The Nation's Pulse

Jesse Jackson and the Renewed Fight to Racialize America

What if James Foley had been black?

By 8.26.14

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What if James Foley, the journalist kidnapped and murdered by ISIS — had been black? Would he have still been killed?

If Juan Williams, a black man, were on a Fox News Sunday panel with the white Bob Woodward, Laura Ingraham and Karl Rove, all discussing the events in Ferguson, would the panel still be a “white panel”?

Was 9/11, which killed hundreds of blacks and Latinos, a racist attack?

We’ll never know the answer to the first question — although we know for a fact that the Rev. Jesse Jackson got headlines and television coverage aplenty years back by securing (along with the then-unknown Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan) the 1984 release of a captured Navy pilot in Syria who was black. 

The answer to the second question is yes, at least according to Reverend Jackson. In spite of Williams’s quite visible presence on that Fox News Sunday panel this past weekend, an irate Jackson followed afterwards and told host Chris Wallace that he wished he (Jackson) and fellow segment-guest Dr. Ben Carson been “on that white panel you just had because it (Ferguson) does have a race dimension.” Apparently, Jackson thinks Juan Williams is not black… because why? Because Juan Williams thinks like a white guy? Or doesn’t look black enough? Or works for Fox? He didn’t say.

And 9/11 — was it a racist attack? Of course not. Yet that hasn’t stopped some from trying to divide by race in the aftermath. A classic example being the controversy surrounding a statue based on this famous photo taken on 9/11. The photo shows three firefighters raising the American flag amid the rubble of the World Trade Center. By sheer happenstance all three were white — yet the commemorative statue will display the actual firefighters in rigid politically correct fashion: one white, one black, one Latino. Asians — like Zhe “Zack” Zeng, a Chinese-born Emergency Medical Technician who died that day — are apparently out of representational luck. So too are gays and women. 

What is all of this telling Americans today as they watch the events in Ferguson surrounding the killing of Michael Brown reduced from a boil to a simmer? What message are Reverend Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton, filmmaker Spike Lee, and others sending?

They are sending the message that progressives — who have built an entire political movement based on racism and class warfare — are not only ferociously determined to never, ever let go of the racist side of this equation. They are determined to remake America into a racial state, a modern version of the apartheid-era South Africa. A place where whatever happens is judged by the race of those involved. 

If James Foley had been a black man, one can only imagine the furor that Jackson and others in the race-hustling business would have raised to get him back safely. In fact, it was a similar 1984 case that thrust Jackson into the role of running around the globe to rescue this or that American who had fallen into the clutches of an American enemy.

On October 23, 1983, Islamic suicide bombers drove two trucks filled with explosives into the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The Marines were stationed there as part of an international peacekeeping force trying to tamp down the Lebanese civil war. The bombing killed 241 Marines. Ultimately, President Reagan decided to remove the Marines. His objective was to win the Cold War — not get the U.S. involved in a classic example of “mission creep” in the Middle East.

But that didn’t mean Reagan wasn’t angry — and determined to retaliate. On December 4, twenty-three Navy aircraft were launched from the U.S. aircraft carriers Indepenence and John F. Kennedy. The target: the Sheik Abdullah Barracks in Baalbeck, which Reagan biographer Lou Cannon would later describe as the “headquarters of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and their Lebanese Shiite allies” who were seen as responsible for the Marine killings. Cannon also notes that the site was “protected by Syrian anti-aircraft power.” In the course of the attack, two American A-6 bombers were taken out by Syrian anti-aircraft fire. One pilot was killed. The second, Navy Lieutenant Robert Goodman, safely ejected only to be immediately captured. By happenstance, Lieutenant Goodman was black.

In America, the 1984 presidential campaign was getting under way — and one of the candidates for the Democrats’ presidential nomination took notice. That was, of course, the Reverend Jackson. Reagan, as he wrote in his diary at the time, was skeptical because he thought that “Jesse had some less than noble incentives in making that trip (to Syria to see Syrian President Assad and request Goodman’s release) but I prayed every day he’d be successful.” Reagan kept a small plaque on his desk that read: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.” If it was “far more possible” that private citizen and clergyman Jesse Jackson rather than President Ronald Reagan could get “our man released,” then Reagan was all for it. Reagan didn’t just believe in the idea of a color-blind America, he lived it. He looked at Robert Goodman and saw not a black man but an American, specifically a Lieutenant in the United States Navy. He made the decision not to “see or talk” to Jackson before Jackson left for Syria because he didn’t want Assad to believe Jackson was Reagan’s envoy — which would only make whatever chance Jackson had to free Goodman more difficult. While deliberately refusing to take a Jackson phone call, Reagan was privately wishing him well. “As just a citizen,” Reagan wrote, he thought Jackson — “along with a dozen other clergymen” (including the Rev. Wright and Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam) — might have a real shot at freeing Goodman. The State Department quietly gave Jackson a 90-minute briefing, but it leaked to the press that State thought Jackson was about a “political stunt.” No less than the liberal Time magazine wrote skeptically that Jackson “denied that race had anything to do with his trip (Goodman is black.) ” And what a trip it was. Noted Time of his arrival in Damascus:

