Soledad O’Brien and Jesse Jackson’s Color Senselessness

Soledad talks about the war within the black community on color…

The Next Big Story’ from Soledad O’Brien

On this American Morning, I have an exclusive look at a man at least half the world admires. I feel like what he is saying speaks to me. I am energized, a new member of the quarter million people who joined him on the mall, and a new recipient of the grace he handed out in Selma.

Then, out of nowhere, The Reverend Jesse Jackson calls with an invitation to meet and talk and it brings my reverie to a halt. We greet warmly and sit. A young, clean-cut security guy hovers near by. He stays close enough to be summoned for a quick question but not close enough to overhear. I notice the china is clinking, like real good china. I have four small kids so I never hear that particular sound. The restaurant is on the first floor of a famous hotel and the place is nice. The Reverend Jackson begins talking in his strong Southern accent. His voice is very low. He says “call me Jesse,” but that’s something I feel like I cannot do. I am confident he doesn’t remember the first time we met. It was my job in 1989 to escort him through his live shots at WBZ TV around Boston Nelson Mandela’s historic visit to the U.S. I was his “babysitter,” the one making sure no other media plucked him away. He was our contributor. He whispers something. He is speaking so low I can barely hear him. I strain to get closer.

Even though I am not sure what he is saying, I can tell he is angry. Today he is angry because CNN doesn’t have enough black anchors. It is political season. There are billboards up sporting Paula Zahn and Anderson Cooper. He asks after the black reporters. Why are they not up there? I share his concern and make a mental note to take it back to my bosses. But then he begins to rage that there are no black anchors on the network at all. Does he mean covering the campaign, I wonder to myself? The man has been a guest on my show. He knows me, even if he doesn’t recall how we met. I brought him on at MSNBC, then again at Weekend Today. I interrupt to remind him I’m the anchor of American Morning. He knows that. He looks me in the eye and reaches his fingers over to tap a spot of skin on my right had. He shakes his head. “You don’t count,” he says. I wasn’t sure what that meant. I don’t count — what? I’m not black? I’m not black enough? Or my show doesn’t count?

I was both angry and embarrassed, which rarely happens at the same time for me. Jesse Jackson managed to make me ashamed of my skin color which even white people had never been able to do. Not the kids in the hallways at Smithtown or the guys who wouldn’t date me in high school. I remember the marchers behind me at the trial about the black youth/kid who beat the Latino baby. The folks that chanted “biracial whore for the white man’s media,” even they didn’t even make feel this way. I would just laugh. Biracial, sure, whore, not exactly, white man’s media, totally! Whatever. But Reverend Jesse Jackson says, “I don’t count?”

I am immediately upset and annoyed and the even more annoyed that I am upset and pissed off. If Reverend Jesse Jackson didn’t think I was black enough, then what was I? My parents had so banged racial identity into my head that the thoughts of racial doubt never crossed my mind. I’d suffered an Afro through the heat of elementary school. I’d certainly never felt white. I thought my version of black was as valid as anybody else’s. I was a product of my parents (black woman, white man) my town (mostly white), multiracial to be sure, but not black? I felt like the foundation I’d built my life on was being denied, as if someone was telling me my parents aren’t my parents. “You know those people you’ve been calling mom and dad — they aren’t really your parents. What?” The arbiter of blackness had weighed in. I had been measured and found wanting…

(more)

Sad…

Soledad O’Brien’s Passion for Black History

For the time being, I’ll take this one on face value, instead of a more cynical suspicion that CNN is promoting an agenda…

CNN reporter to share passion for black history at Pacific

To Soledad O’Brien, it’s always black history month.

“It’s every day, sure, sure,” said O’Brien, the CNN reporter who’ll help University of the Pacific start its official Black History Month events by speaking and answering questions tonight at Faye Spanos Concert Hall.

“One gets to talk about black history, and when you talk about Black History Month now people want to know what’s happening in Haiti, too. It reminds me about our history.”

O’Brien, who recently returned from covering Haiti’s earthquake tragedy for CNN, also spent a year producing a 2009 documentary — “CNN Presents: Black in America” — that resonates appropriately with “Our Story,” the theme of Pacific’s 12th Black History Month program.

“I really sort of think about Black History Month as a living, breathing element,” said O’Brien, 43, in a phone interview from her CNN office in New York on Tuesday. “Lots of stories continue to revolve around people of color. The country’s minorities now will be a majority no sooner than 2050.”

“We identified her a couple of years ago as one of the best storytellers of the black experience in America,” said Marcus Perrot, 48, chairman of Pacific’s Black History Month Committee. “Particularly when we heard she was covering (President Barack) Obama’s election campaign, we knew she would bring a very rich perspective and variety of experiences.”

The second half of O’Brien’s 2009 CNN documentary will be shown Thursday night at the Pacific Theatre. Continue reading

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