Guess who said this on November 26, 2006 at a press conference in Los Angeles: "We will challenge and urge all artists and comics to stop using this (N) word. What other group is subjected to such a degrading terminology?"
And then guess who called for this action: We will go after TV networks, film companies and comedians and demand that they stop using the word. We will boycott sales of the DVDs of Seinfeld's seventh season TV show. The speaker of course was Jesse Jackson. The offender who dared utter the dreaded N word was comedian Michael Richards.
Now we hear that Jesse did a Richards like imitation with the N word in his infamous unguarded open mic dig at Obama on Fox.
Jackson's pound of Richards and saber rattle of the entertainment business was strong stuff. In fact it was vintage Jackson; a denunciation of the N word, railing against the entertainment industry and entertainers for their racial insensitivity, and, of course, a threatened boycott. Jesse was riding tall on his moral and racial high horse at the time and had thousands revved up to go after Richards and anyone else who used the N word.
The problem is that the "anyone else" Jackson had in mind was not simply a white bit part comedian and some off color comics and filmmakers, but any and every black who used the word. Jesse would settle for nothing less than a total ban by blacks on the N word.
Jackson's press conference tirade against the N word was hardly the first time he had hit the warpath against the word. He had spent years lecturing, hectoring, and admonishing blacks to dump the word from their vocabulary.
So that makes his N word slur even more unpardonable than if it had come from a rapper or comic. They're trying to make a buck off of using the word as cutesy shock value so at least there's logic, commercial and twisted, but logic nonetheless to their spew of it. In Jackson's case that doesn't apply.
He committed two serious offenses in casually and recklessly using the word. Though he didn't call Obama the word, by knocking him ("cut off his n...ts") and tossing in the word to describe blacks who Obama allegedly offended, Obama by inference became an N... too. Jackson's bigger offense was his tar of blacks with the word. If a white celebrity, personality or politician slandered and disrespected blacks with the word, guess who would be the first person to charge the barricades demanding their head and then that they be banned in Boston for perpetuity. The chances are pretty good that Jackson would have gotten their head and the ban. But in this case, the famed personality that offended with the word is not a white notable but Jackson himself.
So what should we do about him? He's already apologized to Obama, and since he wasn't the target of Jackson's loose lip slur, Jackson should immediately apologize to blacks for not only trashing them, but also apologize for his hypocrisy. That's not all. Since Jackson called for a boycott of the DVD's of the Seinfeld show for Richards N word offense, then turn about is fair play. In this case, listeners to Jackson's national radio show should consider a brief tune out of his show to show that the N word is just as offensive no matter whether it drips from the lips of a tired white comedian, gangster rapper, blue room black comedian, radio shock jock, or a one time civil rights icon.
Jesse has taken a much deserved hit for his intemperate personal rap of Obama. Now he should take an even bigger hit for his far worse racial rap of blacks and in the process himself.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).