At last he made it, with two teen-age sons, four campaign aides, an amazing 21 Secret Service men, five American ministers and, he said, “high hopes.” Declared Jackson in Damascus: “The ultimate victory would be to get Goodman out, but we’ve already had an enormous impact. We’ve put the issue on the front burner.”

The front burner indeed. Jackson trying to free Goodman was the story of the day. But Reagan sat quietly on the sidelines and instead of stopping him let Jesse Jackson do his thing. “And he did” succeed an elated Reagan wrote when he learned Jackson had pulled it off. 

Once Goodman was released, Reagan (to the inevitable grumbles of some) went all out to give Jackson credit. “I talked to him on the phone & the Lt. They’ll be home tonight.” And once home on January 3? Reagan invited Jackson — who was running for the nomination to be his fall opponent — to the Oval Office for a celebration the very next day. After noting daughter Maureen’s birthday celebration, Reagan wrote that night in his diary of January 4, 1984:

Big day at the office, too. Jesse Jackson, his family, Lt. Goodman (released by Syrians) & his family came to Oval Office. Jesse’s debriefing on his hours spent with President Assad was most interesting.

And after the briefing and the session with the Jackson and Goodman families in the Oval? 

We all trooped out to the Rose Garden for photos etc. It was a good day.

It was a good day. And therein lies the difference between conservatives and progressives and the battle that the Ferguson shooting has now outlined.

Ronald Reagan saw Lieutenant Goodman not as a black man — but as an American. He saw Jesse Jackson himself not as “a black citizen” but “just a citizen” — as in an American who held no public office.

Jackson, as his revealing comment on that Fox News Sunday “white panel” (that wasn’t “white”) illustrates yet again, is, unlike Reagan then and millions of other Americans today, obsessed with seeing America in racial terms. Why? Because he benefits from it — as do all manner of left-wingers both economically and politically.

Which brings us to 9/11, ISIS and all the rest of the Islamic radicals intent on bringing down America.

America was not attacked on 9/11 because of the color or ethnicity of its citizens. Whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians, gays, straights, men and women died that day. They were killed because they were Americans — active citizens in Western civilization who were using freedom to pursue their dreams. They were the worst answer possible to the stated Islamic goal of a global caliphate and the “convert or die” mentality behind it.

The name “James Foley” sounds Irish, presumably making Foley an “Irish-American.” But there is no outrage out there from Irish groups for an obvious reason. Clearly James Foley’s family and friends considered him — as they do themselves — Americans. Which is to say, citizens of a country based not on skin color or ethnicity but an idea.

The real tragedy of Ferguson is that it is part-and-parcel of skin color liberalism making a bid to drag America back to the kind of society it took a Civil War and decades of civil rights work to overturn. A racially based apartheid-style society where, in this case, both police officer Darren Wilson and the man he shoots — Michael Brown — are to be judged by race. Not facts. But race.

The 2016 presidential race looms in the wings, and the 2014 November elections are just around the calendar corner — a little over two months away.

In the middle of all the news of chaos in the world, the question now is who out there running for office will take this bid by Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and progressives in both politics, the media, and elsewhere to drag America backwards to a permanently race-based society — and openly challenge it? Who will make the case for a colorblind America when they run for president or Congress or a governor’s chair? 

Americans like Dr. Ben Carson, the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley, activists like Deneen Borelli, and a growing band of others of all races are speaking out and challenging the idea of a race-based society. But make no mistake, this is a huge, on-going fight with those who have much to gain in terms of both money and politics at stake.

The murder of American James Foley was a tragedy of war. But that war exists not because Mr. Foley was white or because he had an Irish ancestor. The war that killed James Foley is raging because James Foley, like all the panelists on that Fox News Sunday show, like all those killed on 9/11 — and, yes, like officer Darren Wilson and the late Michael Brown and Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton — was an American. Not a white American. Not a black American. An American — period.

But as it now stands, one can only believe that if in fact James Foley had been a black man and not a white man, the reaction of the Reverends Jackson and Sharpton — not to mention a raft of white liberals — would have been vastly different than it was. Making the war against the Islamic State just one more casualty — albeit a major casualty — of the progressive drive to racialize America.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.