I admire the Reverend Jesse Jackson. I think he's one of America's heroes. The man goes behind enemy lines to negotiate the release of captured U.S. servicemen, gets millions of minorities to register to vote and works the pulpit for equality the way Stradivarius worked spruce and maple.
That's why I say to him, respectfully and sincerely, Shut up, already! It's one thing to be wrong; it's another to be loud wrong. Seems just about every time Jackson has opened his mouth lately, he has been 140-decibel-Limp-Bizkit wrong.
Exhibit A: Jackson yelped that the Packers' recent firing of coach Ray Rhodes, after one 8-8 season, may have been racist. I love it. Former Green Bay star Reggie White reads from the Book of Rocker and Jackson yawns, but Jackson makes a football coach seem like Rosa Parks? Lord!
Did it ever occur to Jackson that Rhodes was fired on Jan. 2 not because he was black but because he was wack? Because under Rhodes the team with the best quarterback in the league won three fewer games than it had in 1998 and missed the playoffs for the first time in seven years? Because Rhodes lost to every Central Division opponent, botched managing the clock in a ridiculous loss to the Panthers and presided over the NFL's equivalent of Animal House?
A representative of the Coalition to Promote Respect, a Green Bay-area race-issues watchdog, didn't see any racism in the firing. Rhodes didn't see any, either. "Business is business," Rhodes said after he was fired. "We didn't get it done."
Didn't matter to Jackson. "Was Ray Rhodes, an African-American, held to a different standard?" he asked in a Jan. 7 letter to Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf. No, and just ask Chan Gailey, who went 8-8 with the Cowboys and made the playoffs and got a boot in the gluteus for his troubles. Where's Jackson's March on Dallas? Since 1960, 17 NFL coaches—all of them white except Rhodes—lasted a year or less on the job, including San Francisco's Monte Clark, who was rewarded for his 8-6 season with a pink slip. Nobody's seeing color here but Jackson.
Ain't that a kick in the bicuspids for Wolf? He pulls Rhodes off the Salvation Army pile after Rhodes was canned in Philadelphia (the Eagles went 6-9-1 and 3-13 in his last two seasons as coach), and now Wolf's getting his cerebellum beaten in for it. Jackson isn't helping black coaches' NFL prospects, he's hurting them. You hire a black coach, you get Jesse on your butt—no extra charge.
Exhibit B: In November, Jackson went barging into Decatur, Ill., hunting mice with an elephant gun. Following a brawl in the stands during a football game at Eisenhower High, six black students were expelled from the Decatur school district. According to police, the Sept. 17 fight was tied to an incident that occurred two weeks earlier between members of two rival gangs. Jackson slapped down the race card, alleging that the Decatur school district's "zero tolerance" policy on violence targeted black kids. He pooh-poohed the melee, calling it "a silly thing. Something children do." Except video showed these children rampaging through the stands, beating the bejesus out of each other and terrifying fans. The little darlings.
Didn't matter to Jackson. He organized marches, backed a lawsuit filed by the six kids and their parents against the Decatur board of education, and even made sure he got arrested during a demonstration in front of Eisenhower High. He had the gall to liken Decatur to Selma, Ala., and compared his efforts with Martin Luther King Jr.'s. Bull. Still, Decatur held firm. For some crazy reason it doesn't feel like tolerating violence. Last week a U.S. District Court judge in Urbana threw out the lawsuit. Didn't matter to Jackson, who called for more demonstrations.
Can you imagine all the good Jackson could do if he didn't go around trying to wrong rights? What about keeping the heat on South Carolina, where the rebel flag still flies above the stadiums, not to mention the statehouse? What about going to Washington, where Chief Justice William Rehnquist hasn't hired a black law clerk in 28 years on the bench? Why is Jackson wasting his time and ours, playing to the biggest crowds on the smallest issues?