Monday, July 12, 2010

Shut Cho Ass Up, Jesse!

View Comments

Yesterday, the internet was all ablaze with news that Reverend Jesse Jackson called Cleveland Cavaliers Majority owner Dan Gilbert out, in regards to Gilbert's childish open letter to Lebron James. James who left the team after seven years and no championship was blasted in Gilbert's letter and warned that:
And until he does "right" by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.
In response to that, Jackson offered the opinion that Dan Gilbert's "feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality." Yesterday and today, people are criticizing the Civil Rights activist, accusing him of using the race card, and yelling "Shut Cho Ass Up, Jesse!"

But now that I have your attention, and tricked you with the title, here's why I DON'T think Jesse should shut his ass up:

We live in a society that is seemingly one dimensional and incapable of broad interpretation. Although we desire to live in a post racial society, we cannot help but to interject race into various facets of our lives. Contradictory to our ultimate goal, when race is interjected, we feel obligated to  dispel it at costs. However, the irony of this particular situation is that we see race in Jesse's comment even when race hasn't been mentioned.

Enter Dan Gilbert, a white team owner, Lebron James, a black basketball player, and Jesse Jackson, a civil rights leader. The composition of these characters present a situation where even in a self proclaimed "post-racial" society we cannot help but ignore the racial dynamics in play. Yet, the interpolation of race and racist connotations come more from our inability to expand the context from which we draw our assumptions than the actual statement.

What if Jesse Jackson wasn't talking in terms of race at all? The institution of slavery as we know it in the United States was the first system of slavery predicated upon the use of race. The social construction of race became the mode for which and through class was lived. If you were black, you were a slave. Bottom line. However, predating chattel slavery was that of bondage, serfdom, indentured servitude, etc.

Slavery simply meant a system in which people were the property of another person. Yet when we think of slavery we tend to automatically equate it to the middle passage, forced labor, and inhumane treatment. On the other hand, outside of the system of slavery in America, most slaves were debt slaves under bondage by their lenders. The betrayal felt by Gilbert comes from Lebron not winning the city of Cleveland a championship. In other words he feels Lebron has not paid out his debt.

Also keep in mind that in addition to Jackson being a civil rights leader, he is a Baptist preacher. The Bible talks heavily about a system of slavery that is not predicated upon race. Furthermore, while the Bible also does not condemn slavery it does regulate it. Particularly this one scripture:
If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years.  Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. Exodus 21:2
First, the Bible uses the term ebed which has a much wider meaning than the English term slavery. More accurately translations define it as a servant or hired worker. Secondly, Manumission, the act of releasing a slave after working for six years was a condition offered by the Covenant Code. However, even with these commandments slaves were often kept longer than they were supposed to be kept. Furthermore, if a slave was unable to find waged employment and make more than what he made previously, if he made anything at all, the Covenant Code gave him permission to renounce his manumission and opt to stay a slave forever. Or the property of his current master. Despite his "manumission," or the expiration of his contract Gilbert expected that Lebron stay with Cleveland. I'm sure it was a slap in the face that he also took a pay cut to be with another team.

When I first read the letter, I honestly did get the feeling that Gilbert's comments came more from a place of "How Dare You N*gger, I Made You." I made a comparative analysis between that of Gilbert's letter and the historical relationships of white and black owner/boss and worker, respectively. James as a multimillion dollar maker quite possibly heavily blurred the lines of worker and commodity. That was a luxury I could afford with my own comments. Perhaps, I am just as surface deep. 

However, with Jesse Jackson's comments, I particularly thought this time around there might be more to his opinion. I don't think it's that far off to believe Gilbert saw some part of his relationship with James as that of owner and property. The bottom line, which I believe fueled Jackson's comments is, in a world where the relationship between Gilbert and James was an "owner employee relationship -- between business partners -- and LeBron honored his contract," Gilbert's feelings of "betrayal" are particularly disturbing.

With that said, I think Jesse has a point. I also think that in an effort to move into this post racial society as well as demonize the messenger, we interjected race without looking at the complexities of the message.
Copyright © Black Is Breezie
Blogger Theme by BloggerThemes | Theme designed by Jakothan Sponsored by Internet Entrepreneur