An Apology to Jesse Jackson, Sr.

An Apology to Jesse Jackson, Sr.


It’s time to man up – I was wrong about Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

First, some background. I wrote a column in 2008 under the title, “Winners and Losers from Election ’08” in which I listed Jesse Jackson, Sr. as one of the biggest losers of that year.

Here is what I said: “His past contributions to America are undeniable, but his future place is uncertain.  Every time he opened his mouth in the past year, he said something negative about Obama.  First, Jackson criticized Obama for ‘acting white’ because he was not as forceful as Jesse wanted regarding the Jena 6 case in Louisiana.  Then there was the infamous Fox News open mic incident where Jackson is heard saying, ‘See, Barack has been talking down to Black people…telling niggers how to behave…I wanna cut his nuts out.’  Finally, in October Jackson was speaking at the first World Policy Forum in Evian, France.  Published reports have him saying if Obama is elected as president, ‘fundamental changes in U.S. foreign policy’ will occur.  He said the most important change would occur in the Middle East, where ‘decades of putting Israel’s interests first’ would end. Jackson’s reputation has been forever tarnished.”

Jackson accused Obama of “acting white” in response to Obama’s tepid response to the Jena Six, the case of six Black high school students in Jena, La. arrested and charged with attempted second-degree murder for the beating of a White student.  The charges were later reduced to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy.  Many believed the prosecutor filed the more serious charges because the accused juveniles were Black.  As we all know, Obama has no history of taking strong positions on anything when it involves Blacks.

As much as I hate to admit it, Jackson got it right when he accused Obama of “talking down to Black people.”  Everyone, including myself, eviscerated him for making the comment and accused him of being jealous of Obama.  How can we forget when Obama spoke at the Congressional Black Caucus dinner a couple years ago and told Blacks to “stop complaining?”  Obviously, Jackson saw something in Obama early that the rest of us missed. Now, we are paying the price for it, especially Blacks.

Jackson was also right on point with his prediction about the changing U.S. relations with the Middle East.  Our relationship with Israel has never been more volatile than it is now.

The Blacks in America – along with a good number of Whites – wanted so badly to show the world that in 2008 our country could be held up as the model for true democracy and equality.  America wanted to prove that anyone, regardless of background, who played by the rules and had a vision, could finally be president of the United States.

To his credit, Jesse Jackson saw beyond the rhetoric and somehow had the ability to see deep inside of Obama’s soul and tried to warn us, however clumsy, of what we were getting.  So, Rev. Jackson, again I was wrong and you were right. You saw a level of arrogance and detachment from the Black community that most of us were blinded to – or didn’t want to see.

You knew he would not pay attention to the high unemployment rate in the Black community.  You knew he would not spend much political capital on the high murder rate in Chicago.  You knew he would continue to talk down to Black people. You were rightly ostracized for the way you expressed yourself back in 2008. But on the issue of Obama’s disdain for Blacks; you must be embraced and brought back into the fold.

We wanted Obama to win on many levels. But Jesse Jackson, you have taught us that we should never allow emotions to cloud our judgment.  I’m not always right, but I am rarely wrong – and this time, I was definitely wrong.

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.


  1. Black folks get precisely what they deserve. They have been conditioned from birth not to hold their pastors and, by proxy, their elected officials accountable. Furthermore, a cursory review of American history is clear: Black people never secured any gains without agitation. Now, the republic uses Obama’s election as a form of reverse reparations: “See, our nation has changed. We have elected the first Black president. There are no impediments in the way for Black progress.”

    The Obama administration has been busy securing the rights (progress) of immigrants (mainly framed as a Hispanic issue) and a powerful gay (read that as White) lobby. On the question of issues germane to the majority of Black folks, he is quiet as a church mouse. There is grumbling in the Black community; but, most Black folks are afraid to criticize Obama en masse for fear that it will enable his enemies on the right.

    So, they suffer silently. I can tell you this: The presidential election in 2016 is going to be quite interesting. Many Blacks will not—repeat: will not—be voting for Hilary Clinton should she secure the Democratic nomination. They are sick and tired of the Democratic party and, in fact, may just get the nerve to declare themselves politically homeless. That’s better than being chained up in the basement of the Democratic party’s palatial home. They don’t give a damn about Blacks. Period.

    Finally, your column makes the following curious observation:

    ”Published reports have him saying if Obama is elected as president, ‘fundamental changes in U.S. foreign policy’ will occur. He said the most important change would occur in the Middle East, where ‘decades of putting Israel’s interests first’ would end. Jackson’s reputation has been forever tarnished.”

    Have Americans seen those concrete walls that are used to keep the Palestinians corralled in apartheid-like conditions? Black-Americans, especially, remember what it was like to have their movements in public defined by their “Blackness,” which was simply a mark of oppression within the context of White supremacy and domination.

    An open and honest discussion about the plight of the Palestinians is impossible and for America to hitch its foreign policy wagon up to this repressive regime (doing their dirty work in the Middle East) is cause for continued concern.

    There needs to be a change in American foreign policy as it relates to Israel. If Jackson believes otherwise, it is because the civil rights community has always depended on their bread being buttered by the staunch supporters of the Israeli regime. If that is the case, what was and/or is the purpose of civil rights in America? Injustice is not limited by geographic border.

  2. While this article makes many good points, Jesse Jackson is both right and wrong in his assessment of President Obama. Obama is in a precarious position as a trailblazer, and no one can relate to the pressures he faces in his position as the first black/biracial president of the U.S. Jackson is too sophisticated to engage in petty commentary suggesting Obama “is acting white.” What is acting white? Obama cannot single-handedly overturn the legacy of white supremacy that is embedded within American history and all its institutions. He has been forced to walk a tightrope to assure white people he would not “oppress” them and yet he inherited a Military Industrial Complex that is oppressive to nations and people of color worldwide. He alone cannot halt the American military system’s habitual approaches or national foreign policies overnight. We need to get rid of unrealistic expectations about what one man can realistically do.