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Race and ethnicity

South L.A. Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Wants to Send Black Youth Back to Plantation

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Mon, Jan 23, 2012 at 1:15 PM
click to enlarge Reverend Peterson reflects on the good old days.
  • Reverend Peterson reflects on the good old days.

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich helped win over South Carolina last week with a pretty condescending suggestion for lifting black American youth up by their bootstraps: Hire them all as janitors!

"They'd be getting money, which is a good thing if you're poor," he argued, to standing ovation. And as an added bonus, they'd "be a lot less likely to drop out."

It's easy to brush off Gingrich as a typical Tea Party/1-percent nutcase. But racism always gets more confusing when it turns black-on-black:

Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson, a controversial religious and political leader in South L.A., is taking the work-ethic argument and running with it.

Forget janitorial jobs. Those are for slackers. Peterson tells the Huffington Post that he'd rather "take all black people back to the South and put them on the plantation so they would understand the ethic of working."

The Internet is understandably riled. Clearly there will never come a date when it is no longer too soon to point out the perks of slavery.

But Peterson argues that the haters are probably just lazy: "I doubt that those people who are upset at me are hardworking people," he says in a new interview.

Here's his full sitdown with On Central (a production of KPCC radio) regarding the controversy. The plantation bit comes in at 4:10:

The reverend says that his own childhood on an Alabama plantation helped build character and instill in him a hardworking spirit. Get enlightened:

"If you go down -- and I go down to South Central a lot -- some of them are living better than you and I, and we're working every day. They got big color TVs, you know, they're fat as a pig. It's not like they're starving or don't have a place to live or a place to eat -- it's just a lack of character. And hard work will start to change that, if they stop blaming [the white man] and took responsibility for themselves."

Do keep in mind that Reverend Peterson is the founder of the Tea Party of South Central Los Angeles (apparently he's still stuck on the outdated term "South Central"), and has launched controversial, slightly troll-ish campaigns like this before, including "Kwanzaa -- Racist Holiday From Hell."

The anti-Kwanzaa rhetoric makes a little more sense. The holiday is a bizarre modern creation that serves mostly to make white schoolteachers (and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck) feel better/more PC about themselves, and from a reverend's standpoint, its anti-Christ spirit almost pits blacks against Christmas.

Plantation though? Really? Think we might have preferred Gingrich's version.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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