‘Looking down on your own people’
Rev Jesse Jackson whose oratory and occasionally his politics, I have been accustomed to enjoy got into a soup yesterday for his comments on Obama. For those who are not familiar with the name, Jackson was Martin Luther King’s left hand during the civil right movement days and was the first African American to make any progress at a Presidential election. (he did quite well twice at Democratic Presidential Nomination contests 1984 and 88).
Now he was at Fox Channel and just before the interview started the mike happened to be on and he said, “Barack is looking down on Black people” and then added something which wont be civil to add here. Fox beeped it. He said something about what he would do to a certain part of his anatomy.
Jackson felt that Obama was talking too much about Black people’s responsibilities especially black men’s and I suppose largely relating to the need to reduce the high incidence of drug usage and related violence among the African American population. Barack had earlier addressing at a Church congregation had remarked: “We need fathers to recognize that responsibility doesn’t just end at conception.”
Jackson clarified his slip of the tongue later:
“My appeal was for the moral content of his message to not only deal with the personal and moral responsibility of black males, but to deal with the collective moral responsibility of government and the public policy which would be a corrective action for the lack of good choices that often led to their irresponsibility.”
The issue that i raise in this post is briefly this: Whenever somebody from within a marginalised group tends to raise issues of obligations that members of the community have to live up to or in other words, the need to get their internal house in order, there is a speculation that, that person is trying to ‘shift responsibility’.
The same happened to me when I was taking about what i called the need for an inward looking approach when it comes to youth participatory rights at a Commonwealth meet in Colombo. Here is an extract from a speech which I delivered sometime back on an earlier occasion
A spectrum of the problem that we youth activists seldom look at as is what I call the lack of an ‘inward looking approach’. I believe that there is a need to do more on capacity building among youth activists for them to be capable of lobbying for and being part of participatory processes involving young people.
During Q&A I was asked why young people have to always prove themselves and whether my comment intends to ‘shift responsibility’. I clarified that the main issue here is definitely young people not being recognised by the mainstream political and developmental processes but that this should not direct us away from looking inward – i do seriously think that we have to continuously fight and prove ourselves worth of such participation.
The same applies to Tamil Nationalists in this country. Any attempt for internal criticism is looked upon as a dilution of the struggle. And yes MR would also say, if you critique the Government you are diluting our important cleaning and liberating job.
Cast the above two aside. One can sometimes understand the apprehension with shifting responsibility. That we possibly ‘dilute’ the ’cause’. But i don’t appreciate entirely such an argument. To look inwards strengthens ones claim for outward change.
Guruparan Kumaravadivel is a Core Group Member of Beyond Borders. He blogs infrequently at guruchetra.blogspot.com. The views expressed are his own and not necessarily of the organization.