AVENUE TO DIVERSITY
January 19, 1998
On the day celebrating the 69th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow/Push Coalition met with the captains of industry on Wall Street. The aim of the meeting, entitled "Expanding the Marketplace," was to encourage corporate investment in America's inner city and diversify the business world.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
December 22, 1997:
Trying to build diversity in higher education.
December 19, 1997:
President Clinton meets with leading conservative activists.
Reassessing our civic symbols .
December 22, 1997:
Focus Hope, provides high-tech training and opportunities for inner city residents.
December 3, 1997:
A town hall meeting on race in Akron, OH.
November 25, 1997:
Cornel West and the NewsHour historians discuss the importance of civic symbols.
November 3, 1997:
The Supreme Court declines to hear a challenge to California's Proposition 209.
September 30, 1997:
Presidential race advisers discuss Clinton's One America initiative.
September 25, 1997:
A look back at school desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas 40 years ago.
The Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook and Angela Oh discuss race relations.
June 16, 1997:
Experts analyze President Clinton's speech on race relations.
May 20, 1997:
Betty Ann Bowser reports on the effects of dropping affirmative action programs in Texas universities.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of Race Relations , Business and Economics.
Frontline's "The Pilgrimage of Jesse Jackson.
President Clinton's One America initiative
The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
PAUL SOLMAN: A cold mist clouded New York last Thursday, the actual date of Martin Luther Kingís birthday. He would have been 69. But at the foot of Manhattan Island, atop World Trade Center Tower One, they were also marking the first anniversary of the Rainbow PUSH Coalitionís Wall Street Project. Host Jesse Jackson had pulled together an all-star cast from government and business and ensconced them for two days in a glittery setting to address this yearís theme: expanding the marketplace through inclusion, according to the conference, the key to economic growth. The Reverend Jackson has been sounding this theme for decades, a theme he learned from Dr. King.
Rev. Jackson: "Whenever we include and walls come down and bridges are built, we tend to grow."
REV. JESSE JACKSON: Those of us who come out of preaching circles, the dream was the alliterative, poetic climax that was not the substance of his address. If you look back at the 1963 marching pictures, you will not see one that says anything about dream. It was about jobs and justice and equal opportunity. When we include the under-utilized, we grow; when we developed the undeveloped, we grow. Whenever we include and walls come down and bridges are built, we tend to grow.
PAUL SOLMAN: In other words, integrating inner city residents into the economic mainstream is in everyoneís self-interest. Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin gave the keynote address.
SEC. ROBERT RUBIN: This may be, and I believe it is, a moral and a social issue. But it is also an economic issue of vital importance to all of us. Just think for a moment of the profound difference in terms of productivity, reduced social costs, and economic growth if the residents of the inner city became parts of the economic mainstream.
PAUL SOLMAN: Secretary Rubin was followed by Jacques Nassar, a Lebanese Australian at multicultural Ford Motor Company whoís in line to become the next CEO.
JACQUES NASSAR: Iím really just a simple person representing 380,000 people around the world. I didnít mean it to come out that way.
PAUL SOLMAN: Nassar is attuned to a world of cultural subtleties, thinks that if a company masters them, it can profit from them. If Fordís planning a car for Italy, say--
JACQUES NASSAR: What do you think the real favorite color of Italians would be? And I think a lot of you would immediately jump and say red. The favorite color in Italy is a very dark somber blue, or black, or dark gray, or dark green, very dark because Italians treat their cars as a serious machine. Whatís the favorite color in Germany? Exactly the opposite--bright colors. Now, someone would say, well, the Germans are just looking for something bright in their life. But I wouldnít say that; I wouldnít say. But thereís another example of a national characteristic that you jump to immediately.
PAUL SOLMAN: Ford is gung ho on global investments, but Nassar believes they can be risky, given the fickleness of foreign markets and the volatility of currencies like Koreaís woebegone "won" or Thailandís battered "baht."
JACQUES NASSAR: Yet, right here in the U.S. you have underdeveloped markets, communities and markets where buying power and our communication with those markets isnít optional. And if you can develop those markets, one risk you donít have, of course, is the currency risk because youíre dealing right here in the same currency.
PAUL SOLMAN: So you donít have to worry about the inner city baht losing 80 percent of its value.
JACQUES NASSAR: Well, if you want to put it that way, yes.
Investing in the inner city.
PAUL SOLMAN: The inner city as an emerging market, neglected by investors compared to Latin America say, or Asia. The point was echoed by even the conferenceís heaviest hitters.
