April 22, 2024

Shameful Disrespect for History and Elders

The political conventions are like a four-day Superbowl for me. I can’t get enough. I am however concerned about the stagecraft and the political calculus that requires the Obama campaign to distance themselves from the proud traditions of the Democratic Party

President Carter, one of two living Democratic Presidents, was met with thunderous applause as he and Mrs. Carter walked across the convention stage, waved and then fled. That’s right a former President and Nobel Prize Winner was used as a prop and then made to disappear. The in-house band should have played Ray Stevens’ 70s classic, The Streak during his minute in the spotlight.

What was the Obama campaign afraid of? Were they afraid President Carter would call for peace, not war? Were they concerned that he would call for economic justice, racial equality, disease eradication, civil rights, human rights or an end to torture?

Soon after President Carter was whisked off to an undisclosed secure location, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. took the stage.

He got to speak as a reward for throwing his father, Jesse Jackson, Sr. under the bus. How shameful it was when he publicly chastised his father for personal political gain. Congressman Jackson invoked the bloody battle for voting rights in Selma, Alabama and the heroic leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while expecting the audience to forget that his father worked tirelessly and risked his life for decades in order to help America “rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” Reverend Jackson was in Selma and with Dr. King on that fateful balcony

Jesse Jackson, Sr. endorsed Barack Obama for President nearly two years ago. The reward for his loyalty is that neither he, Congressman Charles Rangel or Congressman John Lewis were invited to speak at the Democratic National Convention.

In fact, Senator Obama can’t seem to be photographed in the same room with the civil rights leaders on whose shoulders he stands. Without the heroism and sacrifice of this greatest generation, Obama’s presidential nomination would have been impossible. Without Jesse Jackson’s historic presidential campaigns and the millions of new voters he registered, Barack Obama would not be a viable nominee.

While the Obama campaign pretends that racism is a prehistoric memory, they cannot be associated with leading African American leaders who risked life and limb to make racial equality possible.

It’s all very sad. This denial of history, elders and expertise is reminiscent of the edublogosphere and so much of our culture where youth and immediacy are over-valued.

I have contributed to the Obama campaign and I will vote for him in November. However, I won’t be half as proud as when I puled the lever for Jesse Jackson, Sr. in 1984 – the first time I was old enough to vote in a presidential primary election.

At least Ted Kennedy got the attention and respect he deserves. It was glorious to see the enormous smile on Senator Biden’s face as Senator Kennedy spoke and delighted the delegates in the arena.

6 thoughts on “Shameful Disrespect for History and Elders

  1. Really though, don’t you think it was more likely Jesse Jackson’s ill-chosen words about castration that resulted in his not being asked to speak at the convention than a disregard for history? After all, you can’t say ‘civil rights leaders’ were ignored when Eleanor Holmes Norton is speaking.

  2. It’s fantastic that Delegate Holmes Norton will speak.

    I stand by my assertion about their skittishness.

    The unfortunate Jackson comment happened, but can you imagine how marginalized he feels by the campaign and by a media that talks endlessly about the “passing of a torch” from one African American leader to another, as if the entire community is only entitled to one leader at a time?

  3. An excellent point, and I can’t argue with that- and i’m sure that feeling is part of what engendered Jackson’s comments in the first place. That being said, I think that their choice of who best to represent the civil rights movement on the stage may have been determined in large part by that unfortunate incident.

    The other piece that I think is missing is that they don’t want the convention to be about racial issues. I think most democrats recognize the amazing significance of a black nominee – but I think there’s a danger in focusing too much on that aspect – in that it becomes a convention about the past, and not about the important changes that we need to be focused on now. Its time to keep the eye on the prize. I’d much rather see a celebration of civil rights leaders at Obama’s inauguration than at the convention.

  4. Besides, Jackson said he stepped aside to give others a chance at recognition after he has spoken at the last six or something like that.

    Me, I prefer not to hear him. He rails against folks using certain derogatory language against his race and then in turn uses it in discussion about the presidential candidate and his own. Why is that right? It’s two-faced and does not set the example for youth that a leader should.

    I agree with his son. He is out of touch with today’s youth and continues to beat the same exact drum in the same manner that he has for decades. It has no connect with the youth for the most part. At least his absence opened up a slot for a younger person to step into the limelight and a leader role. As you say, why should a group only have one leader?

  5. Scott,

    I’m not talking about ONE LEADER.

    So, you don’t like Reverend Jackson. How about Congressman John Lewis? McCain cited him as an American hero.

    What about Congressman Charles Rangel? Does Obama not think he will need to do business with the Congress if elected? Rangel is the Chair of the Committee that funds government.

    What about Ambassador Andrew Young, Bob Moses, Marian Wright Edelman, Cornell West, Michael Eric Dyson, Henry Louis Gates, Myrlie Evans, Martin Luther King III, David Dennis. Julian Bond, Congressman Conyers (Chairman of the Judiciary Committee), Congressman Clyburn, Congressman Cummings, Congresswoman Waters, Joseph Lowery, Calvin Butts, John Hope Franklin, Fred Shuttlesworth or a host of other great Americans? Some of these people are in their 80s or 90s. Imagine the history lesson the DNC could offer America.

    I wasn’t taught about any of these people during my formal education.

    I don’t think this benign neglect of great Americans is merely pandering to young people through some sort of misguided ageism. I hope your son never holds a press conference to denounce his father as young Jackson did.

    I fear that America is still so broken along racial grounds that Senator Obama cannot be seen in the same room with other great African Americans.

    It makes me sad. That’s all.

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