Jesse Jackson, who has never asked Louis Farrakhan to apologize for his anti-Semitism, who has never asked Yasser Arafat to apologize for his terrorism, now wants Bill Clinton to apologize for his denunciation of mass murder.
Previously, politicians had considered it reasonably safe to oppose the killing of people based on race.
Not this year.
Bill Clinton denounces Sister Souljah, a rap singer who thinks a week of killing white people might be a reasonable way to settle some scores, and Jackson demands Clinton's apology.
Sister Souljah is considered an extremist even in the rap music world. (In one of the cuts from her only album she denounces "white feminists as lesbians intent on luring black women from their men," according to one rock critic.)
Souljah is not a major force in rap music (most of which is consumed by white suburban kids, by the way) and what she says will not be long remembered.
Jesse Jackson's defense of her will be, however.
Souljah "represents the feelings and hopes of a whole generation of people," Jackson said. "She should receive an apology."
But just what are the "feelings and hopes" that Souljah represents?
Her feelings about white people have been widely reprinted by now, so let's took a look at how she feels about yellow people.
Souljah believes that Koreans were beaten, shot at and had their stores burned in Los Angeles as "acceptable" revenge for the 1991 killing of a black woman by a Korean merchant.
The Korean merchant was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, but she was not sentenced to prison.
"Revenge is acceptable, yes," Souljah told David Mills of the Washington Post.
"But did all Korean merchants in Los Angeles kill that girl?" Mills asked.
To which Sister Souljah replied: "No, but guess what? Then the Koreans, if they don't want to be lumped in the same pot, they should have condemned and moved to prosecute that woman [merchant]. . . . But when they didn't, they verified that that was OK, and brought on themselves that which they received."
Are these the "feelings and hopes" that Jackson defends?
Personally, I find the concept of mass racial punishment Hitlerian.
I also happen to think that the Korean merchant in Los Angeles should have been sentenced to prison. But since I didn't form a lynch mob and "prosecute" that woman myself, does this mean it is now "acceptable" for somebody to shoot me?
Say what you will about him, Jesse Jackson is a non-violent person. And I don't think for a second he believes in "acceptable" revenge or killing of any kind.
So why does he embrace people like Sister Souljah?
Because Jackson is terribly afraid of getting behind the curve, of no longer being on the cutting edge of protest in America.
He has seen other civil rights leaders grow old and be denounced by the younger generation as toothless and irrelevant.
And that scares him. So he spreads his arms and embraces the extremist of the moment, perhaps in the hope he can reform them. (He has never reformed Farrakhan or Arafat, however.)
But what Jackson does is dangerous. He lends his legitimacy to violence, hate and racism, none of which he believes in himself.
While a number of black leaders now agree that Clinton was right in denouncing Sister Souljah, they say it was rude, provocative and crassly political of him to wait to do so until a Rainbow Coalition convention.
But Clinton did not wait. He has delivered that message before and to the same kind of audience:
It was March 15 of this year, a cold day in Chicago.
Clinton was at the Mount Pisgah Baptist Church on the city's South Side. He had an all-black audience in front of him. And it would have been easy for him to tell the people only what they wanted to hear.
Instead, Clinton said this: "If I go to all-white audiences and tell them to lay down the barrier of race, I must say the same to you."
And members of the audience rose to their feet and began to shout at him.
They did not shout: "Apologize! Apologize!"
They shouted: "Amen! Amen!"
And that is the word Jesse Jackson should consider using the next time someone denounces racism in his presence.