Joel Stein`s Own Private Jesse Jackson
July 08, 2010, 03:07 PM
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Joel Stein is in trouble with Indians (Asian) for his Time column "My Own Private India" about how he regrets the demographic changes in his Edison, New Jersey hometown since he grew up:
TIME responds: We sincerely regret that any of our readers were upset by this humor column of Joel Stein's. It was in no way intended to cause offense.

Joel Stein responds: I truly feel stomach-sick that I hurt so many people. I was trying to explain how, as someone who believes that immigration has enriched American life and my hometown in particular, I was shocked that I could feel a tiny bit uncomfortable with my changing town when I went to visit it. If we could understand that reaction, we'd be better equipped to debate people on the other side of the immigration issue.

The amusing thing is that Stein already wrote a 2006 column for the LA Times apologizing in advance to Jesse Jackson:
Sorry in advance, Jesse Jackson The reverend turns down a preemptive 'I'm sorry' and denies that he's the arbiter of apologies Joel Stein December 5, 2006
EVENTUALLY, I'M going to write something horribly offensive. And when I do, it might be several tense hours before I can get Jesse Jackson on the phone in order to apologize to him. So I figured I'd call him now and pre-apologize.

In addition to Michael Richards telling Jackson that he was sorry for his racist tirade at the Laugh Factory, Jackson has accepted apologies from Mexican President Vicente Fox (for saying Mexican immigrants will do jobs that "not even blacks want to do"), the producers of "Barbershop" (for a Rosa Parks joke in the film) and himself (for calling New York "Hymietown").

Needless to say, the new Seinfeld DVD is selling swiftly, Fox served his full term, "Barbershop" had a sequel and New York is still chock full of Jews. A Jackson pardon never fails.

So after putting in a request that I thought Jackson's staff wouldn't take seriously, I was startled when my phone rang two hours later and the reverend was on the other end. I would be absolved, I thought, in two or three minutes.

I was very wrong. When I explained my request, it became clear that this hypothetical offensive thing I might do someday was instead happening right now.

"Why should you be offensive?" Jackson asked, annoyed. "I don't know why you would do that."

Luckily, as I was stammering a response, Jackson smoothly segued into reciting his own agenda. I was not surprised to hear him tell me about America's lack of concern about Katrina victims, the media ignoring Trent Lott's return to party leadership and the dearth of black actors on television ("all day, all night, all white"). I was, however, surprised that it took him nearly four minutes before he mentioned that he worked with Martin Luther King Jr.

A smarter man would have thanked Jackson for his time and gotten off the phone. But as I predicted in the very premise of this project, I am not a smarter man. I asked again if he could slip me an indulgence.

"I don't know why you would insist on continuing to bring this up," he said. Oddly, I was thinking the exact same thing.

I explained that I was interested in finding out how a single person can play judge for damage done to an entire group, and why society needs a figurehead to represent its pain. Then I hoped and prayed that sounded smart.

Jackson said that when Richards called him, "I made it clear that I am not the arbiter of apologies." In fact, he said, "I'm more likely to be called upon to get someone out of a foreign jail than to accept an apology." Between the foreign arrests and the apologies for racist slurs, being a civil rights leader seems a lot like being a parent to rich children.

Then Jackson pointed out that listening to confessions is pretty common for someone in his line of work. "When people are distressed, when people are injured, when people need their cases argued, they tend to call a minister," he explained. "People tend to call someone to give them a listening ear. That's all. At the end of the day, it's about providing a service: to alleviate misery."

My future misery, however, was currently unalleviable. "It would be inappropriate," he finally told me. I am the first person in history to have an apology turned down by Jesse Jackson.

But as ridiculous as it seems to have people apologize to Jackson for things they didn't do to him, and for him to demand apologies for events he wasn't involved in (Outkast for dressing in Native American outfits; the U.S. for crashing a jet in China) — the theatrics do serve a purpose.

Confrontation is a necessary part of contrition. Apologizing in a press release to anyone offended makes sense in theory, but it has no stakes. We need to see human emotions expressed by real humans; our catharsis has to come from leaders playing our parts on stage.

And though Jay Leno, Barbara Walters and Dr. Phil may try, Jackson performs that role best. I know that after I finally got off the phone, my sweaty palms and aching stomach felt like they were taught a moral lesson.

I just hope that people don't find this column so offensive that I'll have to really apologize. Because I'm not sure Jackson would take my call after this. Oh, who am I kidding? Of course he will.

Meanwhile, the second most-read article on LATimes.com last evening was
Jewish organizations protest UC president's handling of reports of anti-Semitism The groups assert that the university's reaction has been too weak. University chief Mark G. Yudof says the groups may be basing their responses on an unreliable sampling of student opinion. By Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times July 7, 2010
The president of the University of California and leaders of a dozen prominent American Jewish organizations are in an unusual public dispute about the extent of anti-Semitism on UC campuses and the university's response to it.

In a letter to UC President Mark G. Yudof, such groups as the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the national governing bodies of Conservative and Orthodox Judaism have criticized the university's reaction to anti-Semitic acts on UC campuses as too weak. The letter, sent June 28, cited what it said were increasing incidents of swastika graffiti and anti-Israel speakers who use anti-Semitic language, and alleged that many Jewish UC students feel "an environment of harassment and intimidation." ...

Yudof, who is Jewish and whose wife, Judy, is the former lay president of Conservative Judaism in North America, also wrote that the Jewish groups may have based their concerns on an unreliable sampling of student opinion. Most Jewish UC students' "perspectives are more mixed than you suggest," he wrote.

The UC president said he was disappointed that the letter writers seemed to have dismissed the new UC Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion as destined to fail, and he urged them to support its work.

Considering that UC Campuses are typically located in places like La Jolla, Irvine, Westwood, Santa Cruz, and Berkeley, I'd say the the UC "Campus Climate" is pretty dog-gone nice: typically 70s and sunny.

Oh, wait, that's not what the word "climate" means anymore on campus. (Except when it's about "climate change.")

The panel, which met for the first time last week, was created after several controversial incidents over the last school year. Those included an off-campus "Compton Cookout" party by UC San Diego students that mocked Black History Month, and the spray-painting and carving of swastikas at several locations on the UC Davis campus, including the dorm room door of a Jewish student.

Some Jewish leaders have complained that UC administrators seemed to be more upset by the UC San Diego incident than the swastikas. UC officials have denied this.

Okay, so that's what this is all about: competitive aggrievement. The Jewish organizations are mad that the black organizations got more mileage out of their recent UC San Diego hate hoax brouhaha. Well, of course.

Still, the reigning heavyweight title contenders of competitive aggrievement, the blacks and the Jews, should be aware that there's a new Indian kid in town who is ready to rumble.