Friday, August 31, 2007

Letter to Jesse Jackson

Randolph J. Haspel
Memphis, TN

August 30, 2007

Reverend Jesse L. Jackson
Founder: Rainbow/PUSH Coalition

Dear Reverend Jackson,

I write as a long time supporter, contributor, and voter to both your presidential races. I have heard you speak in Memphis and Nashville, and I have been inspired while attending the early PUSH For Excellence Basketball games you brought to Memphis, and standing in a crowd of motivated young people shouting “I am somebody.” I believe in your concept of a Rainbow Coalition and the need for the “common ground” of which you so eloquently speak. Unfortunately, not all the people who claim to work in your name believe the same.

Rev. LaSimba Gray, of New Sardis Baptist Church, who claims to be the president of the Memphis chapter of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, has established a group within the Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association, to oppose and smear District 9 Rep. Steve Cohen, for his support for the same federal hate crimes bill that was endorsed by your own organization. Rev. Gray has joined in an unholy alliance with the James Dobsons and Donald Wildmons of this world, along with a cadre of conservative Evangelical Christian ministers, in repeating the lie that the passage of this bill will restrict their right to preach against homosexuality from the pulpit. Though the ministers have been repeatedly assured that the hate crimes bill does not affect freedom of speech, they are using the issue to smear the congressman in a Bush-like, pre-emptive strike before the 2008 elections.

Rep. Cohen is the legitimately elected, true Democrat from the district seat held by the Ford family for thirty years. Rev. Gray supported the eminently unqualified Jake Ford, who ran against Cohen as an independent. Even though Rep. Cohen has won praise for his great start in Congress from everyone from John Conyers to Bill Clinton, Rev. Gray has been lamenting the loss of the District’s seat to a white man, regardless of Cohen’s record or accomplishments. The Evangelical preachers say they are incensed that gays might receive special status, and in the original letter sent to Cohen by Baptist ministers, co-signed by Rev. Gray, they demanded that Cohen protect their “Christian values” so many times, the only thing that was missing was a salutation reading, “Dear Jew.” Rev. Gray has already announced his support for Nikki Tinker, a very attractive candidate in the mold of Joe Lieberman and Harold Ford, Jr., only with more corporate backing, when Cohen is the one who’s unafraid to say he is a Liberal and votes in the best interests of the community. In the first six months, Cohen has passed legislation to name a federal building after Judge Odell Horton, he has proposed an official apology for slavery be declared in Congress, and he serves with distinction on the House Judiciary Committee.

When Rep. Cohen met with a group of Baptist ministers to clarify the hate crimes bill, he was met with derision and scorn, not because of his support for the legislation, but because he is a white man who was democratically elected in a majority black district. The newspaper reported that in a rowdy question and answer session, Cohen was repeatedly accused of being unable to represent the district because of his race. Rev Robert Poindexter of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church was quoted as saying, “He’s not black and he can’t represent me, that’s just the bottom line.” Imagine those words transposed into the mouth of a white preacher speaking of a black candidate. Even you, Rev. Jackson, would say that man was a consummate racist.

This hate campaign against the Jewish congressman is taking place in your name, Rev. Jackson, with the imprimatur of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition in the person of Rev. LaSimba Gray. Rev. Gray, and a small group of preachers within the Baptist organization, are opposing the hate crimes legislation that would attempt to stop racially motivated slayings like that of James Byrd in Texas. They are using your organization that preaches “common ground,” to attack and falsely vilify a Congressman, sufficiently enough for the leaders of the Ministerial group to issue a letter of apology. I know these are not the principles upon which the Rainbow PUSH Coalition was founded, but we need to hear from you Rev. Jackson. We need for you to repudiate these repugnant tactics and support Rep. Steve Cohen, one of the truly liberal Democrats in the Congress. The people of Memphis are bone weary of racist politics, Rev. Jackson. You may not be able to end it all, but you could help put a stop to this particularly ugly incident. I implore you to help.


Randolph J. Haspel


Anonymous said...

Do you actually believe that Jesse Jackson would take sides against a fellow black preacher? You're nuts. Cohen needs more help than Jesse could ever give him.



Anonymous said...

Cohen may need more help than Jesse could give him but it would certainly be a start.Enough of this blatant racism from everyone,including Rev.Gray, let's just get on with the business of just trying to live together.Snap out of it Memphis! Chop

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

cindy sanders said...

thank you once again for your succinct and much needed insight. i hope jesse jackson gets it. the day before yesterday i emailed a letter of support and encouragement along with an apology for the behavior of these righteous preachers to steve cohen. i encourage everyone to go to his website and do the same.

geno722 said...

“He’s not black and he can’t represent me." How racist can you get? Is this guy still living in 1954? As a Caucasian who, yes, has voted for African-American candidates in the past, (not Herenton) I'm offended and disappointed. Steve Cohen was elected, fair and square, by the majority of voters in the district, which as I understand it, is predominantly African-American. Huh?

Anonymous said...

This a case of racism. I applaude your logical request for support from those who fight racism. I am sure there are others who should step to the front of the line and condemn this behavior.

Bravo Randy

Anonymous said...

