, Brother! A Black Man’s View of America and oft contributor of CNN.com had this insight to share:
“Oh yes, the Post will have its defenders, accusing African-Americans and others of being hypersensitive. The Post has already shown its hand by trying to make this all about Sharpton, since they know he’s the black bogeyman to white America.”
Not is, Mr. Martin. Was.
There was no racial intent in the Post cartoon, just editorial carelessness. Comparing the stimulus package to an unstoppable, out-of-control animal is an appropriate enough comparison. If Mr. Martin fears accusations of hypersensitivity, it may be because he is hypersensitive to the fact that an element of his own relevance is fading away, too.
Al and Jesse welcome you to the fold, Mr. Martin.