Experienced, gutsy Americans

Did you read Jesse Jackson’s accusation that Barack Obama is “acting white”? He made this slur while championing the cause of some black kids accused of assaulting a white kid. Evidently Obama’s concern over the case was not “black” enough for Jesse.

Then Jesse went on to offer advice to Obama. To make his campaigning more effective. The advice was along the same lines.

Jackson reckons the assault case is a defining moment “... just like Selma was a defining moment.” More is the pity.

Jackson is mired in the past. Which is why he clings to Selma. And clings to events and tragedies of the civil rights movement of those times. He clings to affirmative action. He clings to anything that encourages people to think of their race first, their nationality second.

Jackson was not electable for a simple reason. He regarded himself as black first. And as an American second.

Obama has more of a chance than Jesse ever had. Because he seems to consider himself as an American first. And as a black, second. Or third. And lots of Americans who have been polled seem to agree with that order of things.

Too many people have grown accustomed to thinking of themselves as something first and American second or third. They are Native Americans. Or Asian Americans. Or Hispanic Americans. Or gay. Or feminist. Or, of course, African Americans.

Jesse, and others like him, want to keep it that way. So they can make a living convincing groups they have particular problems. And they have those problems only because they are black, or Hispanic, or gay.

And lots of folks prefer to keep us split into groups because they think it gives them, and their cause, an edge. They can lobby politicians - or threaten them - more effectively as a defined group.

I see the disadvantage of this thinking when I teach young prisoners at a detention center near me. Most of them are black. Most are from the inner cities. Most were caught pushing drugs. Or maybe mugging people to get the money for drugs.

Not all of them, but many, complain that the system is rigged against them because they are black. Jesse has long encouraged blacks to feel this way.

Closer to the truth is this: They are in jail because they pushed drugs. They live in poverty because their moms chose to have kids without a father around. Or because their father abandoned them and left their mom to cope alone.

The system is rigged. It is. Against kids of any color who wear their trousers around their knees. Against kids of any color who won’t bother to learn to speak English others can understand. Against kids of any color who dress and act as if they are about to assault others. Against kids who spurn education. Against kids who think reading a book is “acting white.”

Of course it is rigged against them. Why wouldn’t it be? What employer wants to hire a kid who looks and acts like a thug?

I would say this to the Jesse Jacksons of this world: Obama is not an African American candidate. Hillary is not our first serious Female American candidate. Giuiliani is not the first Italian American candidate who stands a chance of gaining the White House. Lieberman is not a Jewish American. Romney is not a Mormon American. Nor was Kennedy a Catholic American. They are Americans. Americans who are running for our highest office.

The rest of it can be important, yes. But it is no where near as important as the fact that they are talented, experienced, gutsy Americans.

Just as important is the hope that more of us can see each other in those terms. When we hire each other. When we help each other. When we vote for each other.

From Tom ... as in Morgan.

For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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