Not Walking the Talk

I have been keeping track of black public discourse on Rev. Jesse Jackson ever since this "black American dirty linen" got aired and it became public that the reverend fathered a child outside his marriage. Truth be told, this isn't a new or shocking story line inside the black community. It's only scandalous when it involves an "upstanding" community member. Remember, Malcolm X fell out of favor with Elijah Muhammad when he learned that Muhammad fathered children with several of his secretaries. More recently, we learned that basketball legend Julius Irving has a daughter outside his marriage. A couple years ago it was Bill Cosby's turn.

Maybe this explains why so many black elected officials, civil rights activists, and clergy have either been silent or gone out of their way to declare Jackson a national treasure and trumpet his leadership. Most of black America has been willing to dismiss this embarrassing episode as a deliberate attempt by the system to silence Jackson's voice.

Several prominent black columnists, on the other hand, have concluded that Jackson's baby scandal may well accelerate a loss of stature and moral authority that had already begun. Likewise, the Internet was awash with absolutely hilarious Jacksonian poetry and rhymes illuminating the gravity of the reverend's behavior.

It was, however, in the neighborhood barbershop that I heard the sobering perspective of poor black youth and young adults. Jesse, a young brother told me, "he got child care issues! The only difference," the young man continued, "is that he can pay for his and I can't pay for mine. I've never listened to those cats, politicians and preachers, telling me to stop making babies outside marriage. Brothers like me see them out here in the wee hours of the morning creeping around getting their sex on and they ain't with their wives. Why I got to stop getting my groove on but they can do their dirt?"

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 2001
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