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A Message from Decatur, Illinois

Jim Jackson

Jim PhotoThere was a time back in the sixties when seeing Jesse Jackson marching among black people gave one a feeling that good was on the attack against bad, that black people were finally overcoming the yoke of oppression and that bad white people were getting their comeuppance.

But that was then. Now, forty years later, seeing Jesse Jackson on the march reminds one of a salesman who has lost his quality product and is trying to sell a bad substitute. He has become what Dr. Walter Williams calls a “racial pimp.” Trying to keep the flames of racial abuse alive where there is none, trying to blackmail the country with white guilt in order to keep the privileges coming and trying to keep his leadership role intact.

The pity of all of this is that, although the national media tries very hard to help him, most people see him for what he is, and the end result is that the very people he is trying to help are being hurt the most. Let’s take a look.

A message: The black youths who rioted at the Decatur school football game were clearly endangering, not only themselves, but a lot of other people. The film shows it. They should be punished, and that should be the end of it. But Jesse Jackson has in effect told them that they were just being boys, that their punishment was a result of racial prejudice, and that all they have to do is to go to a church and get that practiced helpless look on their face and say they are sorry. This kind of advice not only excuses bad behavior and destroys authority, it empowers the children. Further violence is likely. And, this certainly has the potential for adding to the already serious crime problems in the black community.

Another message: Although this is clearly a local matter for the local school system to handle, Jackson caused outside forces to become involved -- the state of Illinois and the federal government moved in, and outsiders were bussed in to demonstrate. And, on Dec. 27, U.S. District Judge Michael McCuskey opened hearings on a lawsuit filed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. With this kind of interference, how in the world can local authorities ever maintain discipline. These outsiders are looking for political advantages, and you don’t discipline children with politics. The potential result is that disruptive students run amok, literally stealing the learning from the other children. If this sort of thing continues, those who really want an education leave the school system. Over time, this causes the system to become what is commonly referred to as an “inner city” school. In the process of destroying the school, the city is destroyed. And, the education of those who are left behind, mostly black, is destroyed. This has been a common pattern all over the country.

A final message: In the sixties, blacks had a legitimate cause. It’s why they succeeded. Today they have equal rights under the law, they have a preferred position with respect to opportunities (backed by officially sanctioned quotas), and they are surrounded by a racial cocoon which insulates them from any criticism. You can hardly have it any better than this. So, when Jesse Jackson evokes the mantle of civil rights to protect the Decatur hoodlums, it is not only wrong, it offends the very sense of fair play that has been so vital to the cause of black America.

Rather than continuing to try to pedal racial animosity to serve his own selfish purposes, Jesse Jackson would better serve his people and the country by helping these young people build respect for authority and learning.

Jim Jackson is a retired NASA executive who writes about community matters. Some of his articles are accepted for publication in The Huntsville Times; some are not. This one was not.


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