A Tale of Two Jesses
by Isabel Lyman
16 January 2000
I had a dream. I dreamed that there was an alternative to the ubiquitous Rev. Jesse Jackson. I've grown up watching Rev. Jackson on television and can mumble his bona fides in my sleep. Rev. Jesse Louis Jackson - he cuts a dashing figure clad in Italian suits, crafts spell-binding oratory, and is father to five handsome children.
He's never met a government program, be it racial quotas or welfare, that he didn't applaud. He's a card-carrying member of America's civil rights royal family and, as is fitting for his position, his friends are big shots. He served as President Clinton's envoy to Belgrade when he negotiated with Slobodan Milosevic to release three prisoners of war.
Jesse is popular with white liberals. He won the Democratic primary in my former left-wing home of Amherst, Mass., when he ran for president in 1988. But he disses black conservatives. He once described Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts as a "fig leaf" for Republicans.
Jesse has a hip shtick for publicly sympathizing with underachievers and thugs.
Like when he got arrested protesting the expulsion of the six, lazy students who caused a riot at a football game in Decatur, Ill. But after the media klieg lights disappear, so does Jesse.
Jesse has grand, capitalist-style plans for celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. His organization, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, will be hosting the Wall Street Project in New York City. He is zealous about challenging white corporate America to award more contracts to minorities and promote more minorities to corporate boards, a task he has relentlessly pursued for years. (Ho-hum and Yawn!)
Now, listen up, brothers and sisters, I am happy to report that my dream came true last year. I met a real live minister named Jesse, who's a real live contrast to the Rev. Jackson.
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson - he's a humble sort who wears off-the-rack outfits, speaks plainly and has five adopted children. As a small business owner, he's never met a government program that he believes will help black people succeed. He is persona non grata among the civil rights elite, and lists people like California Congresswoman Maxine Waters among "the real enemies of black America."
As is fitting for a Christian preacher, his pals include the rehabilitated drug addicts of Los Angeles. He is God's envoy to the inner city where he helps rescue young men from dysfunctional living.
Jesse is a hero to the politically incorrect. Clark Curry, an Edmond businessman who is affiliated with the John Birch Society, hosted Jesse when he spoke before several groups in Oklahoma City last fall. Jesse does not have a liberal fan club. When he testified against funding Ebonics instruction in California schools before a Democrat-controlled state Senate education committee, his microphone was abruptly shut off.
Jesse has the old-fashioned notion that you tell trouble-makers to grow up. He bluntly advises them to "rid yourself of the mindset that prevents you from being man enough to take control of your life." And he sticks around to offer ideas on how to change that mindset. His ministry runs an entrepreneur program, and he offers seminars on such topics as "forgiveness" and "success."
Jesse has rabble-rousing plans for honoring Dr. King's birthday. His organization BOND (Brotherhood Organization of New Destiny) is sponsoring a National Day of Repudiation of Jesse Jackson in Westwood, Calif. Jesse P. plans to make this a yearly event until Jesse J. "repents of his ways, and stops attempting to tear the races apart for his own personal gain." (Whoa!)
These startling contrasts between the two Jesses begs the question: Who will best bring cutting-edge solutions to the problem of race relations at the beginning of the millennium? The old guard liberal black establishment? Or the new guard of empowered black conservatives?
The answer comes from Dr. King himself. Over 35 years ago he shared he had a dream that his two sons and two daughters would "one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
It's obvious that Jesse Lee Peterson, not Jesse Louis Jackson, is wholeheartedly committed to encouraging his fellow blacks to improve their character and improve their destiny. A winning philosophy that benefits all the races. Here's to Rev. the Peterson on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. May your tribe increase, sir.
This column appeared in The Edmond Sun on January 16, 2000.
Isabel Lyman lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. A former editorial columnist for the Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton, Massachusetts, her views have appeared in various national publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily. She may be contacted via e-mail by clicking here.
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