Saturday, September 22, 2007

Jackson backpedals on Obama, 'Jena 6' at issue

Jackson backpedals on Obama, 'Jena 6' at issue


by Christi Parsons and Mike Dorning

The Rev. Jesse Jackson on Wednesday softened his criticism of Sen. Barack Obama, whom he reportedly criticized earlier in the week for "acting like he's white" on the Jena 6 race case in Louisiana.

Jackson said in an interview Wednesday that "acting white" isn't a phrase he uses regularly, and that it doesn't accurately represent his feelings about Obama, the Illinois Democratic senator whom Jackson supports for their party's presidential nomination.

Obama, meanwhile, sought to take Jackson's comments out of a racial context, saying he thinks the discussion about the case isn't "a matter of black and white," but rather "a matter of right and wrong.

"We should stand as one nation in opposition to this and any injustice," Obama said, not so subtly adding that his previous remarks on the Jena case were advised in part by Jackson's son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.)

See the rest of the story in the Tribune:

The controversy arose this week as the elder Jackson was preparing for a trip to Jena, La., for a Thursday demonstration in support of six black teenagers at the center of a nationwide fight over racial equity in the criminal justice system.

After black students asked officials at the local high school for permission to sit under a tree that was usually a gathering place for white students, three nooses appeared in its branches.

Not long after that, police said that six black students beat up a white student, and they were charged with attempted murder. The case has touched off a nationwide protest set to culminate with the demonstration. The charges were subsequently reduced, and the conviction of one of the youths was overturned last week.

Earlier this week, The State newspaper in South Carolina quoted the elder Jackson as saying that Obama was "acting like he's white" by not being more bold in his response to the case of the Jena 6.

On Wednesday, Jackson told the Tribune in an interview that he doesn't contest the newspaper account but doesn't recall saying the phrase. He said the phrase doesn't reflect his opinion.

"That is not my conviction," Jackson said. "But I will say the Democrats should act with more courage on this. It is one of the defining moments of our time."

Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, said on Rev. Al Sharpton's radio show Wednesday that the situation raises "very serious questions of injustice and inequality," and that it "shines a bright spotlight on the disparate treatment that happens all too often in our country."

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