The problem with crying wolf

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 18, 2006

I have to admit something…I am not a big fan of the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

I have had several encounters with the well-known civil rights activist going back to my days as a student at the University of Nebraska when I was in charge of Black Special Events and we invited Jackson to speak to students of color.

Jackson managed to have our choice of venue moved to a bigger location and completely used our meager student budget to make a political campaign speech to farmers.

The next time we crossed each other’s paths was at the 1988 Olympic Trials in Indianapolis when we just happened to be staying at the same hotel.

At a dinner hosted by Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson, I reminded Jackson about the way he used our students as a way to get his political plugs in.

We agreed to disagree about a whole assortment of things and the die was cast.

The next time I was privileged to hold court with Jackson was in February 2000 in Atlanta.

This time the good reverend recognized me and we shot the breeze about many things, including his rushing to the aid of then recently fired Green Bay Packer head coach Ray Rhodes.

Jackson had rushed to Rhodes’ defense after the coach has his contract terminated, claiming the Packer organization had not given Rhodes ample time to succeed.

The premise was that if Rhodes had been white instead of black he would’ve been given more than the one season he was given to succeed.

On the night I discussed the issue with Jackson, I told him that I agreed, if Rhodes had been a white man he would have been given more time to succeed.

Ditto for Tyrone Willingham when that black head coach was dismissed from his position as head coach of the Notre Dame football program.

My point to Jackson was not that these men had not been victimized, but did they really need Jesse Jackson coming to their rescue?

There are many incidents which occur throughout the course of a black American’s life that remind him or her of the way they are viewed by many non-blacks.

We sort of build a shell around ourselves in order to endure the nonsense and press on with our agendas.

Most blacks have also learned to pick their battles wisely.

I cannot lose my composure every time someone decides to call me the &uot;n-word&uot; or make an off color joke that they believe is humorous but actually disturbs me.

I wish that you could hear some of the voice-mail I get or read some of the e-mail I receive whenever I decide to discuss race topics.

If you were privy to those gems of our local population base you would realize that racism is alive and well in America.

Unfortunately, bigots swing on both sides of the tree.

Last year when several lacrosse players from Duke University were accused of raping a stripper at a fraternity house in Durham, I wrote a column in the sports section of the News Herald stating that we should not rush to judgment about their guilt.

Because the students were white and the accuser was black, the media as well as the Durham County District Attorney were quick to pile on the Duke players with the race card.

The story was &uot;Rich white kids rape black college student&uot;.

The story should’ve been &uot;Stripper accuses students of rape.&uot;

We in the media have an immense amount of control over public opinion.

Most journalists I know are aware of the trust which the public places in us.

I gave our new reporter Amanda VanDerBroek a piece of advice when she came aboard last week.

I told her to not stress herself out trying to determine which story is more relevant to the public.

I suggested to Amanda that she pick which story she wanted to be relevant and write it as such.

Which is what the news world did in the Duke rape case, decided that is was a story about racism instead of what it should have been about which is college students, alcohol and prostitutes.

Now what happens if a young black woman that is not in the habit of undressing in front of dozens of men for money is actually raped?

Hopefully we won’t have to ever find out.