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Jesse Jackson (AP)

Is Jesse Jackson Still Relevant?

Jul 18, 2008

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Michel Martin

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?).

Relevance.

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:

MASADA AND THE LAUGH FACTORY DEMAND JESSE JACKSON APOLOGIZE AND PAY "FINE" FOR "N-WORD"

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.

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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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