Mentioning Jesse Jackson Jr. the other day reminded me of his father. You'd think Jackson would be yesterday's news, but he continues to insert himself into the middle of every racial controversy that flares up.
Jackson has led a life characterized by shamelessness, hypocrisy, dishonesty, lack of inhibition, manipulativeness, and the need for attention.
Jackson grew up in Greenville, South Carolina. While in high school, he worked at a fast food restaurant, where, as he later boasted to black audiences, he took pleasure in spitting in white people's food before it was served to them.
Jackson attended the University of Illinois for a year. He left, partly out of frustration at not being named the starting quarterback on the football team. He claimed he was denied because of racism, but those who were there at the time said that he simply wasn't good enough. Jackson's charge is curious because the starting quarterback that year was black.
Jackson first gained national fame -- and notoriety -- as an aide to Martin Luther King Jr. When King was assassinated on that Memphis hotel balcony, Jackson was in the parking lot below. But he rushed upstairs after the shooting, ran his hands through the blood on the balcony, and wiped them on his shirt. Jackson claimed to the press that he had cradled the dying MLK. When he appeared on NBC the next day, he wore the same shirt, with the blood still on it, which enraged those closest to King.
The Reverend Ralph Abernathy later kicked Jackson out of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for "organizational improprieties."
After Jackson was kicked out of the SCLC, he formed his own organization, Operation PUSH, which stood for People United to Save Humanity; Jackson evidently saw himself as the savior of all mankind. Jackson later ran into trouble with the IRS when he was unable to account for how PUSH funds had been spent.
Jackson ran for President in both 1984 and 1988, though no analysts thought he had a serious shot at the nomination. In 1988 he received 98% of the black vote, which was close to 24% of the Democratic vote. During the 1984 campaign he famously referred to New York City as "Hymietown," an interesting word choice from a man whose self-professed cause has been fighting racism.
Since then Jackson has made a career of inserting himself into every racial flareup in the country, as long as it ostensibly involved white perpetrators and black victims. The incidents he has injected himself into are far too numerous to list, but they include the first OJ Simpson trial (he visited OJ in jail to "pray with him" and "hear him express his concerns" about his "ordeal"), the Jena 6 case, the Duke lacrosse case, and the Trayvon Martin shooting (after which he said that "blacks are under attack" and suggested "we go to war").
One has to wonder, who invites Jackson to fly into town and weigh in with his opinion during these incidents?
Jackson also seems to show up at the funeral of every black celebrity important enough to attract television cameras, and appoints himself as family spokesman. He was prominent among the mourners at Michael Jackson's funeral. More recently, when Whitney Houston died, Jackson showed up and sat in the pulpit during the ceremony. It's gotten to the point where his constant lugubrious presence seems downright ghoulish.
The grieving relatives never tell him to get lost, since he's Jesse Jackson. But one has to wonder what they actually think of him; he can't possibly be close to all these families. (When Muhammad Ali dies, assuming he doesn't outlive Jackson, you can bet Jesse will be there doing his best to take center stage.)
Jackson has also made a career out of extorting companies he deems too white. His general modus operandi is to threaten boycotts and picket lines, then relent when the company either agrees to hire more minorities, or more likely, makes a generous contribution to Operation PUSH or some other entity Jackson has a financial interest in. In 1998 Jackson obtained an Anheuser Busch beer distributorship for two of his sons by threatening them with a boycott.
One executive, T.J. Rodgers of Cypress Semiconductor, rebuffed Jackson's efforts and publicly defended the diversity of his company. Jackson's response was vintage Jesse: "We can now officially describe Cypress Semiconductor as a white supremacist hate group."
When President Clinton was embroiled in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Jesse Jackson swooped in to "counsel" the President and offer him "spiritual guidance." It emerged shortly thereafter that Jackson himself had a love child with one of his employees, Karin Stanford, in 1999. Stanford sued Jackson for child support in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2011, saying that Jackson had not made any payments between December 2010 and August 2011, despite repeated requests from her.
Stanford later said that there were many former employees of Jackson's Rainbow Coalition/Operation PUSH who "hate him and want to destroy him." Leaving a trail of disgruntled former associates is typical of sociopaths.
In any case, the list of Jackson's hypocrisies is too long to list. The more interesting question, as with all sociopaths, is how he got that way.
The answer lies buried somewhere in his early upbringing. Jesse was born to a 16-year-old mother, Helen Burns; his father was 32-year-old Noah Lewis Robinson, a married man who lived in the neighborhood. Two years later Helen married Charles Jackson. Helen told the young Jesse that Charles Jackson was his father. But neighborhood kids taunted Jesse and told him that was not the case. (A surprising number of sociopaths seem to have been lied to about their parentage.)
It has always looked to me as if Jesse Jackson, with his widely spaced eyes, has fetal alcohol syndrome. I've also wondered if Jackson, who's never been without a mustache since he was a young man, might possibly have had a harelip. (Look closely at his mouth in the picture above; an improperly healed cleft palate could have something to do with his weird accent and staccato speech.) According to this website, a mother who drinks is four times more likely to have a child with a cleft palate.
When Jackson was born, in 1941, the rate of illegitimate births among blacks was far lower than it is now. Helen Burns reportedly received strong disapproval from family and friends when she became pregnant by the older married man; she was even expelled from her church. It's not a stretch to think that Burns turned to drink to assuage her troubles during her pregnancy.
Burns reportedly was one of the prettiest girls at her high school, had the best singing voice there, and had offers from music schools. Is it possible that Jackson's 16 year old mother didn't really want him? And that at a certain level, she resented the little baby who had in a sense ruined her life? And might those feelings have been intensified if, when she saw that little baby for the first time, he had a harelip?
All this is purely speculation, but it makes sense. And it would certainly provide the answer to Jackson's character.
Jackson can't be blamed for his family background. But neither can Ted Bundy be blamed for having been lied to about his parentage. And the fact remains, whatever causes a sociopath to become that way, sociopaths are by definition despicable.
Jackson is certainly no exception. By manipulatively telling black people that their problems are due to white racism, and by enraging whites with his hypocrisy, he has single-handedly set back race relations more than anyone else within recent memory.