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Jewish World Review Feb. 8, 2001 / 15 Shevat, 5761

Thomas H. Lipscomb

Thomas H. Lipscomb
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From 'civil rights' to 'snivel rights' --- 1968-2001 -- IT'S Black History Month again, so it seems appropriate to try to get some historical perspective on recent developments in the life of the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

The day he was murdered in 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King was struggling with one of the most difficult questions of his career. There had to be some way to keep the talents of the young Jesse Jackson focused on the civil rights objectives of his Southern Christian Leadership Conference while keeping Jackson's lying and financial chicanery under control. King had been arguing with Jackson most of the day, until an assassin's bullet left the question hanging.

But "New York Daily News" columnist Michael Kramer reminded us recently, Jesse Jackson used Dr. King's death to launch his own career with a colossal lie. " 'Right after the shooting, Jesse shouted to us all not to talk to the press,' [King aide Rev. Hosea] Williams said. 'But then I saw him telling reporters, "Yes, I was the last man in the world King spoke to." He said he held King in his arms. I knew he was lying — Ralph Abernathy was the one who held 'Doc.'" And the next morning Jesse Jackson appeared on NBC's "Today" Show in a white turtleneck he claimed was stained in King's blood to reinforce his lie.

Jackson had borrowed a trick from Adolf Hitler. Hitler used a banner supposedly stained by the blood of followers in his failed Munich putsch to "legitimatize" symbols of the rapidly- growing Nazi movement. So Jackson appointed himself King's blood heir and the media bought the lie. Today now the once-great civil rights movement has degenerated into a money machine for con artists from academia to nonprofits and from politicians to media spokespersons. It has been allowed to develop into the largest protection racket in the nation. And all because the American press has spent the last 33 years in a conspiracy of silence. In an act of condescension reminiscent of segregationist white Southerners, the press has decided to ignore these obvious shakedowns because "You have to expect blacks to steal and after all it's a good cause."

The real Jesse Jackson scandal, rather than the snowball on the tip of the iceberg that surfaced recently with Jackson's illegitimate child, is shown last week in "The Chicago Sun-Times'" bizarre survey of "nearly 50" black scholars that picked "five black leaders." The day King died in 1968, a similar list might have included Martin Luther King, Marian Anderson, Ralph Bunche, Adam Clayton Powell, and Jackie Robinson. But the "Sun-Times" list of 2001 was headed by Jesse Jackson followed by Kweisi Mfume, Maxine Waters, Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton.

Any experienced journalist who has covered these "leaders" is sitting on far more explosive information about them than the scandals we have seen in the press. While self-congratulatory panels on journalism harp on "the public's right to know," "the public's right" is quickly waived in the case of "civil rights leaders." And the result is the kind of arrogance that always accrues to the unaccountable. After all, the real scandal about Jesse Jackson's "love child" isn't the affair itself-- Kweisi Mfume's list of illegitimate children makes Jackson look in serious need of Viagra-- it's where the money came from that supports her. Mfume's predecessor, former NAACP head Ben Chavis fled into Farrakhan's arms when the details of one girlfriend's payoffs from its treasury came to light. And it seems clear that money donated to Jackson's non-profits went to buy silence in this case as well.

But no one seems to want to look at the finances of The Rainbow Coalition. Surely there are few more ridiculous sights than a pack of Wall Street bankers lending their credibility to Jesse Jackson's "Wall Street Project" shakedown last month when they never bothered to ask for audited financials on The Rainbow Coalition. The IRS hasn't audited any of Jackson's nonprofit entities in over 18 years. And John Kass's reminds us in "The Chicago Tribune," that Jesse Jackson's virulent attack on "racist" Anheuser-Busch seems to be over now that Jackson's children have been given a prime exclusive Budweiser territory of 62 square miles on the North Side of Chicago.

But it isn't just the money. "Snivel rights" leaders like Jesse Jackson are accorded an instant suspension of disbelief that adds unimpeachable credibility to their most ludicrous assertions. The NAACP did a superb job getting out the black vote in Florida last November increasing its share by over 60% from the 1996 elections. There were indeed an unusually high number of spoiled or rejected ballots. But this was hardly surprising since experienced campaign workers know a high number of first time voters, illiterates and others caught in this kind of neighborhood sweep, whether white or black, often screw up. But having just pulled off the highest black voting percentage in Florida history Kwesei Mfume and Jesse Jackson immediately charged "racism" caused an "undercount" of black votes in Florida. Instead of laughing in their faces at such an asinine assertion, the press took the charges seriously and we were treated to "civil rights marches" and demonstrations capped by a kangaroo court proceeding of the Civil Rights Commission.

This lack of accountability has lead to the worst aspect of the morphing of the civil rights movement into the current snivel rights congame. When Thurgood Marshall walked up the steps of the Supreme Court to successfully plead the Brown vs the Topeka Board of Education case that lead to the end of segregated schools, he passed under an inscription of the pediment over the entrance that promised "Equal Justice Under Law." That was what he aspired to and the decency of King's insisting on Americans keeping faith with their own Constitutional commitment was the engine of the civil rights movement that pulled more and more Americans in support until it prevailed.

But the five "leaders" selected for us by these black scholars today believe in "unequal justice imposed under penalty of the law" for their constituency. They lack confidence in the black Americans they purport to lead. They don't believe blacks can make it on their own the way other Americans have over the centuries. And they not only want special rights in the future, they want to be compensated for the past as well. Certainly nothing can be more absurd a perversion of American ideals than the current notion of Randall Robinson, Charles Ogletree, and Johnny Cochran that black Americans are somehow due reparations for slavery. Ironically, the president of Sengal --Abdoulaye Wade-- startled a UN-backed conference in Africa last week by dismissing this kind of thinking as "childish."

We do no honor to the worthy record of civil rights achievement if we continue to refuse to examine the shakedown game the snivel rights movement has become today. The price is now clear-- the intellectual bankruptcy of black studies scholars like the "Sun-Times' " "nearly 50," soaring rates of illegitimacy, illiteracy, disease, crime, and unemployability in the black community, and a distortion of the ideals of the nation itself. As long as in the middle of his own sex scandal Jesse Jackson feels free to hire a disgraced black like Congressman Mel Reynolds --convicted of sex crimes with an underage girl-- for his Rainbow/PUSH Movement, the arrogance of snivel rights leaders is well-founded. But the price is too high. We cannot afford to ignore the misuse of the words "civil rights" as a cover for extortion any longer.

Thomas H. Lipscomb is the director of the Center for the Digital Future in New York. An an editor and publisher for many years, most recently as head of Times Books, he is also the founder of two public companies in digital technology. To comment, click here.

11/03/00: Clinton’s gotterdammerung
10/20/00: Gore wins the debate --- Bush wins the electorate
06/20/00: Fire Richardson now
05/01/00: Congressional hearings on Reno’s raid are not the way to go

© 2000, Thomas H. Lipscomb