Politics & Society

Is Jesse Jackson Still Relevant?

Jesse Jackson

The Rev. Jesse Jackson makes a statement of apology in Chicago on July 9, 2008, following crude remarks made about Sen. Barack Obama. AP hide caption

toggle caption AP

So, of course, Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarrette, Arsalan Iftikhar and I got into it in today's Barbershop (Nick Charles, for some reason, didn't jump in on this one ... you're with me, right Nick?).


We were talking about the whole question of whether the Rev. Jesse Jackson is still relevant. The spark, of course, was the latest revelations that Rev. Jackson used the "N-word" as part of his off-mic, sotto voce rant against Sen. Barack Obama for "talking down to (black) people." Now, of course he was wrong, the whole thing was wrong, not least because it's yet another distraction. For instance, here's this press release I just got:


Jamie Masada, owner of the World Famous Laugh Factory clubs demanded that Jesse Jackson apologize to the public at-large and pay The Laugh Factory's intolerant language fine to the Museum of Tolerance in Washington D.C. for his use of the "n-word" captured by Fox News this week. Ever since the unfortunate incident involving Michael Richards when Richards used the "n-word" in a hurtful display at the Laugh Factory in November 2006

Masada has been imposing fines on talent who use the "n-word." Masada stated Thursday that Jesse Jackson made a "deal" with him personally that he would use his leadership to admonish anybody in the public arena who uses the "n-word." At that time, Jackson fully endorsed The Laugh Factory's fining of talent who violate the "n-word" prohibition policy.


But here's my question: in what way does his being WRONG about his language, define his RELEVANCE as a public figure? Hasn't President Bush been WRONG about a number of things? But he is still relevant.

Wrong analogy you say, because the President is still an elected official — since he still holds institutional power? And, nobody elected Rev. Jackson.

True. But just because he does not represent ALL 36 million African Americans (and/or progressives of whatever race) why does that mean he does not represent some of them?

This is not to agree or disagree with Rev. Jackson's positions on major issues, but I do question the standard by which some write off some of these aging public figures. Some people said the same thing about Rev. James Dobson when he criticized Sen. Barack Obama's biblical interpretation and politics. Sure, it was politics, and, no, you don't have to agree with him, but, if we're talking about them both, how can you say they are not relevant?

As Jimi (who is often wrong, but always relevant ... hi, Jimi!) would say, get some of this (and tell us what you think).

Have a great weekend.



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Is Jesse Jackson still relevant? You should be ashamed to even formulate such a question. You people in the media are so bowled over by the Obama phenomenon that you believe civil rights is a cliche and no longer relevant in America. All I can say is thank God Jesse is still strong and healthy cause without him and a few others we would be in worse shape than we are in America.

Sent by bernard | 5:22 PM | 7-18-2008

Is Jesse Jackson still relevent?
Seeing the meaning of revelent is "pertinent to the matter at hand" and that definition has not changed since 1560.So quite naturally one should ask, "What is the matter at hand?" Many of the struggles of the 60's produced positive results. Accomplishments have not simply stood, but they've actually synthesized with other movements and served as a archetype showcasing the possibilities of oneness.
We have come a long way. We yet struggle in many areas but, we're moving. Many of us, (childern of the 60's)have come to relize the power of Dr.King's dream, and the mountain-top is clearer today than it was back then.
Let's be very clear, Jesse marched with the "Dreamer" but, he wasn't the dream; he sang "We shall overcome" with the "Dreamer" but Jesse wasn't the dream. Dr King's dream was about US, you and I, rising up in the face of insurmountable odds. Sitting down at the table, my brother and I, my sister and I, looking at the cards we've been dealt, believing in ourselves and each other and we don't just make board, no baby, we run a Boston. That's what the dream is all about.
So before we get too assertative in our thoughts about the importance or the relevance of Jesse, let's take a moment and look. Look at where we are, many of US have made it, and are making it, without any help from Jesse at all.
So let's not become disillusioned,hood-winked,or bamboozled into thinking we need something/some one when we really do not.
Consider this simile; Jesse is like, an eight track tape player, we all (children of the 60's) remember them, but we don't really use them any more.

Sent by Randy | 5:59 PM | 7-18-2008

About Jesse Jackson's Relevance?

First of all, can we not put the President in the same category of relevance with about two thirds of the country's disapproval rating?

Now to Jesse Jackson, I commend him for his civil rights contributions and I still believe he could be relevant. But right now, I find the dichotomy to who he is and what he says to be very confusing.

