"I don't buy into that rhetoric that we must all think alike," he says now. "In order to be black, you have to wear jeans, a wife-beater, pants hanging down, dreads, get a grill, listen to rap music and have no job. Many black people don't buy into that. There's this idea that you have to be a Democrat and watch BET, like there's a checklist of blackness."

In Jackson's mind, the Democrats had become the party of victimhood, while the Republicans were the party of optimism.

But during the 2008 election season, he began to get pissed off at the Republicans, too. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama dominated the airwaves. All the Republicans had was John McCain, a man Jackson believed was competent but insufficiently conservative. That summer Jackson spent a lot of time yelling at the TV.

Jackson as a baby.
Jackson as a baby.
Jackson as a teenager in the ranch’s exotic-game park.
Jackson as a teenager in the ranch’s exotic-game park.

And he started channeling his rage into his blog. He'd conceived the Black Sphere as an account of his daily life, to keep his family and friends apprised of his many business trips for Hitachi Consulting. But gradually politics took over.

"People were digging the blog," he says. "A friend said I should build myself up locally. So I contacted someone at the Tea Party, and they put me in touch with Dana. She said they were speakered up for their Tax Day rally but that I could emcee."

"Dana" is Dana Loesch, who along with Bill Hennessy was one of the organizers of the earliest Tea Party rallies in St. Louis.

"I'd never spoken to 10,000 people before," Jackson goes on. "I was used to board rooms with ten or twenty. The day of the rally, I was sitting in a restaurant across the street watching the people pour in, and I was grinning like a Cheshire cat. It was like something had possessed me."

Chapter 2: Tell Your Story
In July 2009 Hitachi started laying off workers in Jackson's division. He accepted a buyout, figuring it would give him more time to write and promote the autobiography he was working on, which would eventually become The Big Black Lie. If you're going to be a public figure, you need a good life story, and Jackson thought his was instructive.

He was born in Texas in 1963. His father abandoned the family soon after.

"My dad was a complete deadbeat," Jackson says. "He lived in California. He was a drug addict from age eight. At a party at my grandmother's house, there were dead soldiers lined up on the coffee table. He took a swig, and everyone laughed. He was a brilliant man, but he was dependent on something from the time he was eight till he died."

Jackson's father served time in San Quentin for armed robbery. As an adult Jackson would only see him twice. Most of their conversations revolved around his father asking him for money.

Jackson's mother, who remarried, died when Jackson was seven. Jackson and his older brother Kirk went to live with their maternal grandparents, who worked as caretakers for the (white) owners of a 25,000-acre cattle ranch near the central Texas town of Brady. Life in Brady taught young Jackson some important lessons about race and class.

"The wealthy family for whom my grandparents worked was rarely there," Jackson wrote in an essay for American Thinker, an online magazine. "My grandparents did their shopping for them, hired maintenance people, and so on. Bills were sent to Barfield — their accountant, and bills were paid.... To all the merchants in Brady, my family was rich because we were real.... People didn't see me or my family as black, but as a solid family of the community. Black was a non sequitur. You could say that we were treated white in Brady, but I say we were treated economically!"

The owners gave Kevin and Kirk a horse apiece and paid their tuition at a private military school in Dallas. From his father Jackson had inherited an ability to sound "white" when he wanted to — The Big Black Lie is full of stories of business associates who are astounded by his appearance when they finally meet him in the flesh — and he blended easily into this world of privilege.

But on vacations Jackson would leave the bubbles of ranch and school to visit relatives in San Antonio. There he learned what it was like to be a poor kid in dorky clothes (fashions in Brady were several years behind those in the city). There wasn't much money, or a TV that worked reliably, so at night the family would sit around and talk and play cards with the neighbors and eat takeout fried chicken.

"I loved knowing both lives," Jackson wrote, "the lives of rich and poor, not black and white."

It has not escaped Jackson's notice that his biography strongly resembles that of another prominent African American who was abandoned by his father, raised by his grandparents and, after spending much of his life among whites, lauded for his ability to appeal to both races.

"Unlike Obama," Jackson says dryly, "I don't write about the guy who abandoned my family and exalt him."

« Previous Page
Next Page »