ALAN GREENSPAN: Although the image of free market capitalism has been elevated throughout the world from its sorry state at the end of World War II, the application of it within the United States, its largest adherent, is regrettably incomplete. Too many barriers still prevent the free flow of capital and people to their most productive employment.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: And if itís a good argument for America to sell more and invest more around the world, itís a good argument for America to sell more and invest more down the street.
PAUL SOLMAN: It was compelling stuff, much of it. But as the distinguished speakers came and went, New Yorkers bearing up under it all with their usual good humor, mundane economic questions kept nagging at us. For instance, is the profitability of the African-American market really whatís drawn Wall Street here? Or is it the fear of Jesse Jackson denouncing them, even threatening to boycott them for not showing up?
Wall Street's fears?
REV. JESSE JACKSON: It could be part morality, part fear, but mostly enlightened interest. Wall Street has walled itself off from a growing emerging market. The idea of the wall around China was to be a fortress to protect it. In fact, it locked it out of world growth. In many ways, Wall Street has missed, beneath its nose, a $600 billion emerging market.
PAUL SOLMAN: But, we asked, if the emerging market is so profitable, why havenít American companies already developed it in their economic self interest?
REV. JESSE JACKSON: Could be a matter of cultural blindness. I mean, why didnít business leaders see that there was a pool of players--Jackie Robinson but, more than that, Hank Aaron, and, more than that, Willie Mays? Cultural blindness.
PAUL SOLMAN: Okay. Rev. Jackson seems on pretty firm ground here, but Jackson wants to fix things not only by investing in inner cities, but also by hiring minorities and helping them up the corporate ladder.
REV. JESSE JACKSON: When you have a more diversely educated population, and a more diverse work force, that can relate to, invest in, appeal to a more diverse consume market of high volume consumers, that is all growth.
PAUL SOLMAN: But to some at the conference this sort of affirmative action on Wall Street wonít do much for those hurt most by the exclusions of the past.
ERIC WILLIAMS: If you talk to somebody at say Tinton Avenue in the South Bronx, this doesnít have any relevance whatsoever.
PAUL SOLMAN: Eric Williams is a radio reporter who covers the African-American community in inner city, New York.
ERIC WILLIAMS: You have a lot of disillusioned young people, and theyíre going to say, ah, this is just a bunch of guys in a bunch of suits, including the President, who is going to make all kinds of promises that they canít deliver on, and that doesnít really impact upon my life.
PAUL SOLMAN: And what if we had gone to one of the housing projects within range of the World Trade Center say and asked disaffected young people about the relevance of this conference to them, what would Jesse Jackson expect them to have answered?
REV. JESSE JACKSON: It would be as unfair to ask them that as to ask you about a scientific experiment you have no expertise in. That would be exploiting them to ask them a question that stupid. What they do understand is that, in fact, thereís no chain store grocery store in Harlem; there is no auto dealership, with all that density of population, just uptown beyond Central Park.
PAUL SOLMAN: The idea, then, is more investment in the emerging African-American market, leading to more African-American jobs, for which the Wall Street Push would provide more role models of the sort kids in the inner city so badly need. Sheila Vaden-Williams, an associate of Rev. Jacksonís.
SHEILA VADEN-WILLIAMS: Why do you think you see so many kids on the basketball court? Itís because, in their minds, thatís all theyíve seen in their neighborhoods that has been a traditional entree out of what theyíre trying to escape.
PAUL SOLMAN: But basketballís fun.
SHEILA VADEN-WILLIAMS: But itís also fun to be able to feed your family, to travel on vacations, to buy a home, to see your stock portfolio grow. Thatís fun also.
The meeting's four objectives.
PAUL SOLMAN: In the end, the point of the conference was arguably four-fold: appeal to Wall Street, reason with Wall Street, pressure Wall Street, and, by the by, afford African-Americans already on the way up a means of furthering their businesses and careers by talking amongst themselves.
LAURA HARRIS: Thatís the whole purpose of being here, thatís what itís all about, networking, relationships.
PAUL SOLMAN: Well, networking was the purpose for these two music promoters. But Rev. Jackson had something bigger in mind last week.
REV. JESSE JACKSON: You who gather today are grateful and let the heavens define the glory of God, and let Dr. King rejoice, as he watches us realize his dream. The lions and lambs will lie together, and none will be afraid. There will be peace in the valley. Thank you very much.