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Jesse Jackson comes first -- God second -- in his own life's work

By C.T. Rossi
web posted September 30, 2002

Jesse Jackson was ordained a Baptist minister in 1968. This being the case, he is no doubt familiar with the biblical stricture that no man may serve two masters. Jackson's latest crusade is against the producers of the movie Barbershop.

Cedric The Entertainer, Michael Ealy, Troy Garity and Leonard Earl Howze in Barbershop
Cedric The Entertainer, Michael Ealy, Troy Garity and Leonard Earl Howze in Barbershop

The comedy, set in an African-American barbershop, features an ensemble cast including rapper Ice Cube and comedian Cedric the Entertainer. The creators hoped to utilize one of the only true "free speech zones" left in a culture overwhelmed by the chilling specter of political correctness- or as one character opines, "Ain't nobody exempt in the barbershop. You can talk about whoever and whatever you want in the barbershop." Jackson disagrees.

The scene that has mobilized the Rainbow/Push censorship machine shows Cedric's over-opinionated and over-the-top barber character, Eddie, launching into a discourse about the three "lies" that black Americans insist on perpetuating (for politically correct reasons). The dispelled "myths" center around the hero status accorded to Rodney King and Rosa Parks, along with the observation that O.J. Simpson really was guilty of murder. Add to this slaughter of sacred cows disparaging remarks about the private sex life of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the character of Eddie the barber has provided the fodder for a full-scale race riot. Ironically, Eddie is warned after his iconoclastic comments that he better be careful not to let Jesse Jackson hear what he has just said. His response: "F--- Jesse Jackson."

Whether it was the "attack" on the pantheon of cultural black icons or merely the fact that Jackson felt compelled to defend his own honor, he took the bait and self-fulfilled the prophecy of Eddie the barber by attempting to stifle the words of a make-believe tonsor - and in doing so, Jackson has reduced himself to mere caricature.

Jackson, since unleashing the war dogs, has received an apology but he seeks more - namely that the offensive scenes be deleted from the home video versions of the movie when released. All of this leads one to think that if America's premier civil rights voice can find no better Quixote-esque foe than the windmill slurs of an African-American comedy, then the striving for true civil rights envisioned in the early 1960s has either been achieved or the goals abandoned and supplanted with a race-based, race-baiting cottage industry. While the debate can rage ad nauseam as to whether Jackson's choices of confrontation actually advance the cause of civil rights, one thing is obvious - Jackson places his secular agenda far above his role as a man of God.

Always quick to use the caché that comes with the title "reverend," Jackson's agenda has emerged as political with little regard for any issues that a typical Baptist minister might concern himself with. Take the Sudan, for example.

Not only has Mr. Jackson been irksomely quiet on the Islamic genocide of Sudanese Christians (one would assume that the senseless slaughter of one's religious cohort would be of interest to an alleged "minister" of the Christian faith), but Jackson has likewise distanced himself from overtures by American abolitionists to take up the spokesman's role against Sudanese slavery. Does Jackson feel that he has something to lose in addressing the multitude of religious and social blights of the Sudan, or merely nothing to gain?

The Sudan is just one example of international issues that would be worthwhile causes for a man of Jackson's influence. But while Jackson has taken the time to globe-hop and meet with the likes of Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qadhafi and Fidel Castro, the unconscionable evils of genocide and slavery don't seem to rouse Jesse. In fairness, the issue of slavery does interest Jackson, given that it is 140 years in the past with a possible dividend to pay in the near future. The other obviously motivating topic for Jackson is censoring his reputation in comic films.

Notwithstanding Jesse's caterwauling, satirizing public figures is at least as old a democratic tradition as the plays of Aristophanes where the playwright skewered not only public leaders (like Cleon) but self-appointed social commentators (like Socrates) as well. Can Jackson be so thin-skinned?

Or is there more?

Did Barbershop let the cat out of the bag? Is the greatness of Jesse Jackson nothing more than a polite lie - a canard that has grown to be known in black America, only openly talked about in the safe confines of a barbershop? Jesse Jackson has built an empire claiming to be the voice of black America - how dare that now a black film would question him. Jesse is doing all he can to see that such upstarts know their place and don't speak out of turn.

C.T. Rossi writes on contemporary politics and culture for the Free Congress Foundation.

Other related stories: (open in a new window)

  • Shakedown: A shocker by Kimberley Lindsay Wilson (March 25, 2002)
    That Jesse Jackson has done some disreputable things in his life is no secret but Kimberley Lindsay Wilson is shocked after reading a new expose of the man
  • Jesse Jackson: Back in action by Gregory J. Hand (August 13, 2001)
    It's impossible to keep a good man down! Gregory J. Hand reports that Jesse Jackson is up to his old tricks: extorting money from companies for slights both real and imagined
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