Jesse Jackson: Obama “Telling Niggers How to Behave”

I understand why the establishment media can’t bring themselves the use the word. They have to make it so scared that it can’t be uttered, not even in an informative context. It’s like the secret name of God. We have to be reduced to first graders. “He said the ‘N-word.’” So I’ll repeat what Jackson said: “Barack … he’s talking down to black people … telling niggers how to behave.” 

Jesse Jackson caught on a hot mic

Now, any fair-minded person knows what Jesse means by this. Whites and blacks who blame black people from the problems of poverty, joblessness, crime, and violence see blacks as “niggers” and the place they live as “Niggertown.” We all know the sentiments. Jackson is bringing some truth to the matter when he says that Obama is “telling niggers how to behave.” That is what Obama is doing. I’m sure each of you at some time or another has used the sarcastic angle of putting yourself in the other point of view and using the language from that standpoint. Jesse was speaking from Obama’s point of view. Jesse is being dramatic. It’s something he does.

Remember when the brilliant comedian Bill Hicks, in protesting the verdict in the Rodney King beating case, talked about Officers “Coon,” “Niggerhater,” and “Keepdarkiedown”? It’s called bitter sarcasm and it’s commonplace among those who know the way some people think about black people.

The “niggers-down-in-Niggertown” line was uttered countless times in the South—and often in the Northeast. It’s easy to channel the sentiment if you’re familiar with history: “The niggers need to stop throwing trash out of their car windows, grow lawns, and fix their screen doors if they want white people to bring businesses back to Niggertown.” Etcetera.

The things Obama says about black people (about fried chicken and whatnot) are the things white bigots used to say all the time about black people. I know hundreds of other whites have heard this because when I heard it when they were standing around me—and getting upset when I disagreed with them! 

Jackson is simply switching “black” with “nigger” to make the point—a effective point if you want to get it. Folks need to stop pretending like they don’t know what’s going on here. Feigned outrage is transparent. 

This episode tells us more about how upset it makes Jackson—and I suspect a lot of other black leaders too afraid to say it in public—that Obama is engaging in racist attacks against the black community by blaming the conditions of blacks on black people, and, adding injury to insult, doing it in front of blacks so that whites can hear it and appreciate a black man saying what they wish they could say. They are rooting Obama on in his talking down to black people.

Watch every white journalists and every black person sucking up to Obama deliberately miss the point. Watch them warp the meaning of the word in this context—in reality, there is no ambiguity in Jesse’s usage of the word—to delegitimize Jackson.

Part of killing off the old civil rights movement once and for all is destroying its leaders. The propagandists of the ruling elite are having a field day with this. They have been waiting for years to banish Jackson to the margins of the movement for justice. (Let’s in ten years if Jackson is relevant at all.)

Racism is not only the belief that someone or group is inferior based on race. Race is a social construction that presupposes a segmentation of social reality. A society is racist to the extent that it divides groups based on selected phenotypic features and then differentially rewards and punishes members of those groups regardless of whether members of these groups realize this is happening to them or for them. Jackson is right when he says that key is structural inequality and that Obama is wrong when he argues that racism is largely a state of mind.

Obama’s rhetoric seeks to dissimulate racism while keeping the divisions going. The result is that the capitalists and their functionaries maintain the status quo that privileges them. This is the central reason why Obama’s blame-the-victim approach is so successful for the perpetuation of racism and so devastating to the civil rights movement.

Jackson was using a slur to criticize Obama’s anti-black propaganda, a strategy that has become central to his campaign for president. Obama talks down to blacks in order to talk over them to the white audience whose votes he seeks. He wants whites to support him and he believes the best way to get this support is to say the racist things some white people think but are afraid to say in mixed company. 

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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