Barack Obama is not Jesse Jackson.
Yes, Jesse Jackson won the South Carolina Primaries in 1984 and 1988. Yes, Barack Obama won the 2008 South Carolina Primary a few short days ago. But, that is where the similarities end. (For more information between Barack Obama and Jesse Jackson see: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/24/us/politics/24web-toner.html?_r=1&oref=slogin)
More importantly, did Jesse Jackson hold an official government office, elected or otherwise? Did he go to law school? Ah, he’s done neither of these things! Interesting.
For a short Jesse Jackson Biography: http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9351181
What is particularly bothersome about the comparisons between Barack Obama and Jesse Jackson is that they have both have been construed to be “the black candidate” solely interested in black issues when that is, in fact, not the case. Barack Obama is about diversity’s unity and hope. Jesse Jackson said more or less the same thing in 1988. How are these not universal values? Granted, Jackson’s speech was soaked in religious allusions, personal stories, and history lessons about slavery and Civil Rights Movement activists. Perhaps, reminders of America’s dark history alienates White America.
Both spoke about higher purposes and morality. Both spoke about common ground and transcending bipartisanship. Both speak about achieving the American Dream. Honestly, what is wrong with these values? More importantly, both speak about hope. What is wrong with hope? Are these values not prized by white people?
Black support for any candidate should not be seen as a negative. That is demeaning. Why should our support and our votes take away from the significance of any particular candidate, especially if s/he happens to be Black? Believe it or not, Black people and Barack Obama are not in cohorts formulating a conspiracy to take over the US anytime soon. But, seriously are we not one people living in the same country? What is so vastly different from our experience that does not appeal to a wide array of people? Maybe, only wealthy white men cannot empathize with Obama’s platform. And even then, many of them do. There are many a people disadvantaged and underprivileged in a myriad of ways – How can they not empathize or identify with uplifting Americans from the bottom up. How is that not an American idea?
Barack Obama South Carolina Victory Speech: http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post/samgrahamfelsen/CGxdg
Jesse Jackson’s 1988 Democratic National Convention Speech: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/jessejackson1988dnc.htm
In the end, what is particularly insulting is that the nation’s “first black president” is the one “racializing” the political campaign dismissing our democratic voices as “a black thing.” Besides, how much of “a black thing” can Barack Obama be if he reminds Caroline Kennedy of her father.
Maybe, the man has universal appeal.