In Black politics, as with life, we tend to create our own sacred cows: ideas or people who are insulated from future criticism. Given the rise of prominent black leaders, as well as leaders who just happen to be black, it is easy to fall into the intellectually lazy trap of believing this is the way it’s always been. Although blacks may have a history of selecting largely symbolic leaders from a designated pool of the Black Elite, it is not true that those leaders have always been viewed as being beyond reproach. I was reminded of this while reading The Price of the Ticket: Barack Obama and Rise and Decline of Black Politics
by Fredrick C. Harris.
During the 1984 Democratic Convention, Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s people attempted to yield concessions from Walter Mondale. They wanted, among other things, support for the elimination of an electoral rule that disadvantaged black candidates in the South. Mondale refused, then he sent Andrew Young out to make a speech defending him at the convention. Young was “met with boos and hisses by Jackson delegates” for behaving as a sellout.
In a meeting before the Black Delegate Caucus the next day, Coretta Scott King chastised Jackson delegates for mistreating Young…
Catcalls, boos, and hisses erupted from the floor. When Mrs. King mentioned her long involvement in the civil rights movement, a heckler shouted, “What about today?” When she stated that everyone was entitled to free expression, another heckler quipped, “It don’t justify prostitution.”
Based on his own words, Young received little for defending Mondale at the convention:
Even Andrew Young, who had stuck his neck out for Mondale on the second primary plank, expressed dismay, complaining that Mondale’s advisors were all “smart-ass white boys who think they know it all.”