Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Our Crazy Uncles: Are Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson still relevant?

It appears Reverend Uncle Al Sharpton is back, but where is Reverend Uncle Jesse? I haven’t seen or heard from him since that shot of him in tears following President Obama’s election night victory.

It appears, though, Uncle Al has got in good with the White House. Recently, he has made more visits to the White House than any representative from any of the noted civil rights organizations. And after his most recent visit, he emerged as the co-founder of the bi partisan Education Equality Project.

The image of Uncle Al sitting down to conversate with president is in stark contrast to the image of Uncle Al from the campaign who along with Uncle Jesse, withheld their endorsement to the very last minute, not that it mattered much at that point anyway. At some point in the campaign, Uncle Jesse even expressed the sentiment that he would like to “cut Obama’s nuts off.”

I could never figure out why the acted so begrudgingly toward then candidate Obama. Certainly, it could not have been jealousy as speculated. Both men previously ran for president, but I never saw them as serious candidates. They were simply too invested in the notion of blackness, whereas candidate Obama’s appeal was quite the opposite.

Uncles Al and Jesse were always seen as black men running for president, while candidate Obama was seen as a man running for president who just happened to be black. He caught on to that whole post-racial thing and played it to the hilt.

And it’s doubtful that either of the two could ever get elected to a national office. Yeah, must black folks know them and love them. If they come to town and give a speech, the house will invariably be packed. Perhaps I’m projecting my attitude toward them on the whole of African America, but I don’t see them as particularly politically viable or politically relevant at this point in time. I simply see them us to goodly, avuncular individuals who deserve our respect on the basis of what they have achieved and contributed over the course of their lifetime.

Perhaps this analogy will help to sum up my sentiments toward uncles Al and Jesse.

Growing up I had a favorite uncle, as most of us do. To me there was none greater in this world. And he forever gave me advice which mostly I took to heart.

But as I grew and matured and developed a more discerning, more critical eye, I realized how much my uncle said was absolute BS. And even further, I realized that he didn’t always follow his own advice. In fact, I began to see what my mother and others meant when they said, “That Negro is absolutely crazy!”.

But I loved him no less. To this day I continue to listen to what he has to say, but I simply sift through it and take what I can use and simply nod in agreement to the rest.

You have to admit, uncles Al and Jesse have put in much work for black folks over the years. I’m not quite sure how much of that work was simply self-serving and self-aggrandizement, but no one can deny their contributions.

I once heard comedian and activist Dick Gregory say that in our society and culture the most important role is that of the agitator who performs just like the working element in a washing machine. If we removed the agitator, that working element that moves vigorously from side to side, from the washing machine, we would end up with a pile of dirty clothes. Likewise if we remove the agitator from our society and culture, the powers that be would simply run roughshod over the little people, those people whose voice is stifled amidst the noise of the mechanizations of power and privilege.

I perhaps would not vote for either man if he were running for office, but if I am ever in trouble, I sure would welcome the sight of them coming with the microphones and camera crews they always seem to attract trailing dutifully behind. Thus, perhaps their role now is simply that of the agitator. And they seem to play that role very well.

What are your views of the Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson? Are they still relevant in our current political arena?


givepeace05401 said...

I loved your favorite uncle analogy. I am grateful for the contributions and scarifies made by both Rev. Sharpton and the Rev. Jackson. It dismays me that so many are unable or unwilling to put their contributions and scarifies in historical/generational contexts.

Are they still relevant? They are as relevant as the communities they serve deem them to be.

Max Reddick said...

I like the way you phrased that--"As relevant as the communities they serve deem them to be."

We have a short memory. We forget very quickly those who we are most indebted to and those we should be running from. I just hope the community does not forget what they have done over the years.

blackink said...

Yeah, I have to agree with givepeace. I don't ever think they will be completely irrelevant.

And I don't think they were ever particularly hostile to Obama during his campaign. I think, more than anything, that they were frustrated by their diminished roles on the stump and that Obama's agenda wasn't quite the same as theirs. Of course, Obama is much more moderate and pragmatic than his opponents would ever give him credit for.

Well, we already know that hardly anyone would describe Jackson or Sharpton as moderates.

But speaking of crazy-ass uncles, how about Uncle Jeremiah?

Max Reddick said...

I agree completely.

And why won't Uncle Jeremiah simply go away? Do you remember when he threw up the Que hooks during that press conference? He scared the bee-jesus out of some white folks that day.

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