Let me count the ways: Jackson spoke against Barack Obama's Father's Day message in a "hot mic" moment when he fathered a child out of wedlock. He called Obama out last September for "acting white," then apologized. Not to talk of his "nutty" (that's the only way I can describe it so as not to be graphic) remarks during the said hot mic moment, then apologized. Only for the recent news that he used the "n-word" also when he publicly buried the use of the word last year. Come on!

Like I said, he could still be relevant regardless of his age. I'm not of the mindset that just because an iconic figure reaches a certain age, he loses all relevance. Nelson Mandela just celebrated his 90th birthday. He is still VERY relevant.

But I think folks need some time to heal from Jackson's outrageous comments just like he needs some time by himself to think of his legacy.

Sent by Moji | 9:13 PM | 7-18-2008

Oops. Make that 36.1 million black folks. got impatient checking the census site and went with memory. always a mistake. sorry

Sent by Michel, host, TMM | 12:19 AM | 7-19-2008

I completely agree that Jesse Jackson is irrelevant in many ways nowadays.

Thank you Barbershop, I love you guys!!

Sent by Ambboogie | 7:24 PM | 7-19-2008

Sorry, if this is OT, but I just had to say on the Barbershop segment I thought Ruben Navarrette made a superb observation that I have not heard brought out in this debate about the cover of the New Yorker. One in which I myself had given some thought to; is the idea that their was probably not one Black person (not withstanding the mailroom, stockroom, or janitors,) that was on the New Yorker staff to give them some feed back about their.... Rubens words, "White liberal blind spot", & the idea that diversity is much lacking in the 21centry across news rooms & in the media in general !

Sent by Robert H. | 9:54 PM | 7-20-2008

In my humble opinion relevance is really not the central question. I think anyone who has committed his or her life to social change and speaking truth to power is relevant. The problem is hubris. Rev. Jackson has spent a lifetime playing a sort a duel public role of being a leader for social change on behalf of persons of color while capitalizing on his relationship to Rev. King, in an apparent attempt to grow his stature in relation to that connection.

I think is not uncommon for people living such public lives to confuse the man (in this case) with the message. Even if Jackson didn't give a darn about Sen. Obama you would think his relationship with his own son would lead him to be more tempered in his public "off mike" remarks.

Let's be clear, if you're miked and if you ain't at home you're in PUBLIC!!!

It's sort of an Iago subconscious thing surfacing. I would have had more respect for his behavior if he expressed his concerns for the Obama's platform and made his gripes plain. Instead, we get these bimbo eruptions.

When you become the story it's time to reconsider how you are being of service to the cause and aspirations you have worked so hard to being to fruition.

Relevant sure- Conflicted, Envious, Craving for a little spotlight most definitely.

Dear Rev. perhaps it's time for some quiet contemplation -- a grown-up time out perhaps before come back to the mike.

Sent by Raul | 10:24 PM | 7-20-2008

In my opinion, Jesse is more than just irrelevant, he is also more Jealous that the new head of the NAACP. To use today's slang, Jesse is a hater. I would never have imagined that another Chicago resident of any race would spew venom about Obama the way Jesse does but I think Mr. Jackson is still waiting for Barack to ask him for the keys to the city. Someone needs to tell Jesse that he just lost what ever shred of credibility that he had left and that he needs to and retreat into obscurity while the next generation picks up the mantle...Don't worry Jesse, we got this!

Sent by Rodney | 11:04 PM | 7-20-2008

Please excuse me for misspelling your name Michel. I have it now!

Sent by K. Halley | 5:03 PM | 7-21-2008

Is Jesse Jackson still relevant? My question for your listeners is was Jackson ever relevant and why? He's a clown, and has spent decades clouding issues and diverting attention from real issues. Arguably, the largest disease facing Blacks is not HIV/AIDS. It is in fact ignorance and this prevailing culture of obliviousness. I had the opportunity to watch CNN's presentation of Black in America and have loved the balance reporting thus far. I was so excited to see something on a major network in a prime time slot that didn't center around Obama or feature Cornel West, Oprah, Jesse Jackson, or any other well known, commercial black voices that have arguably lost their relevance... in my limited opinion. While I appreciate the aforementioned for their respective contributions, we are not holding our leadership accountable fort he misguided misinformation they've poisoned our communities with. If this was corporate America, they would have been long replaced by more socially aware figures. I liken then to a bad TV show.. we didn't cancel them early on enough so now the general public is stuck with them for a full seven years to appease their few fans . The exec's simply move them to UPN or TNT and hope everyone's happy.

Sent by Roderick Griner | 12:43 AM | 7-24-2008


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