Friday, November 20, 2009

According to Jesse Jackson, race is an ideological construct

It's long been clear that liberals do not regard someone to be of the designated minority group if that person doesn't fall in line ideologically with their demands. Clarence Thomas isn't a real black man because he doesn't vote like a liberal. Democrats opposed Miguel Estrada's nomination to the Appellate Court because he was not a Hispanic of the appropriate ideology. I remember when feminists said that Jeanne Kirkpatrick wasn't a real woman because of her support of Ronald Reagan's foreign policy.

And now we have Jesse Jackson weighing in a black congressman who voted against PelosiCare.
The Rev. Jackson attended a reception on Capitol Hill last night for the Congressional Black Caucus. During his remarks he railed against opponents of health care reform. "We even have blacks voting against the health care bill," The Hill newspaper reports him saying. "You can't vote against health care and call yourself a black man."

Mr. Jackson's comments can only have been directed at Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama, the sole member of the CBC to have voted against the health care bill this month in the House.

For his part, Mr. Davis declined to get into a spitting contest. "One of the reasons that I like and admire Rev. Jesse Jackson is that 21 years ago he inspired the idea that a black politician would not be judged simply as a black leader," he said in a statement. "The best way to honor Rev. Jackson's legacy is to decline to engage in an argument with him that begins and ends with race."

Sadly, no members of the Congressional Black Caucus have stepped forward to deplore Rev. Jackson's words. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri said the criticism of his CBC colleague was "accurate," although he claimed not to have heard Rev. Jackson say: "You can't vote against health care and call yourself a black man." The veteran civil rights leader, he added, "is expected by his constituency to call balls and strikes."
Representative Davis is from a conservative Alabama district and he wants to run for governor. Jackson would prefer that he represent his race rather than his constituents. And Jackson gets to determine what his race demands. Apparently, independence of thought is not something that Jackson wants to see among black leaders. What if white voters said that they didn't want to vote for a black candidate because they suspected that the politician would vote his race rather than his constituents' interest? They would be responding to the logic of Jackson's approach to representation. Such demands for ideological loyalty by race are pernicious and demeaning.