To fight a war you need an enemy, and for 40 years, Jesse Jacksonâs enemy has been racism and the white establishment.
The Reverend has devoted his life to the Civil Rights movement, and I have enormous respect and gratitude for the changes brought by these efforts. But today is not 1965. The battles to be fought now are not with a racist government, nor even with a racist society. It has become embarrassingly obvious that Rev. Jackson is not âon targetâ? any more, and this was brought home with an anti-climatic thump yesterday in New Orleans.
âJackson: 600 Evacuees To Return Homeâ? said an AP headline on October 2.
“Rainbow/PUSH to help displaced hurricane survivors get back to workâ? blared the Chicago Defender, which quoted Jackson as saying,
“This is one of the critical civil rights, social justice issues of our time because the federal government has a plan to keep people in permanent exile”
“The federal government “plan” was a discussion by HUD secretary Alphonso Jackson of the likely demographic shift resulting from the Katrina rebuilding efforts. The story was carried by the Houston Chronicle on September 29, and it’s clear that Jesse Jackson thought he’d found a race card to play – in effect, an enemy to fight.
The outcome of this highly publicized “return of the exiles” effort was yesterdayâs arrival of roughly 200 people in Metairie, only some of whom were from New Orleans. The buses traveled to many cities, preceded by fanfare and headlines – and picked up three people here, 45 people thereâ¦
In reality, there is no conspiracy in New Orleans, and no groups are being deliberately excluded from anything. People werenât fighting for space on Jesseâs buses for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that New Orleans simply isnât ready for a major influx of people. How come everybody but Jesse Jackson knew that?
As so many others have done, I could argue that Rev. Jackson is grandstanding to promote and perpetuate his own image. It often looks that way. However, itâs also likely that heâs simply fighting the wrong war.
Heâs correct that residents of New Orleans should be key to the rebuild efforts. Heâs wrong that only black residents are having trouble with the logistics of housing and infrastructure.
Does it matter to New Orleans whether the buses carried only former residents? Not really. It is only important if one is trying to prove that evacuees who desperately want to come home are maliciously being kept from their goal, as Jesse Jackson apparently thought a week ago.
Does the number of people actually on the buses matter to the rebuild effort? No, because every worker who comes into the city, if they can be housed, is another contributor to the economic recovery.
Does it matter to the people of America that Jesseâs effort was off-base? Yes. His heart may be in the right place, but if so, heâs lost in the past. In the face of todayâs issues, his immediate throw-down of the race card does nothing but widen the gap, enhancing a racism that exists in a minority of minds.
Itâs time for this man to retire and rest on his laurels.