This is a good example of the precept that 'all that glitters is not gold' on a cpouple of levels. As a Christian, I have always been amazed at how some in the church can sin so grievously against 'sinners' by vilifying and hating them so. They profess to follow a God of Love and then deny that by spreading a gospel of hate. So much that is not Christian at all is done in the name of Christ and this hypocrisy is destroying the church. Few are actually able to love the sinner and hate the sin (spiritual dysfunction). It is ridiculous to say that one's sexual orientation is chosen, like you might chose to buy a pair of shoes. I believe that it is hard-wired...most likely at a pre-conscious age. The types of sexual idiosyncrasies are numberless...why single out homosexuality? What about Jimmy Swaggert and his fetishes? It puzzles me why Christians single out homosexuality as the unforgivable sin. I think that there are grounds for saying that hating homosexuals is a worse sin than the deviancy itself. And why are you so surprised that blacks are racist? Racism ( just another form of rejecting those who are not like us) is deeply entrenched in the human psyche. Remember how you used to reject those that were 'uncool' in high school...that tendency to reject those unlike yourself comes from the same spiritual place. It is just another manifestation of sin or spiritual dysfunction. To be truly, and from the bottom of the heart non-racist, is to have attained a high state of spirituality. It means that you are capable of unconditional love, and not many people function from this place. Most fellow Christians that I know are miserable failures at the grace of love. They can quote scripture verbatim and then spew hatred toward anyone who doesn't measure up. This dysfunction can only be treated through spiritual means. Education doesn't get to the root of the problem. The response of the black ministers is but another misguided manifestation of Christians sinning against others in the name of Christ. It borders on blasphemy to hate those that Christ commands us to love.

Gregg said...

Sorry I got to this late. Am on the west coast and it's almost 4am EST. Well done, Randolph. You carry the torch of the fight against injustice with passion and intelligence, as you have since the 60s. I'm proud of what you stand for and of who you are. Very proud.
My first reaction, which comes from my gut, is nasty, aimed to hurt, aimed to plunge the knife in and twist it into the hypocrites. But MLK and that Christ fella would, appropriately, tell me to turn the other cheek.
Difficult, but done well by you.
That the revs could pick up on what that Christ fella would do in this situation.
Whole thing is ridiculous and sad.

Anonymous said...

Mixing religion and politics is a losing proposition. What you get is bad politics and bogus religion. Politics by its very nature reqiures compromise and consorting with questionable 'bedfellows'. There is no room for the type of dishonesty that is inherent in politics in true religion. A case in point...I was in a church meeting back when the AIDS education agenda was being implemented in the public schools. As a high school biology teacher, I was about to go to training classes to teach an AIDS unit in my classes. The speaker was a sincere Christian lady who was in tears and near hysteria over the issue. The problem is that she was completey misinformed. To me there is an integrity issue involved if you make a presentation in church based on misinformation. Before you inflame people with impassioned rhetoric, be sure of your facts. After attending the AIDS training classes, I came to find that the information was completey innocuous...nothing but the biology of the HIV virus. At the end of the lesson plan it was stated that the only sure way to prevent AIDS is to avoid risky sex and needles. It did include the caveat that if one is going to have risky sex that condoms should be used which have been treated with a special antiviral substance (can't remember the name). The point being that a church-ful of people were subjected to false information and they all made a stampede to sign petitions to prevent the teaching of AIDs education in the public schools. This is only one example of the negative results that can come from the unholy alliance of religion and politics. There are a lot of the bogus situation that you related about the black ministers and the hate crime legislation. Shame on them for their blatant racism. They should be excoriated for their gross sin against Steve Cohen done in the name of Christ. Once again His name is dragged through the mud by misguided (or dishonest) churchmen trying to marry their religion to politics.

davethedog said...

Jackson has no "dog" in this race so he will surely ignore the matter. It is now time to pull out the big guns. It is time to play the "Jew" card. Just because Reverend LaSimba Gray is a member of an oppressed minority, doesn't keep him from being a Jew-hating, neo-Nazi bastard!! These religious fanatics hide behind the legitimate messages of their faith and then peek out to spit a glob of their hating vitrol before running back to safety.

Throughout history, the Jews have been reliable friends to the blacks. We understand about "Let my people go", It is a message from OUR slavery.

If Steve Cohen cannot represent a black man, because of his race, then why should Barack Obama be able to represent me. This is the type of blind, rabid racism that got our society into the current mess.

In addition, when this gay-bashing type of activity is engaged in by a so-called conservative minister, it is not long until he is found in a motel room with a gay prostitute, smoking meth and trying to decide the spin to put on the situation.

Let's share some love. If Rev. Gray will accept Rep. Cohen without "hating", then we can embrace Obama as our next President. I fucking voted for Eldridge Cleaver and that didn't get me anything, but a wiretap.

As MY MAN, Billy Preston said "That's the way G-D planned it".

Peace & Love,


Anonymous said...

The validity of a lot that passes itself off as Christian is questionable. Many so-called Christian leaders and their followers are either hypocrites or deceivers or dupes, and not truly Christain at all. It wouldn't surprise me if about 80% of those calling themselves Christian were not Christain at all. A lot of so-called Christian organizations are just social or political clubs with a religious veneer and they give true Christianity a bad name and this has been true throughout history. The real Deal never told a lie or caused any harm...just the imposters. And there have been an awful lot of them throughout the centuries.

Father Farken said...

Hey! It's the end of the world as we know Memphis! Do we know where our Jackson is?